Four Women Of Color Make History As Naval Ship Commanders

For the first time in the US Navy’s history, four women of color will all be commanding warships at the same time. 

On Friday (March 26), NBC NewsLester Holt reported that Commanders Kimberly Jones, LaDonna Simpson, Kristel O’Cañas, and Kathryn Wijnaldum will be leading Navy warships in a historic first that military leaders say could break barriers for other women looking to enter the service. 

“...there were not many senior female officers that I could necessarily go to,” Commander Jones said in an exclusive clip shared with People. Jones joined the Navy in 1999. Now, Jones said, “there are leaders, there are role models, rank, in every rate. That is something that I hope ensigns, young sailors, gravitate towards and take advantage of.” 

Commander Jones leads the USS Tortuga, Simpson is the commander of the USS Carter Hall, O’Cañas is the commanding officer of the USS Whidbey Island, and Wijnaldum is the head of the USS Oak Hill. 

In the interview, the women shared they’re all nuclear-qualified, which could provide an opportunity to lead aircraft carriers in the future. The commanding officers also emphasized the importance of getting more women into science, technology, engineering, and math education pathways and career fields. 

They are also all mothers, which they said helps them in their jobs as leaders.  

Commander Jones said “we are a collective of diverse personalities, and it takes all of us,” when discussing being an inspiration for other women in the Navy. “So stand up,” she added. “Be you, be your best you.”  

All four commanders are stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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