USA: NETC Sailors Welcome New Force Master Chief
Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) Sailors welcomed their new Force Master Chief April 26.
Force Master Chief (AW/SW) April Beldo comes to NETC from the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) where she served as the first female African American command master chief onboard a nuclear aircraft carrier. She continues her trend of breaking barriers as NETC’s first female and African-American Force Master Chief.
Beldo is filled with enthusiasm for how women continue to break barriers, such as the women who received their training at Naval Submarine School to serve on board submarines, but is quick to point out that first and foremost, as NETC’s Force Master Chief, her number one priority is making sure that all Sailors receive quality training to fill the needs of the fleet, her mantra being, “Training Sailors seven days a week, 24 hours a day.”
“At NETC it’s our mission to maintain, train, and provide a mission-ready maritime force capable of winning wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining the freedom of the seas,” said Beldo. “NETC allows our Navy to maintain a robust and competent maritime force to guarantee security, stability and trust around the globe.”
Beldo counts herself as a proud member of the ranks of women who forged the path into the once male-dominated senior leadership, and is excited to return to the NETC domain as its top enlisted advisor. She previously served as command master chief at Naval Service Training Command, and Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Ill.
Beldo’s success story is similar to many others, but upon reflection, she offers that if the Navy had not changed its attitude towards women serving in leadership roles, she may not have been given the opportunity to rise to her current position, and the Navy might not be the same professional military force that it is today.
“After attending a couple of semesters of college I decided that I wanted more structure and stability in my life,” said Beldo. “My interest in the military led me to the Air Force, but I was turned down because all of their female quotas had been met for the year, which led me to a Navy recruiter. They jumped at the opportunity to enlist me.”
She rapidly advanced, learning from and obeying her mostly male superiors. It was during this period that she witnessed a period of great change in the Navy’s attitude towards women serving in positions of leadership.
“The eighties was a very exciting time to be a woman in the Navy. We felt it and saw it happen before our eyes. Women were beginning to be selected in greater numbers for positions of notoriety and distinction,” said Beldo. “Sure, women had been selected for flag rank as early as 1972, but it wasn’t until the eighties that they truly began to make their presence seen and felt.”
Despite the achievements and the Navy’s changing attitude, Beldo says that the changes were, for the most part, not enough or too slow in coming, at least at her level.
“I don’t know if it was me not paying attention or just how it was, but before I was a first class petty officer, I wasn’t exposed to female khaki leadership.”
Beginning her career as an Aviation Maintenance Administrationman, she advanced to the rank of chief petty officer in 1995. Her advancement came in the wake of the landmark 1994 repeal of the Combat Exclusion Law, which allowed women for the first time to serve on combatant ships.
“The repeal opened up a floodgate of opportunity for women. Overnight we became empowered. We could now serve aboard combatant ships, choose ratings and going to schools that were once closed to us, to pursue careers and advance just like our male counterparts,” said Beldo.
“Because the Navy’s number one asset is its people, it’s refreshing to see how far we’ve come as an organization that values a person not by their gender, but because of their abilities. As Sailors we succeed through hard work and determination, sticking to the Navy’s Core Values of honor, courage and commitment, and understanding it’s our job as Sailors to support the Maritime Strategy.”
In February 2012, in support of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD)-led review of Women in the Services Restrictions (WISR), the Navy supported proposed changes to the Department of Defense gender assignment policy. This exception to policy would allow, for the first time, the assignment of women to the battalion level in non-direct ground combat specialties, making sixty medical officer, chaplain, and chief and first class petty officer hospital corpsman billets available for assignment to women.
“I see where we have gone with women serving aboard submarines, and look forward to seeing what other doors will open, such as women serving in the special forces. If that’s approved, you can be assured NETC will do their part to ensure all Sailors receive top-notch training” said Beldo.
Today, nearly every naval community is open to women, and a majority receive recruit training and follow on A-school’s within the NETC domain.
“I cannot emphasize enough; I want to see every opportunity open for every qualified Sailor,” said Beldo. “As a Navy, I am sure we will continue to pursue every opportunity for every qualified Sailor to excel, and not just to say ‘we broke a barrier.'”
Naval Today Staff , April 30, 2012; Image: navy