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32 Navy | Summer 2017 U.S. NAVY How did you go from artist to electrician? I enlisted in 1973, because I liked the Navy recruiter's suggestion of photographer or drasman as expanding my artistic skills—and to honor my family's Navy tradition. At boot camp, I was surprised to be offered only sea-going rates: aviation storekeeper (AK), electri- cian (ET), or interior communications electrician (IC). I told the counselor,"You must be mistaken—I was an art major in college." e Navy was opening a few of the all-male ratings at that time and I was the fourth of eight women to be trained in IC. No women I knew thought of ship duty—and neither did the men. I was a "test case" at "A" School in San Diego and had to perform well in everything; it was tense having every move watched. My specialty became telecommunications with completion of Dial and Marine Telephone Mainte- nance "C" School at Great Lakes. I swapped orders with a male classmate and was the frst woman IC to serve at Negishi Microwave Station, near Yokosuka, Japan. Were you able to gain ship-board experience? ere was a law written in 1948—and forgotten about—forbidding women from ships [except hospital ships and transports] but there was a lot of news coverage of the "Women in the Navy" effort in the 1970s. More importantly, there were no rules, no policy covering women at sea because who would even think a woman would ask to be on a ship? It was such an outlandish request that the ships' leadership were caught off guard when I approached them. I worked double-time: at the microwave shop and then on any ship that would let me train in their IC shop. at's how the captain of the USNS Michelson (T-AGS-23) in Yokosuka knew me. My detailer wrote the orders to its gapped IC slot but the orders were just as quickly cancelled—somewhere way up the chain-of-command. How could I get promoted in a sea-going rate if I was unable to serve on a ship? I was an E-4 and had passed the E-5 test, yet would not be able to succeed without fleet experience. "Never!" was the response from the visiting Judge Advocate General to my question of when women would be allowed on ships. at's when I resolved to change the rules. Why did you sue the Navy? How could I get legal advice to sue the U.S. Navy—was it even possible for a junior sailor to do so? e issue of allowing women to go to sea was gaining steam. It seemed senior military and judiciary leadership knew a court case was coming; they were just surprised that it O wens v. Brown is the 1978 U.S. Federal Court case that granted women the right to serve on ships as part of the U.S. Navy. Who is Owens and how did this issue come before court? Yona Owens' command presence belies her petite stature. Hers is a story of how a sailor went from boot camp to Federal Court, in her quest to do what the Navy had trained her to do: go to sea. I had the opportunity to meet her at the "Women in the Navy Centennial Event" which coincided with the Naval Station Norfolk's Centennial celebration March 15, 2017. MAKING HISTORY: Sailors Sued the Navy for Sea Time By CAPT Reinetta Vaneendenburg

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