2015 Capt. Joy Bright Hancock
LCSRON 1 Ensign Cassandra N. Karo Named Recipient

SAN DIEGO – An ensign assigned to Littoral Combat Ship Squadron ONE (LCSRON 1) in San Diego has been named the recipient of the 2015 Capt. Joy Bright Hancock Leadership Award.

Ensign Cassandra N. Karo, a native of Beaufort, South Carolina, and a 16-year Navy veteran, has been recognized as the recipient of the limited duty officer/warrant officer category of the prestigious female leadership award.

The announcement of Karo’s selection took place in May, and she was presented the award during the Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium in San Diego, June 11. Retired Vice Adm. Nanette DeRenzi, the 42nd Judge Advocate General of the Navy, made the presentation.

As a limited duty officer ensign, Karo’s military journey started many years ago as a “military brat” and as a member of her high school’s Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) unit.

Karo said she grew up in California and attended high school at Scripps Ranch and Mira Mesa High School. The daughter of an enlisted U.S. Marine, she said many of her childhood friends moved to Okinawa, Japan.

“My initial reason for joining the Navy is that I wanted to travel,” said Karo, who joined the Navy two months after her older sister enlisted. “When I came in, the first place I wanted to go was an aircraft carrier or to Japan. I was blessed to pick the USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) out of Yokosuka, Japan, in OS [Operations Specialist] A-school but ended up going to Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet on board USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) due to female rack availability.”

That first duty station and a passion for the OS rating set a strong foundation for an incredible career as Karo quickly advanced up the enlisted ranks. On board Blue Ridge she earned her Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist qualification, qualified watch supervisor, and advanced to the rank of petty officer second class.

Follow-on assignments were Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, Commander, Carrier Strike Group 7, Commander, U.S. Third Fleet, and USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) helped prepare her for selection to the rank of chief petty officer the first year she was eligible.

“Coming in I knew I wanted to be chief petty officer,” said Karo. “I had two chief RDC’s [recruit division commanders] in boot camp, a chief yeoman, and a chief boatswain’s mate and they made me want to be a chief.”


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In a male dominated, sea intensive rating, she continued to become an expert in her career field and serve a role model for both male and female Sailors.

ENS Karo

At one time, she and her husband were a dual-military couple with three small children. Eventually, he left the Navy to take care of their now four children so that she, a chief petty officer at the time, could concentrate on her career.

A year after putting on anchors she set her sights on a new goal, earning a commission as a limited duty officer.

“It was my A-OPS [Assistant Operations Officer] on board Bunker Hill who told me he didn’t see chief being my end goal,” said Karo. “He told me to consider putting in a package to get a commission.”

She did in fact put in a commissioning package and just like chief, Karo was selected first time up to join the 6122 Limited Duty Officer Surface Operations community. Her first assignment as an officer was at LCSRON 1 where she assumed the duties of N3 Division Officer and Surface Warfare Mission Package Liaison Officer.

Karo said the three things she believes contribute to her personal success are Faith, family (both blood and Navy), and ambition.

“I believe God made all this possible,” said Karo. “When I wanted to go left, God guided me right. My family support has given me the extra motivation I needed to get through the rough times, especially the times at sea away from my kids.”

When it comes to ambition, it would be hard to find anyone who loves what they do in the Navy more than Karo.

“I love to work on new qualifications and goals,” said Karo. “It’s a personal satisfaction to scratch off a goal from my list.”

Karo said she could not stress enough the importance of the support she receives from her husband on a daily basis.

“If he wasn’t taking care of our family well while I was out to sea, I wouldn’t have been able to focus and complete my qualifications,” said Karo. “He is the real MVP and the rock of our family because when I deploy he takes care of our kids.”

Karo said her advice for young Sailors wanting to succeed in the Navy is simple.

“Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared of the unknown,” said Karo, who plans on going to a destroyer for her next assignment. “Don’t be scared to work out of your comfort zone.”

The Capt. Joy Bright Hancock Leadership Award, established in 1987, honors Navy women with visionary leadership whose ideals and dedication foster a positive working environment while reinforcing and furthering the integration of women into the Navy. Surface Warfare Magazine

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