NORFOLK (NNS) -- Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic (CNAL) celebrated Women's History Month March 31, by hosting members of the local Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) Unit.
The CNAL Multicultural Committee hosted the event that highlighted this year's theme of "Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment," which honors the extraordinary and often unrecognized determination and tenacity of women.
"I joined a Navy that was on the cusp of change," said Jo-Anne Teel, a retired chief petty officer who joined the Navy in 1973. "It's amazing how far we've come."
One year after Teel enlisted, Alene Duerke, director of the Navy Nurse Corps, became the first female appointed to the rank of rear admiral. Two years later, Fran McKee became the first female line officer to make flag rank.
"We continue to make great strides," said Cmdr. Stephen Lee, CNAL Force chaplain who provided the benediction for the ceremony. "A person is measured by their character and ability, not by their gender."
Today, more than 59,000 active duty women and more than 9,000 Reserve women serve in the Navy. Additionally, more than 54,000 women serve in a wide range of specialties as Navy civilians. Women leading in the Navy Total Force include: 32 active and Reserve flag officers, 69 Senior Executive Service (SES) members, 48 command master chiefs, and three command senior chiefs - a far cry from the early days of WAVES.
"Bottom line, we are all Sailors," said April Maletz, a retired senior chief petty officer and current vice president of the local WAVES Unit. "Sailor is a gender neutral term."
Commands throughout the Navy are celebrating the National Women's History Month theme through programs, exhibits, publications, and participation in military and community events. Women continue to influence, impact, and make history in our Navy today with their spirited and courageous efforts, following the example of the women who paved the way before them.
"We have to know where we came from," said Maletz. "If there is one thing you take away today, let it be this: share your story. Let the future forces know where they came from."
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