By MC1 Omari K. Way, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs
Navy Region Hawaii honored the history of women in uniform during a Pearl Harbor Colors, honors and heritage ceremony held March 19 at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.
Set at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, commanding officers from the two surface ships most recently returned from deployment spoke to a group of service members, families and distinguished guests, as well as an audience of locals and visitors about this month’s theme, “Lean in, operating forward: Women’s History Month and the heritage of women serving in uniform.”
It happens that the two commanding officers are women.
Cmdr. Gina McCaine is commanding officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS O’Kane (DDG 77). Cmdr. Linda Seymour is the top officer on the USS Halsey (DDG 97). Both are based in Pearl Harbor.
McCaine began her speech by making it clear that the women who wear a Navy uniform contribute to the CNO’s tenets, also known as sailing directions.
“The three tenets of the Navy’s Chief of Operations are warfighting first, operate forward, and be ready. Women exemplify these tenets today as warfighters, protecting the freedom of this great country ready at any given moment,and are operating at the front, leading Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines around the world,” McCaine said.
She also provided the audience with context. She told of how quickly women responded to the country’s call to service once they saw the slightest crack in existing gender barriers.
“Ninety-eight years ago today, on March 19, 1917, Secretary of the Navy Joseph Daniels authorized the enlistment of women and two days later, Loretta Walsh was sworn in as chief yeomen,” McCaine said.
Today, Adm. Michelle Howard serves as Navy’s serves as Navy’s Vice Chief of Naval Operations.
As the time approached 7:55 a.m., McCaine explained that the morning’s ceremony was not only about the celebration of women in military service. She said it was also about ceremonies involving the American flag.
“The colors ceremony has a long standing tradition in our armed forces. Every morning and every evening, we stand in honor of this symbol of our great nation,” she said.
“The American flag represents the ideals of our founders and the bonds that unite us all as citizens, but foremost, it represents the sacrifice of veterans both past and present who have served this country with distinction.
“On ships of the U.S. Navy, first call is sounded at 0755, five minutes ahead of morning colors (or raising the national ensign), and five minutes before evening colors (or lowering the national ensign),” McCaine said.
Then she turned to Chief Musician Ryan Ringnalda, from Pacific Fleet Ceremonial Band, and said, “Band-master, sound first call to colors.”
Lt. Meredith Manuel, master of ceremony, introduced the next guest speaker, USS Halsey (DDG 97) commanding officer, Cmdr. Linda Seymour.
“The forward-leaning, hard-working legacy of women in the Navy is all around us. A sister ship here in Pearl Harbor is USS Hopper (DDG 70). Hopper is named after Rear Adm. ‘Amazing Grace’ Hopper, who was a pioneering computer scientist. She was given the nickname ‘Amazing Grace’ because of accomplishments well ahead of her time,” Seymour said. “Her service spanned from 1943 when she enlisted in the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) to her retirement in 1986 as a rear admiral. Hopper exemplified the Navy’s core values and was truly a trailblazer as a computer scientist and naval officer,” she said.
Seymour gave a nod to another member of the WAVES who was in attendance as guest of honor, Eugenia Woodward. Woodward was applauded and thanked for her service during World War II.
Seymour spoke of the first female four-star admiral, Adm. Michelle Howard, the introduction of women to combatant ships, and inclusion of women in the field of Navy nuclear propulsion. She paused briefly then called the audience to rise. Then she looked at Ringnalda and said, “Bandmaster, sound attention to colors.”
Then, immediately looking to the enlisted men and women of the USS Halsey and USS O’Kane Honors and Ceremonial Guard, she gave the order, “Color guard, parade the colors.”
The crowd stood tall, with each person either saluting or with hand over heart. The National Anthem played loudly. The American flag was paraded and posted.
The next Pearl Harbor Colors Ceremony will be held April 1 in tribute to chief petty officers on the CPO birthday.