By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Victoria Mejicanos
PHILIPPINE SEA – In the middle of the Philippine Sea, beneath eight Harpoon missiles lying ready on the top deck, there on a table lays face masks, nail polish, and snacks. Not a usual set up for a United States’ war room, but this was the scene set aboard Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) on Oct. 29.
The ship’s crew contingency is made up of approximately 360 personnel. Of this, more than 60 – nearly 17 percent – are women, enlisted and commissioned combined. In 2017, the Department of Defense reported 15.1 percent of its overall force was comprised of women, and the women aboard Hopper decided to embrace their above-average status.
The senior women of the crew came together and molded a group that call themselves, “Women of Grace”-an ode to the ship’s namesake, the late Rear Adm. Grace Hopper. The group has begun holding meetings every Sunday, creating a platform for ladies to come to a safe space to find mentorship, ask for peer advice, speak about past and current experiences, and come together for a sense of fellowship.
“Outside of this group, we often find ourselves in rooms where we are the only woman there,” said Chief Sonar Technician (Surface) Kegan Dyer. “For one day a week, we have a spot just for us.”
While the pretense of face masks and hair braiding – executed by the talented Chief Sonar Technician (Surface) 3rd Class Melissa Gunraj – might seem old-fashioned, the notion seems to be resonating among the members of the crew who choose to partake in the meetings.
“This gives me something to look forward to every week,” said Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Sherrion Robinson. “When I start thinking the week is lasting a really long time, I can remember I have this coming up.”
“There is a misconception that we have to sacrifice our femininity when we join the Navy,” said Dyer. “Growing up in the Navy, I felt like I had to work additionally hard against other women to stand out, and I found it difficult to make female friends. We don’t believe it should be like that. And even though chiefs and officers are facilitating the group for now, we want the junior crew to know we are like them, and they have a spot among us.”
For now, the group has only met twice but has already evolved. Originally called “Women Empowerment Group” the founders recognized the need to centralize their goals to specialize on the needs of this particular destroyer.
While the enticement of snacks and manicures might lure membership, it looks like the camaraderie will have Sailors returning.
“Our end goal is increase participation in an effort to build trust and togetherness as a crew,” said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Mandriecka Francis. “At the end of the day, this is our home and we need to make it work for everyone.”
USS Hopper is assigned to Commander, Task Force 71 and deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. Hopper is a multi-mission surface combatant, capable of anti-air, anti-submarine, and anti-surface warfare missions. It can operate independently or in support of carrier and expeditionary strike groups. Hopper is homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
|Date Posted:||11.02.2023 21:57|
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