USS MAKIN ISLAND, At Sea - Female Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) took part in a quarterly "Women at Sea" meeting Dec. 18, to talk about the unique challenges women face serving aboard a U.S. Navy vessel.
Makin Island's Women at Sea program began shortly after the ship was commissioned in October 2009, and serves as an informal forum for female Sailors and Marines to share experiences and address issues of concern. While meetings are held quarterly, the group works year-round to mentor and address the needs of female crew members.
Chief Operations Specialist (SW/AW) Dennisha McElveen and Ship's Serviceman 1st Class (SW/AW) Chequera Sullivan led the meeting of more than 50 Sailors and Marines, providing information on important issues directly affecting women on board Makin Island.
"We're here to get the females together to let them know that they are not alone," said Sullivan. "As leaders in positions of authority, we are able to address sensitive situations that our junior females face, especially those who are experiencing their first deployment."
The meetings cover topics such as personal safety on and off the ship, berthing etiquette, inappropriate behavior, proper civilian attire on liberty and professional topics such as earning warfare qualifications.
Sullivan said the group also discussed the benefits of how what they learn in the meetings can be passed on to future generations of females in the military through solid mentorship.
"One of the problems we ran into was how dark it is in the passageways outside some of the female berthing areas," said McElveen. "We corrected it buy getting permission to leave the lights on. It's a small change that helps our female Sailors feel comfortable."
Lance Cpl. Samantha Nedl, attached to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is currently on her first deployment and after attending the meeting, said she wants to attend future Women at Sea events.
"This was good, I was able find out what the ship has to offer to help me while we are deployed," said Nedl. "My mentor is female and I'm glad I have that support. She is someone I can go to if I have a problem and I know she will help me solve it."
Makin Island and the 11th MEU departed San Diego Nov. 14 and are currently deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR), supporting the nation's maritime strategy.
Makin Island is the first U.S. Navy ship to deploy using a hybrid-electric propulsion system. By using this unique propulsion system, the Navy expects over the course of the ship's lifecycle, to see fuel savings of more than $250 million, proving the Navy's commitment to energy awareness and conservation.
The 7th Fleet AOR includes more than 52 million square miles of the Pacific and Indian oceans, stretching from the international date line to the east coast of Africa, and from the Kuril Islands in the north to the Antarctic in the south.
More than half of the world's population lives within the 7th Fleet AOR. In addition, more than 80 percent of that population lives within 500 miles of the oceans, which means this is an inherently maritime region.