By MC3 Robyn Melvin
NPASE Detachment Southeast
This March marks the Navy's 30th celebration of Women's History Month. This year's theme is "Honoring trail blazing women in labor and in business."
Keynote speaker retired Fleet Master Chief April Beldo spoke about the importance of acknowledging the role of women in the Navy at the Afloat Training Group auditorium located at Naval Station Mayport.
"We pause to recognize the Navy team made up of female sailors and civilians," said Beldo. "Women who serve in every rank from seaman to admiral and hold every position from Naval aviation to deep sea diver."
Senior Chief Damage Controlman Jason Brown , stationed at Afloat Training Group Mayport, says we celebrate Women's History Month to reflect and recognize where we have come from to where we are today.
"We can change and we can adapt," said Brown. "So it's nice to come back at least once a year to remember that and hopefully not forget so that we don't make the same mistakes and revert back."
100 years ago during the final stages of World War I, Loretta Walsh became the first female to enlist in the armed forces, and the first female Chief in the Navy.
"If I could have a conversation with Miss Loretta, I would thank her for her tenacity, for her confidence, for her showing a back bone," said Beldo. "She worked hard and represented enlisted women during World War I."
Beldo stressed the importance of diversity and how the role expansion for women in the military has had a positive effect.
"There are some women who set the path for every woman sitting here in the auditorium today," said Beldo. "We enjoy more opportunities than they were ever afforded. If not for them, I would not have enjoyed almost 30 years of active duty service to our country and to our Navy."
Sailors in attendance reflected on their past experiences with women in the Navy and how they were influenced by them.
This is my first duty station in the Navy," said Yeoman 3rd Class Shaunakay Carter, assigned to Naval Station Mayport. "I had thoughts of getting out, but working with my (female) Senior Chief and Chief motivated me to stay in because if they could do it then so can I."
Beldo addressed the recent indiscretions surrounding the military about sexist social media behavior, and what we need to do to end it.
"Based on some recent headlines we can not excuse it or tolerate inappropriate behavior or comments," said Beldo. "We need to encourage each other, we need to do better, we need to be better, we need not to take advantage of each other, we need not to stab each other behind the back nor do we need to be on social media talking about each other."
Beldo says the Navy should remember their predecessors, refuse to let them down and challenge themselves to keep moving forward.
"Those who have gone before us worked hard to break down barriers, and they did," said Beldo. "Lets make it our personal mission that their efforts are not in vain. Be bold be brave be courageous, and don't be afraid to look yourself in the mirror and check your integrity."