HEADQUARTERS, NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md.– Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) celebrated Women’s History Month with an “Honoring Trailblazing Women Who Have Paved the Way for Future Generations” event on Thursday, March 24.
Trailblazer, Fleet Master Chief Jacqueline DiRosa, who entered the Navy in 1981 and rose to chief hospital corpsman in eight years, highlighted the event.
After rising to the rank of Force Master Chief she realized, “It was important to use my voice, be a champion for women, and be involved in policies that could make a difference.”
DiRosa said she was honored and humbled to be one of the Navy’s recognized trailblazers. “I didn’t see myself as becoming a first,” she said. “I learned quickly how to succeed. My goals were simple: I strived to be the best that I could, to make a difference wherever I was, and help others be their best. These would be critical to my overall success over time.”
Early in her career, DiRosa said that even though she didn’t see any women in the ranks above her, “I didn’t let that deter me.”
DiRosa outlined the changes in policies that were instrumental in her career, beginning in 1978 when non-combative ships were opened to women shortly before she joined the Navy.
“I excelled very quickly through my career, but I owe a lot of that to taking advantage of some key opportunities,” she said. “By exploring leadership and trying to make a difference. Doors were wide open for women in the early 80s and 90s.”
Throughout her career, she continued to push herself. “I sought out those challenging opportunities to lead, train and develop and considered that my core strength,” she said. “And to make a difference wherever I served. I knew every opportunity would be a valuable learning experience.”
After numerous assignments, DiRosa decided that if she wanted to continue to grow as a leader and continue to make a difference, she had to pursue becoming a command master chief petty officer. “After a few years maturing as a young master chief, I applied and was accepted into the Command Master Chief (CMC) Program,” she said.
Her first CMC tour was in 2000 on the USNS Supply (T-AOE-6) where she was the only female chief onboard. Her fourth ship assignment was aboard the USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19).
She later became force master chief for the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED). “It was such a pinnacle moment,” she said. “I would have the ability to lead the community I grew up in – the hospital core community – and to truly make a difference in a way I had never been able to. When I thought all eyes were on me before, they were really on me now.”
In 2006, DiRosa was the first woman promoted to fleet master chief – the first woman in Navy history selected for both force and fleet master chief. She retired from the Navy in 2011 after 30 years of service.
“We hold these events to highlight the contributions of all Americans, to hear from leaders with diverse backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, and ideas,” Vice Adm. Carl P. Chebi, commander, NAVAIR, stated in his opening remarks. “To succeed in today’s world we must think differently, learn, and improve. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not only strategic imperatives for the Navy, it is foundational to the success here at NAVAIR.”
Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Executive Director Steve Cricchi spoke about the importance of NAVAIR’s events and Diversity Action Teams (DATs) that offer networking, educational, and mentorship opportunities, along with feedback on the challenges employees face in the workplace.
“The themes we cover during our events, the people we hear from like today’s guest speaker, as well as those that we lift up as role models, are great a space for inspiration and encouragement,” Cricchi said.
“It is so inspiring to hear the stories and hear the accomplishments that NAVAIR has within the community there,” said DiRosa. “I am grateful for the work that your diversity committee has done in recognizing them and hosting these events – they are so very important.”
“I want to recognize all the women that are with us here today because each and every one of you is trailblazer in your own right,” she continued. “You make an impact every single day no matter where you are in the organization, so thank you for all that you do.”
DiRosa concluded her remarks by saying, “No matter what you do, be strong, be confident, be courageous, and stay focused on achieving your own greatness. Everyone has their own journey to travel. Identify what your core strength is, develop it and share it. Don’t let barriers or distractors hijack your journey. There are no limits to what you can achieve when you set your mind to it.”
For more information on NAVAIR’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, visit https://jobs.navair.navy.mil/NAVAIR-Diversity-Inclusion.