USS Howard Hosts Women’s Symposium on Professional Development, Preventing Assaults
PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines – On July 3, 75 women from USS Howard (DDG 83) and USS Chung Hoon (DDG 93) gathered for a women’s symposium hosted by USS Howard’s female commanding officer, Cmdr. Ande Bergmann, to discuss professional development topics for women in the US Navy, and to discuss sexual harassment, assault and the policies governing the issues.
“We heard a cry, specifically on how to address and confront sexual assault and harassment,” Bergmann said. “In response, we decided that a small symposium would allow us to come together and truly educate ourselves on these issues in the workplace that women throughout the fleet face.”
Held at an off-ship location, women from all ranks were able to meet in a more intimate setting and discuss the tough issues confronting women embarked on ships.
“Big Navy really cares and is making huge strives to address the issues of sexual assault and harassment in the Navy,” said Sonar Technician First Class Rose Lauricella, USS Howard’s Sexual Assault Prevent and Response Victim Advocate (SAPR). “Sexual assault and harassment is a topic that no one is comfortable addressing, but it’s a necessary discussion to have.
The symposium was developed to build on the Navy’s Third Annual Sexual Assault Prevention Summit, held in May 2011, which brought more than 300 commanding officers, enlisted leaders and sexual assault response coordinators together to discuss sexual assault and harassment. The women onboard USS Howard and USS Chung Hoon took their own step in the same direction, starting a dialogue on how women can not only help themselves, but help others in preventing more sexual assaults from occurring, with the hope of helping decrease the number of cases throughout the entire fleet.
According to the Department of the Navy, fiscal 2010 registered 22 motorcycle deaths, 75 suicides and 925 sexual assault reports. At the Summit in May, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said, “three people in the Navy and Marine Corps are sexually assaulted a day. If somebody was being shot three times a day, we would do something about it,” indicating the Summit was a positive move in addressing the issue.
Additionally, symposium discussions also addressed professional development and the importance of choosing good mentors and role models for a successful career. “It is important to take a moment and discuss the issues that we face as professionals so that we grow stronger not only as individuals, but as a group,” said Lt Kimber Rudzis, an SH-60B helicopter pilot embarked on USS Howard. “I’m only one of two female pilots in my squadron,” she continued. “So I feel it’s even more important that we discuss professional challenges that we face across all communities, whether you’re a surface warfare officer or an aviator,” she said.
Chief Hospital Corpsman Claudine Volkart has been in the Navy 18 years and said she’s never had the opportunity to engage in a professional seminar for women, like the one hosted by Cmdr. Bergmann.
“I’ve been in a long time and this was the first time in my career that I have had the opportunity to engage in a discussion concerning the issues that we face as women and leaders in today’s Navy,” Volkart said. “It was refreshing to start a dialogue where we opened discussion on the tough issues we face, rather than addressing the trivial concerns. This is the first time I have ever seen so many women in leadership positions throughout a command and we are very fortunate to have a unique perspective that enables us to develop as women, as leaders and as Sailors,” she added.
USS Howard is is homeported in San Diego, is a member of the Ronald Regan Strike Group and Destroyer Squadron Seven. The ship is currently deployed in support of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT).