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LCDR Darlene Iskra smiles shortly after her appointment as commanding officer of USS Opportune (ARS-41), February 1991. DOD Still Media Photograph: DN-ST-91-06050.
LCDR Darlene Iskra smiles shortly after her appointment as commanding officer of USS Opportune (ARS-41), February 1991. DOD Still Media Photograph: DN-ST-91-06050.

First Female Commanding Officer of a U.S. Navy Ship

LCDR Darlene Iskra smiles shortly after her appointment as commanding officer of USS Opportune (ARS-41), February 1991. DOD Still Media Photograph: DN-ST-91-06050.
LCDR Darlene Iskra smiles shortly after her appointment as commanding officer of USS Opportune (ARS-41), February 1991. DOD Still Media Photograph: DN-ST-91-06050.

Dec. 27 marks 22 years since LCDR Darlene Iskra reported for duty aboard USS Opportune (ARS-41).  She would later become the first female commanding officer of a U.S. Navy ship when she assumed responsibility as the ship’s CO.

Today, we recognize CDR (Ret.) Iskra’s accomplishments during her 21 years of military service – marked by several firsts for female Sailors, including qualifying as a Surface Warfare Officer, service as a sea-going officer, as well as one of the first three female Sailors to attend the Naval School of Diving and Salvage.

She holds an MA in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College, Newport, R.I., and an MA and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Maryland. Today, she writes books about women in military service.

Below, CDR (Ret.) Iskra reflects with Naval History & Heritage Command on her career.

“I hadn’t realized what a big deal being the first woman to command a ship would be until I arrived in Naples, and on my desk was a stack of congratulatory cards and letters from people I didn’t even know! I also got a few cards from people I hadn’t heard from in literally decades! Soon afterwards, the public affairs officer from Naples asked to do an interview. That was the one that was published soon after I took command, to news outlets all over the world, even in Saudi Arabia, which freaked my husband out, as even back then we were worried about terrorism.

About three weeks after I took command, Desert Storm started in the Gulf and we were ordered underway towards the Suez Canal to intervene in case the Canal was mined or otherwise blocked. We picked up an [Explosive Ordnance Disposal] team in La Maddalena, Sardinia, and headed to an area on the Mediterranean side of the canal, where we stayed for the entire duration of the war. No mines were laid, though we did have several interesting incidents, but those are stories for another day.”

CDR (Ret.) Iskra shared more memories of her 21 years in the Navy and what it meant to her in this video.

To see more photos of her naval career, check NHHC’s Facebook album.

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6 comments

  1. Its great to see women given responsibility in the U.S.Navy and other of the armed forces.They certainly can’t be any worse than some of the male counter parts.Good Luck to her and other women in their chosen profession.

  2. Jeremiah Holt, Jr.

    Thank you for your service, Ma’am!

  3. Clifford L. Virador

    “SEASONS GREETINGS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS, HAPPY NEW YEAR 2013”. “THANK YOU Very Much for 21 Years of Honorable, BLESSED, Dedicated Service To U.S.Navy”. “You Are TRUE INSPIRATION & TRUE BLESSING To All Women & Gentlemen In The Armed Forces. “You Are My TRUE INSPIRATION & BLESSED HERO Because You Are Honestly A TRUE BLESSING & Walking Testimony That “With GOD, JESUS CHRIST, BLESSED MAMA MARY ALL THINGS ARE MADE POSSIBLE”.–Matthew 19:9,6.”SHARING IS CARING 4 EVER”.”ALWAYS WALK BY FAITH…& Not By Sight”.”Vaya Con Dios”.”To GOD & JESUS CHRIST BE ALL the Glory”.”Amen..:-) <3 :-)

  4. Now if the U.S. would reinstate the active draft and draft men and women.

  5. A parity of gender realized the possibility of interplay, the demonstration that men and women have parity on all sector. This is the optimum for the way toward a society where no effective difference exist and this has been realized on Navy.claudio alpaca

  6. Awesome story! Thank you for sharing – and I would love to hear more about the various pioneers in our Navy! :-)

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