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Spotlight on Women: Women Veterans Recognition Day and Captain Rosemary Mariner, USN

Today is Women Veterans Recognition Day. Prior to 1948, women were primarily limited to non-combat roles, such as nurses, clerical, repair, radio and telephone operators. But on June 12, 1948, the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act was signed, officially allowing women the right to serve as full, permanent members of all branches of the Armed Forces. It did not guarantee equal opportunities, but it helped pave the way for women future women to rise through the ranks of each branch. On October 15, 1948, the first eight female Commissioned Officers into the full Navy were sworn in: Joy Bright Hancock, Ann King, Frances Willoughby, Ellen Ford, Doris Cranmore, Doris Defenderfer, Betty Rae Tennant, and Winifred Quick Collins. There are many firsts for women in the Navy over the coming years, but one to note today is Captain Rosemary Mariner, USN.

Captain Mariner was born in Harlingen, TX in 1953, but grew up in San Diego, CA. She graduated from Purdue University at the age of 19 as the first woman to earn a degree in aeronautics. With her pilots license already in hand, she joined the Navy in 1973 and became a part of the first class of women in flight training. A year later, she was one of six female aviators to earn her wings and became one of the first female Navy jet pilots.

A woman pilot sitting in a combat plane
Rosemary Mariner in the 1990s. (U.S. Navy)

In 1982, Mariner joined the USS Lexington (CV-16) as a surface warfare officer. While stationed aboard, she was the first woman to command an operational naval aviation squadron as she led VAQ-34 during Operation Desert Storm. Other career highlights included serving on the Staff of the Joint Chiefs in the Pentagon and Chairman of the Joint Chief’s Chair in Military Strategy at the National War College. 1997, Mariner retired from the Navy as a Captain after 24 years of service, with 3,500 flight hours over 15 types of aircraft.

A woman in a naval officer uniform
Captain Rosemary B. Mariner (U.S. Navy)

It was not until 2015 that all military combat positions were open to women. But now, women make up 16% of our nation’s Armed Forces, serving in every branch of the U.S. military in any role. And its thanks to women veterans like Captain Mariner leading the way.



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