Thursday, August 12, 2010

First Woman Takes Command of a Carrier Group

Rear Adm. Nora Tyson
I just saw an article that was truly announcing a historical event, a woman has fought and clawed her way up the chain of command and has been given command of an entire Carrier Battle Group!

When Nora W. Tyson entered the Navy in 1979, women were not allowed to go to sea on aircraft carriers. The idea of a woman commanding a mighty carrier strike group was so remote it was not even contemplated.

Things change! That day arrived Thursday for Rear Admiral Tyson, who made history in assuming command of Carrier Strike Group Two in a ceremony on board the USS George H.W. Bush. The strike group consists of the Bush, America's newest carrier, four guided-missile cruisers; Destroyer Squadron 22, which includes six guided-missile destroyers and two frigates, and Carrier Air Wing 8, with eight squadrons of aircraft. 

In accepting her new assignment, Tyson spoke of the challenges that the Navy faces and said she was humbled to be selected. Talking later with reporters, she downplayed her history-making step. "As far as the trailblazing piece, I understand I am the first woman on the job," she said. "But I'm a professional just like my fellow officers are, and my fellow strike group commanders." 

Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, said her appointment should send a signal "that there is no limit as to what you can do." 
In April, the Navy announced a policy change that will allow women to serve on submarines. The first group of female Sailors has since been accepted. In June, the Navy announced its four Sailors of the year, and women swept the field for the first time. "It's been a tremendous year for women in the Navy," said Regina Akers, a naval historian with Naval History and Heritage Command. 

Thursday's ceremony prompted Akers to recall other women who have broken barriers in the Navy, starting with Joy Bright Hancock. Born in 1898 and serving in World War I as a yeoman, she lost two husbands to aviation accidents while still in her 20s. Later, she became a respected member of the Bureau of Aeronautics, a leading early figure in the Women's Reserve of the U.S. Naval Reserves, nicknamed the WAVES, and one of the first women officers in the U.S. Navy. She died in 1986. Reflecting on Tyson's new assignment, Akers said her first thought was, "Wow, what would Joy think?" 

Other Navy women have broken barriers as well. Barbara Allen was the first female aviator in 1974. Brenda Robinson was the first black female aviator. Rosemary Mariner was the first woman to command an operational aviation squadron. "In a larger context, this is just another effort by the Navy to further diversity," said Akers. 

Tyson said she's thought about whether she'll face more scrutiny. She said it all comes down to professionalism. But while women have made progress in the Navy over the years, Tyson's appointment marks a dramatic step forward, said James V. Koch, president emeritus of Old Dominion University who also teaches World War II history. "This is an exceedingly responsible position in terms of the pressure and the kinds of life-and-death decisions that have to be made," he said. "I think there is more pressure and more responsibility than a staff position in the Pentagon, even though the rank of that person might be higher." Because carriers are a symbol of America's military might, "one is constantly on the front lines when you are a commander of a task force. And the tradition of the Navy is that whoever is in charge is responsible," he said. 

Tyson acknowledged as much during her speech. "This," she said, "is not an easy position to be in." 

Now, Something Else

I have some exceptionally bright people that occasionally read these little postings of mine. I know because I regularly get great feed back (even on the rare occasion when I am wrong). Today I would like to ask some of you to give me your thoughts about a hypothetical question:

How many of you have had to take this oath (or one like it) at some point in your lives?
“I, (xxxx), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

For you Americans: If you have ever been in the military, you have taken it. If you ever served as an elected public official, you have taken it. If you have ever been employed by a city, county, state or the federal government, you probably took this oath. If you were a scout or scout leader, a little league coach, a PTA board member -you have likely taken it. You may have raised your right hand and repeated it, or you may have signed a copy as part of your employment package, very likely you did both. For those of you on the path to U.S. citizenship, you will be required to swear this oath when you become a citizen.

If you took it: Did you mean it? Do you still mean it?

This question came up the other day when some friends of mine and I were discussing how things are going with the federal government. We were trying to look into some crystal ball and see several possible futures (never easy and not always as good an idea as it sounds). One of the series of “cause and effect events” we were joyfully following involved a “what if” the congress declared an emergency and suspended the constitution during the emergency (not as far fetched a possibility as you might think). The question became: If you took this oath, to whom do you owe your allegiance at that point? The Congress? The Executive? The military? The Police? No One? Or simply The Constitution? Who do you obey and who are you legally bound to obey?

No, I don’t have an answer written backwards across the bottom. This is not a trick or a test. I am just curious. So, what you do think?

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