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USS O'Kane Sailors Celebrate Women's History Month

By Blair Martin, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- This month marks the 22nd annual observance of Women's History Month during which a grateful nation celebrates the many notable contributions made by women.

The female Sailors of the USS O'Kane (DDG 77) are among the many dedicated Sailors not only committed to their work, but also to serving their country.

Cmdr. Timothy Steadman, O'Kane commanding officer, took this opportunity to expressed his gratitude for the daily contributions of women as part of O'Kane's crew.

"They are just fantastic," he said. "This ship wouldn't be where it is right now without them. They are in every single division, every department, and they are all excellent Sailors doing a great job for us," he added.

Electrician's Mate 3rd Class (SW) Nastasia Andreanoff said her decision of joining the Navy came from family traditions.

"My dad was in the Army, and would always talk about his times [overseas], and I wanted to have stories to one day tell my own children," said the Alaska native.

Now working in a predominately male rate, Adreanoff said she didn't find the transition to be too hard.

"I don't think it was as hard for me because my dad raised us [kids] with similar values that he had as a service member. He taught me honor, courage and commitment and whatever you do, don't go against your moral [code]," she added.

After joining the Navy four years ago, Fire Controlman 2nd Class (SW) Melissa Hoover said she went from small town girl to "just one of the guys" working in a predominately male rate on a naval ship. Hoover, who came from a medical background as a pharmacy technician, said going from civilian to Sailor was a drastic change.

"It was a little bit of shock," said the Louisiana native. "[At first], I never thought I would do anything like [becoming a fire controlman], but now I find it very empowering. I think it is a good thing to step out of your safety zone every once in a while," she added.

In fact, Hoover said her broad civilian experience has only made her further value the lessons she has gained as a Sailor.

"We may not have as much freedom as the civilian world, but that also [forces] us to respect each other and work together as a team," she explained. "In the Navy, you can't just quit without serious consequences. You are held accountable which is something that does not always happen [on the outside]," she added.

Chief Fire Controlman (SW) Teaqua Bailey said when she joined the Navy as a 20-year-old, she also experienced culture shock.

"Like most kids, I was rather immature, and I had to do a lot of growing up," said the Chicago native. "Luckily, I had a couple really good chiefs at my first command that really helped me. Now, that is what I am trying to do with my Sailors," she added.

Bailey, who was among the first women to work in her rate, said it was an adjustment at first, but in the end, very rewarding.

"The [male Sailors] were actually very protective of me being the only female in the division," she said. "They took me in and taught me everything I needed to know and were ultimately, my role models. [Ultimately], they made it a lot easier for me," she added.

Information Systems Technician 1st Class (SW) Jessica Bennett, who has spent 10 years in the Navy, said as a female Sailor she has been afforded every opportunity for advancement as her male counterparts. In fact, her entire chain of command on the O'Kane are women, including her leading petty officer, chief and communications officer.

"I don't see male or female, I see blue or khaki," said the Louisiana native. "And if you work hard and do your job, then the advancement opportunity is there. I can't tell you how many wonderful female mentors I have had over the years," she added.

Story Number: NNS090318-19 Release Date: 3/18/2009 5:15:00 PM

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