• Brock Briggs

Important Women in Naval History

In honor of International Women's Day yesterday, I wanted to uncover some important women in Naval history that have been making big waves recently. These women have not only made names for themselves but shown the rest of the women of our country what is possible and achievable. Women made their first appearance in the Navy after Congress appointed the Navy Nurse Corps in 1908. This wasn't expanded until World War II when Franklin Roosevelt created the women's reserve program which opened the door for women to enlist. The women of the Navy have been driving us forward and propelling the service to new heights ever since.

Back in December, the Navy announced that the first-ever woman to captain a nuclear aircraft carrier. The prestigious ship getting this great honor is CVN 77, USS Abraham Lincoln. The Lincoln will conduct the change of commands, presumably sometime this year, with Captain Amy Baurenschmidt taking the helm.

“Never pass up an opportunity to grow.”

What's unique about Baurenschmidt's story is that she is widely familiar with the Lincoln and taking the title of "firsts". She was the first woman Executive Officer where she served on the same ship she will be commanding, from 2016 to 2019. Her history aboard the vessel will no doubt create an atmosphere of trust from the ship's crew. Formerly, Baurenschmidt graduated from the Naval Academy in 1994 and flew helicopters at squadrons HSL-40 and HSL-41.

One woman that certainly paved the way for Baurenschmidt's outstanding success is (Ret) Admiral Michelle Howard. Howard, back in 1999, became the first African American Woman to command a ship.

“You don’t have to wait until you get the job to prepare for it.”

That ship was USS Rushmore (LSD 47). Her accomplishments were far from over, however. Howard went on to become the first woman promoted to four-star admiral, serving as Vice Chief of Naval Operations from 2014 to 2016. Afterwards, she commanded the United States Naval Forces of Europe and Africa as well as Allied Joint Forces Command Naples before retiring in 2017.

2020 was a big year for women in the Navy because there was another spectacular milestone hit last year. LT JG Madeline Swegle became the first African American fighter pilot in July of 2020.

"I'm really honored that I get to wear the wings and get to fly planes and call myself a pilot."

After graduation, Swegle was assigned to VAQ-129, an EA18G Growler squadron based out of Whidbey Island Washington where she currently serves. The squadron is "rag" squadron or fleet replacement squadron, which are used as intermediary stops for pilots to learn standard operating procedures and conduct flight hours to practice before deploying. Swegle is part of a new generation of pilots being trained to launch and arrest electromagnetically, a new system operated exclusively on CVN 78, USS Gerald Ford.

The Navy has a fascinating history, but it would not have been the same without the contribution of the women in it. If the future of women in the service is as bright as our past, I'm confident and hopeful for what the future will bring.

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