Tag: United States Navy

U.S. Navy Finally Joins Army, Air Force and Marines in Lifting Ban on Dreadlocks for Women

Petty Officer 1st Class Jacqualynn Leak hid her locs under a wig for years before fighting to lift the Navy’s dreadlocks ban. (PHOTO COURTESY OF JACQUALYNN LEAK)

by Kenya Downs via huffingtonpost.com

The United States Navy is joining the Marines, Army and Air Force in ending its ban on dreadlocks for female sailors. The naval branch announced the reversal Tuesday in a live broadcast on its Facebook page.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson says the change won’t just make the Navy more formidable, but also more inclusive.

The Navy enlisted a six-person working group to recommend changes to grooming standards, based on feedback from their peers. As part of the decision, ponytails, buns and other styles will also be permissible for women in uniform so long as they don’t interfere with a sailor’s operational or safety needs. Male sailors are still required to keep their hair short.

Petty Officer 1st Class Jacqualynn Leak, a member of the working group, has worn dreadlocks since 2014. She led efforts to reverse the ban and says her fight involved years of research on the cultural and health aspects of wearing locs. She also surveyed dozens of female sailors affected by the ban.

“I wanted to make an argument so compelling that every reason my chain of command could give me for why dreadlocks were banned could easily be rebutted with facts,” she said.

Before, Leak opted to cover her shoulder-length dreadlocks by wearing a wig, which she says became more difficult as her hair grew. Options were even more limited for other female sailors. Some were forced to choose between cutting off their dreadlocks in favor of chemically straightened hair, or facing harsh punishment.

In 2014, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jessica Sims, a hospital corpsman, was honorably discharged for refusing to cut off locs she’d worn in a tight-knit bun for over a decade.

While challenges to military rules on hairstyles aren’t new, controversy surrounding black hair reached a peak around the time of Sims’ discharge. As word spread, revisions to Army grooming regulations were leaked, revealing proposed changes to ban hairstyles common among women of color. The proposed policy, called AR 670-1, would have banned all natural hairstyles, including twists, braids, cornrows and Afros.

Many criticized the regulations as specifically targeting black women. Once it had been made public, the policy faced immediate backlash, culminating in an open letter from the Congressional Black Caucus and an official review ordered by the Pentagon. The decision was ultimately reversed.

But that reversal didn’t include dreadlocks. First Lt. Whennah Andrews of the U.S. Army National Guard has been fighting for servicewomen’s right to wear them ever since. Together with fellow soldiers, Andrews began a campaign to challenge misconceptions many within the military have about dreadlocks’ cleanliness, cultural relevance and ease of use.

Leak enlisted Andrews for guidance when deciding to take on the Navy. Andrews says the Navy’s announcement is the final triumph signaling a victory for military diversity.

“When news broke that the Army lifted the ban on locs, I thought to myself, ‘It’s not a complete win until all of the branches authorize them,’” she said. “The unique challenges African-American servicewomen faced with trying to adhere to grooming policies were universal across the Department of Defense.”

This week’s decision makes the Navy the last branch of the military to drop grooming regulations that prohibit dreadlocks. The Marines first approved locs for women in 2015, and the Air Force announced late last year that dreadlocks would become an approved hairstyle after a review by its uniform board. The Army authorized dreadlocks for women earlier this year after having previously banned them since 2005.

Retired Mathematician Gladys West is One of the People to Thank for the Development of GPS

In a Jan. 19, 2018 photo, Gladys West and her husband Ira West stand in their home in King George, Va. West was part of the team that developed the Global Positioning System in the 1950s and 1960s. (Mike Morones/The Free Lance-Star via AP)

byCathy Dyson, The (Fredericksburg, Va.) Free Lance-Star/AP via militarytimes.com

Gladys West was putting together a short bio about herself for a sorority function that recognized senior members of the group.

She noted her 42-year career at the Navy base at Dahlgren and devoted one short-and-sweet line to the fact she was part of the team that developed the Global Positioning System in the 1950s and 1960s.

Fellow Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority member Gwen James was blown away by the statement. The two had known each other for more than 15 years, and James had no idea that the soft-spoken and sharp-minded West played such a “pivotal role” in a technology that’s become a household word.

“GPS has changed the lives of everyone forever,” James said. “There is not a segment of this global society — military, auto industry, cell phone industry, social media, parents, NASA, etc. — that does not utilize the Global Positioning System.”

The revelation that her 87-year-old sorority sister was one of the “Hidden Figures” behind GPS motivated James to share it with the world. “I think her story is amazing,” James added.

West, who lives in King George County, VA, admits she had no idea at the time — when she was recording satellite locations and doing accompanying calculations — that her work would affect so many. “When you’re working every day, you’re not thinking, ‘What impact is this going to have on the world?’ You’re thinking, ‘I’ve got to get this right.’ ”

 And get it right she did, according to those who worked with her or heard about her.

In a 2017 message about Black History Month, Capt. Godfrey Weekes, then-commanding officer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, described the “integral role” played by West.

“She rose through the ranks, worked on the satellite geodesy (science that measures the size and shape of Earth) and contributed to the accuracy of GPS and the measurement of satellite data,” he wrote. “As Gladys West started her career as a mathematician at Dahlgren in 1956, she likely had no idea that her work would impact the world for decades to come.”

As a girl growing up in Dinwiddie County south of Richmond, all Gladys Mae Brown knew was that she didn’t want to work in the fields, picking tobacco, corn and cotton, or in a nearby factory, beating tobacco leaves into pieces small enough for cigarettes and pipes, as her parents did. “I realized I had to get an education to get out,” she said.

When she learned that the valedictorian and salutatorian from her high school would earn a scholarship to Virginia State College (now University), she studied hard and graduated at the top of her class. She got her free ticket to college, majored in math and taught two years in Sussex County before she went back to school for her master’s degree.

She sought jobs where she could apply her skills and eventually got a call from the Dahlgren base, then known as the Naval Proving Ground and now called Naval Support Facility Dahlgren. “That’s when life really started,” she said.

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Michelle Howard Becomes U.S. Navy’s 1st Female 4-Star Admiral in its 238 Year History

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ARLINGTON, Va. (NNS) — The United States Navy Vice Admiral Michelle Janine Howard earned promotion to the rank of four-star admiral today during a ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.  Admiral Howard is now the first female four-star in the 238 year history of the United States Navy.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus presided over the ceremony and administered the oath of office.  “Michelle Howard’s promotion to the rank of admiral is the result of a brilliant naval career, one I fully expect to continue when she assumes her new role as vice chief of naval operations, but also it is an historic first, an event to be celebrated as she becomes the first female to achieve this position,” said Mabus. “Her accomplishment is a direct example of a Navy that now, more than ever, reflects the nation it serves – a nation where success is not borne of race, gender or religion, but of skill and ability.”

“Michelle’s many trailblazing accomplishments in her 32 years of naval service are evidence of both her fortitude and commitment to excellence and integrity,” said Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations. “I look forward to many great things to come from the Navy’s newest 4-star Admiral!”

Howard, the Deputy CNO for Operations, Plans, and Strategy, will relieve Adm. Mark Ferguson III as the 38th Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) later this afternoon.  Howard is a 1978 graduate of Gateway High School in Aurora, Colo. She graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1982 and from the Army’s Command and General Staff College in 1998, with a Masters in Military Arts and Sciences.

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Vice Admiral Michelle Howard Nominated for Appointment to Rank of Admiral

Howard, MichelleSecretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced today that the president has nominated Navy Vice Adm. Michelle J. Howard for appointment to the rank of admiral and assignment as vice chief of naval operations, Pentagon, Washington, D.C. Howard is currently serving as deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans, and strategy, N3/N5, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

On March 12, 1999, Vice Adm. Michelle Howard took command of USS Rushmore, becoming the first African-American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy. In 2006, she was selected for the rank of rear admiral lower half, making her the first admiral selected from the United States Naval Academy class of 1982 and the first woman graduate of the academy selected for admiral. She was promoted to three-star rank in 2012.

VADM Howard’s initial sea tours were aboard USS Hunley and USS Lexington. While serving aboard Lexington, she received the Secretary of the Navy/Navy League Captain Winifred Collins Award in May 1987. This award is given to one woman officer a year for outstanding leadership. In January 1996, she became executive officer of USS Tortuga and deployed to the Adriatic in support of a peacekeeping effort in the former Republic of Yugoslavia.

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14 Year-Old Thessalonika Arzu-Embry To Earn Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Chicago State University

At just 14, Thessalonika Arzu-Embry will be graduating Chicago State University in August with a bachelor's degree in psychology. A resident of the Great Lakes Naval Base, Thessalonika plans to continue her studies in a graduate program before opening a clinic with her mother.
At just 14, Thessalonika Arzu-Embry will be graduating Chicago State University in August with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. A resident of the Great Lakes Naval Base, Thessalonika plans to continue her studies in a graduate program before opening a clinic with her mother.

Thessalonika Arzu-Embry and her mother, Wonder Embry, get up at five in the morning most weekdays to go to school together.  Unlike most 14-year-olds, however, Thessalonika isn’t off early in the morning to the local high school. She’s going to Chicago State University.

Thessalonika is putting the finishing touches on a college career that started three years ago at College of Lake County and will end next month with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Chicago State.  “My college experience is a traditional college experience for me — it is just that I have completed it faster,” Thessalonika said. “I am very excited about joining others in having the opportunity to contribute to society in a significant way.”

After their early wake-up, Thessalonika and her mom pray and work on Bible studies, then work out at a local fitness center before starting their hour-and-a-half commute from their home at the Great Lakes Naval Station near North Chicago to Chicago State, located on the city’s South Side. Wonder Embry is a classmate of sorts at Chicago State, where she’s a graduate student in clinical psychology.

During the commute, Wonder and Thessalonika study theory together and chat about their homework assignments. Thessalonika said her mother keeps her motivated.  “My mother is a strong inspiration to my success. She is a veteran of the United States Navy, and when she finished her tour, she home-schooled my brother and I,” Thessalonika said.  Thessalonika’s mother said that for her part, she was just doing right by her daughter.  “The parents are the most influential force in their own children’s lives, and they have the power to influence them to do good and to go forward,” Wonder Embry said.

Thessalonika was home-schooled until she was 8. At age 11, after receiving the equivalent of a high school diploma through her home schooling, she passed an entrance exam to attend College of Lake County and enrolled to study psychology.  She said she chose college from such a young age because she loves studying and has an interest in psychology that goes far beyond just material knowledge. One of her ultimate goals is to help people through a clinic she hopes to establish with her mother and her brother, Jeremy.

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The Good Things Black People Do, Give and Receive All Over The World
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