By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael A. Lantron, Commander, Navy Region Public Affairs
Throughout March 2008, Sailors will celebrate and recognize the many contributions of women to our Navy and nation during the 21st annual observance of Women's History Month.
Women have been serving as an integral part of the Navy since the establishment of the Nurse Corps in 1908.
Nine years later, the Navy authorized the enlistment of women as "Yeomanettes." In 1948, the Women's Armed Services Integration Act was signed, making it possible for women to enter the Navy in regular or reserve status.
In 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress, allowing for no separate management of men and women, authorized entry of enlisted women into all ratings, and opened Recruit Officer Training Command to women.
Today, women account for more than 15 percent of the Navy's Sailors and command expeditionary strike groups, aviation squadrons, combatant ships, civil engineer corps commands, and numerous other operational and shore units.
"The increasing number of women shows that our nation and our military supports equal opportunity and hopefully other organizations will follow us," said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Amber Reyes, a criminal investigator assigned to the Security Department at Naval Station Pearl Harbor.
Women in today's Navy can be seen doing the same jobs as their male counterparts such as: saving lives in the ocean as search and rescue swimmers; building houses as Seabees; patrolling streets as security force members; and navigating ships as master helmsmen.
"I love showing people that girls can do what guys do, it's why I became a Boatswain's Mate," said Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class (SW) Emily Hernandez, a coxswain serving on the Pearl Harbor-based Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS O'Kane (DDG 77).
The amount of senior female leadership has increased throughout the years, and junior Sailors see them as positive role models for today's Navy.
"It's great to see more female chiefs and officers every year," said Reyes. "It gives me something to inspire to be and hopefully be a positive role model that people look up to one day."
The Navy continues to embrace the diversity women bring to the fleet and is proud to be part of the trend of attracting top women to the military and compelling them to make it their career.