By Cmdr. Hillary Darby
Executive staff, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii
Each year the United States reflects on Women’s Equality Day Aug. 26, commemorating the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 that granted women their right to vote.
For those of us in the Navy, where we receive equal pay for equal work and where all military occupations and positions have been opened to women without exception as long as they qualify and meet specific standards, we have a responsibility to continue championing equality for the next generation of girls and women.
My generation is part of a cresting wave of equality and greater opportunities for women in uniform.
At the U.S. Naval Academy I was a member of the 11th graduating class to include women, where I witnessed the Navy’s commitment to equality and a deep investment in women as future leaders.
I had the great good fortune to select for naval aviation and that’s when the world really opened to me. When combat helicopters became an option for women I selected the Sea Hawk, and it’s been an awesome ride ever since.
As with most Sailors, I’ve had the privilege of serving at various duty stations around the world.
I’ve served as an officer-in-charge of a helicopter detachment at sea, an executive officer of a Marine unit, an OIC of a surveillance facility, and most recently became sexual assault prevention and response officer and have served as acting chief of staff for Commander, Navy Region Hawaii.
When I first joined the Navy, I didn’t see women in positions as commanding officers, command master chiefs or other senior positions. So much has changed. Today, women are part of the leadership structure.
As we reflect upon Women’s Equality Day, let’s consider how far we have come in the military; everyone has the opportunity to make a difference serving in defense of our great nation, regardless of gender.
Our commitment must carry on to the next generation.
I know we are making a connection. Last year, my daughter, who was ten years old at the time, gave me a handwritten card titled “I am a Girl. I can.” Turn the card over and it says, “I can make a difference. I can stand up for what I believe in. I can fight for what I believe in. I won’t let anybody tell me what’s wrong or what’s right. I’ll do things my way. I’ll stick to what I believe in to the end.”
Happy Women’s Equality Day!