Face of Defense: Admirals Mentor Other Female Sailors
By Navy Lt. Nathan Christensen
Special to American Forces Press Service
MANAMA, Bahrain, Jul. 21, 2009 Navy Rear Adm. Carol M. Pottenger and Navy Rear Adm. Michelle Howard have plenty on their respective plates – Pottenger as commander of Naval Expeditionary Combat Command and Howard as commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 2. But that doesn’t stop the two flag officers from taking on the additional role of mentoring female sailors.
Navy Rear Adm. Carol Pottenger, right, and Navy Rear Adm. Michelle Howard met with women surface warfare officers at U.S. Naval Forces Central Command headquarters in Manama, Bahrain, to encourage them in their careers and lives. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer L. Stride
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Pottenger and Howard recently met with a group of fermale surface warfare officers here to encourage them to continue to progress in their careers.
While striving to improve every officer and sailor, Pottenger and Howard said, they understand young women need senior female mentors and leaders to guide them in their career paths.
"In the Navy, a leader is a leader," Pottenger said. "The key is mentorship, caring for sailors, motivating them to succeed and understanding that you can truly be anyone you want to be.
“I've had some great role models in my life and career, both men and women, each allowing me to shine by giving me room to excel,” she continued. “I'm always looking forward, not back, and it's my hope that I have been able to help those that will follow me."
Both women have led from the front since the beginning of their careers. Pottenger volunteered for sea duty in 1978, a year after she earned her commission. Howard, a 1982 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, reported aboard USS Hunley for her initial sea-duty assignment. Both women have commanded ships as well as amphibious expeditionary strike groups.
Though both admirals have taken on jobs where they were the first women to hold those positions, neither views their accomplishments as gender-specific.
"There is a terrific opportunity for women in the Navy today," Howard said. "Life is about what you choose to make of it, and a woman can do anything she sets her mind to. I'm at a point in my life where I think it is important to reach out to young women in the Navy and help them develop into the leaders of tomorrow."
Some of surface warfare officers took the admirals’ words to heart and said they were motivated to follow in their footsteps.
"Both admirals are great examples of what women can achieve in the Navy," said Navy Lt. Lisa Masso, assigned to Task Force Individual Augmentee. "I really get the sense from talking to them that you can achieve whatever you want. I admire both women because they care so much about people. I hope that I can help those sailors under me grow."
(Navy Lt. Nathan Christensen serves with the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command public affairs office.)