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Clark (seated third from left), and STS-107 crew members take a break from their training regimen to pose for the traditional crew portrait.

Serving in Critical Jobs: Then and Now

The Navy has built its foundation on traditions and customs passed down over the years; tremendous feats and acts of heroism; “sea stories” and lore; and well, plain old interesting stories of Sailors whose accomplishments have been in keeping with aforementioned qualifications.

Laurel Clark takes a break from her training regimen to pose for a portrait.

One such noteworthy tale is that of Astronaut Laurel Blair Salton Clark who, before working for NASA, carved out quite a naval career.

During her time in the Navy, Capt. Clark became an undersea medical officer. While stationed in Scotland, she dove with divers and performed numerous medical evacuations from U.S. submarines. Later, she became a flight surgeon.

Clark made her first space flight on Space Shuttle Columbia during STS-107 as a mission specialist. The extended-duration mission was dedicated to scientific research. The STS-107 crew successfully conducted more than 80 experiments. Prior to the start of the mission, she said that the crew would enjoy its view of Earth.

Tragically, Clark and her STS-107 crew perished during re-entry as Space Shuttle Columbia broke up over Texas en route to a landing in Florida, Feb. 1, 2003.

Even now Clark’s story is resonated through Sailors who are still contributing to naval history, including Hospital Corspman 3rd Class Heidi A. Dean, who made a significant impact in Afghanistan working with an engagement team teaching Afghani women and children about hygiene.


Lt. Cmdr. Regina Mills was assigned to USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in Bremerton, Wash., as the aircraft handling officer. With a full deployment of aircraft, Mills coordinated aircraft moves to one of the ship’s four catapults for launch and maintenance moves of anywhere from 75 to 100 aircraft. Not only did she manage the safety of Sailors in an inherently dangerous environment, Mills was also known as a “great leader and mentor” who had a tremendous impact on thousands of young Sailors across the Fleet. Sadly, Mills was struck and killed by a vehicle when she stopped to assist others involved in a traffic collision in Gig Harbor, Wash.


We all know about how much fun it is to be a Navy pilot, but flying a combat mission can be both dangerous and exhilarating at the same time as the pilots from Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 125 prove. Five of the squadron’s pilots flew an E-2C Hawkeye aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). Carl Vinson and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 were deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet which ensures peace and stability and protect America’s vital interests in a 5 million square mile area of responsibility including the Red Sea, the Arabian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean.


More notable accomplishments in the Navy, past and present, include:

•    In 2009, all four Sailors of the Year were women: Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Ingrid Cortez, U.S. Fleet Forces Sea Sailor of the Year; Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Shalanda Brewer, Navy Reserve Sailor of the Year; Operations Specialist 1st Class Samira McBride, U.S. Pacific Fleet Sea Sailor of the Year and Cryptologic Technician (Technical) 1st Class Cassandra Foote, Chief of Naval Operations Shore Sailor of the Year.

•    The highest-ranking women in the Navy today are three-star admirals, Vice Adm. Ann Rondeau, serving as National Defense University president and Vice Adm. Carol Pottenger, serving as deputy chief of staff, Capability Development at NATO Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.

•    Cmdr. Regina Marengo and Lt. Megan Donnelly are 2012 Captain Joy Bright Hancock Leadership Award winners, and Chief Construction Electrician (SCW/DV) Lynn Rodriguez and Hospital Corpsmen 1st Class Sonseeahray Walker are winners of the 2012 Master Chief Anna Der-Vartanian Leadership Awards.

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