From the US Navy comes a story detailing the personal history of now-Chief Navy Counselor Desiree River.
The world around us is constantly changing, conforming to the cultures and standards set by the people who live in it. Laws are passed. Rules are implemented
and taken away. People come and go, and the society around us transforms to incorporate these changes. The same goes for individual households,
workplaces and environments. The world is not the same as it was 20 years ago, as it will not be the same 20 years in the future.
A hundred years ago, women were not considered equal to men. They could not hold an equivalent job, vote or join the military. They hardly had a say
in our ever-changing world. As women began fighting against these inequalities, they began to contribute more and more to the revolution of society.
Over time, women gained more of the same freedoms as men. They gained the right to vote, the right to run for political office, the opportunity
to join the military and work the same jobs as men. It didn’t come easy, but America leading global change slowly transformed to allow women and
men to work together harmoniously.
In March 1997, now-Chief Navy Counselor Desiree Rivers left her hometown of Everett, Washington to join the Navy. People told her the military
was a man’s job, that it was too hard and she would never make it. She reported to her first ship while it was underway, climbing a rope ladder
from a smaller boat to board the ship. When she reached the top of the ladder, a chief helped her up while he rolled his eyes and made a comment
about not needing another female on the ship. Rivers was one of 13 women on a ship of 300 Sailors.
“It was the pride that I wasn’t going to quit,” said Rivers. “I told myself no matter how hard it is, I’m not going to quit. I couldn’t let all
of the people that said I couldn’t do it be right. I could not let someone say that I couldn’t do it, because I knew I could.”
As she moved up through the ranks, Rivers used the negative comments and harsh attitudes as her motivation. When she pinned on chief, she was
stationed at a submarine support command in Pearl Harbor. At that time, women in the Navy were still not authorized to serve on submarines, so
she was one of very few women at the command. She received her anchors alongside several men, giving her a boost of pride to be not only a woman
in the military, but a female chief.
Rivers said that some of her proudest moments in the Navy are as a chief. She is proud to be an example to her children and inspire other women
around her to do great things without letting other people influence them negatively.
“There will always be rude people who say things that should be left unsaid. Don’t let things people say influence what you want to do,” said
Rivers. “If you want to stay in the military, do it because it makes you happy. If you don’t want to be in the military, go do something that makes
you happy. Do it for yourself.”
Since she joined the Navy 21 years ago, Rivers has witnessed firsthand how the Navy has evolved to include women as equals with men. She said
that a huge difference between then and now is the integration between senior enlisted and junior enlisted personnel. She said chiefs are more
personable with newer, younger Sailors, and that bridges a gap and emulates professionalism throughout the fleet. Sailors are a support system
within themselves, men and women combined, more so than in the past.
“It takes a strong woman to be able to do what we do,” said Rivers. “This job is hard for anyone. It’s so important to have a good support system,
and when we don’t have that, we need to support each other.”
As the Navy changes along with the rest of the country, the voice of women fighting to be equal is growing louder and louder.
“Sexual discrimination is aging,” said Rivers. “Women are standing up for themselves and men are standing up for women. More people are against
sexism than not, and it’s making a difference. We have a louder voice now.”
Inequality still exists and continues to cause disorder in many places. But as the voice of women continues to grow, especially in the Navy and
other branches where it was so quiet before, it continues to subsidize growth and change in the world. The atmosphere around us, in our homes,
workplaces and everyday lives, evolves daily to foster equality between men and women, and will continue to do so.
For more news from USS Nimitz (CVN 68), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn68/.
Image Courtesy of National Women’s History Month official Website