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Women's History Month: Capt. Sunita "Suni" Williams

Navy leaders and pioneers

"From the Revolutionary War to current conflicts, women have played a crucial role in the security of our nation and the success of the U.S. Navy. Join us as we celebrate Women's History Month by profiling women leaders and pioneers across the Navy."

Women's History Month Capt. Sunita "Suni" Williams graphic.

Capt. Sunita "Suni" Williams, NASA Astronaut

Q: How did you decide to join the Navy?

A: I really joined for because the Navy offered to pay and provide a quality education.

I was initially unsure if the Naval Academy was for me. I was an athlete is high school, a swimmer, and a pretty good student. The academy wasn't always easy, but it provided me the opportunity to experience and develop teamwork, leadership, and followership. I enjoyed it and it was a great opportunity to get me on my feet and figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

Q: Who have your role models or mentors been that have influenced you or helped to guide you throughout your Navy career?

A: I was very fortunate to have an awesome active duty sponsor while I was attending the Naval Academy.

He was a prior enlisted Navy saturation diver; salty in the Navy and a great guy. Although I was successful in in high school, there were points at the naval academy I struggled and he really helped me through those tough times. To me, he was just a great all-around American. Wendy Lawrence was also an icon of mine. As a former astronaut, I looked at her career as something to strive to. Of course, my parents were also a great, positive influence in my life. They always supported me and never let me quit.
Three photo collage of Capt. Williams (L-R) NASA official photo; family photo; sitting in chair in astronaut gear

Q: Can you share a story about someone, perhaps someone in your family or otherwise, who has influenced you or challenged you to become more than perhaps even you ever thought you might.

A: As I was expected to report to the Naval Academy, I got pretty bummed because I realized I was not going to be able to run the Boston Marathon.

As an area-native, it was a pretty big deal to participate. Unexpectedly, my mother put me in the car and drove me to the marathon start line. She told me to call her half way through the run if I didn't want to finish, but otherwise have a great time. That's how my parents where. Whether it was the struggle for my immigrant father to get through medical school or my mother going out of her way to get me to the Boston Marathon, I was fortunate to be surrounded by great people who never let life stop them. My family has a saying - Get to the starting line, it doesn't matter how you perform; just get to the starting line.
Three photo collage of Capt. Williams (L-R) in space station; in Navy t-shirt in space station; conducting spacewalk

Q: Please tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why?

A: Honestly, all of my assignments have been unique and rewarding.

However, being in the fleet was really cool. During my disassociated tour, I served aboard the USS Saipan (LHA-2) as the hangar deck officer and worked my way up to the mini boss. I had such good senior enlisted and limited duty officer support during that tour. They helped make my tour great, and I think it was one of the most rewarding tours of my career. Also, I was selected for the astronaut program on that tour, which made it even more special.

Q: What does being a leader in the Navy mean to you?

A: It has been a great honor and an amazing opportunity to lead and affect the lives of others.

In the end, you just hope that you are doing it right. Having the opportunity to create a positive command climate, after getting to know and understand the people working with you, has made serving so much better. I just wanted to make it fun for people to come to work; whether on a ship or here at mission control. I am blessed and lucky to have had these opportunities.