#BZFriday: Mighty IKE’s all-female legal team sets a big precedent

By Lt. Kate Shumway, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Last summer, the legal department aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier […]

By Lt. Kate Shumway, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69)

Last summer, the legal department aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) became the ship’s only all-female department. While all-female workplaces are increasingly common today, they are still the exception on Navy ships. The eight-person legal department aboard IKE has set the standard, which doesn’t surprise any of the Sailors assigned to it.

“The legal community in the civilian world has always been on the forefront of inclusion and equal opportunity,” said Chief Legalman Tara Harris, the department’s leading chief petty officer. “It makes sense that the Judge Advocate General’s Corps is leading the pack when it comes to retaining female Sailors.”

But the gender of the Sailors in the legal department is not what makes the team great, according to the department’s senior officer, Lt. Cmdr. Jenny Pike, known aboard as “Judge.” “Our team is made up of talented, hard-working Sailors that amaze me every day,” she said, adding, “These women form a formidable legal team for the IKE.”

Legalman 2nd Class Lanee Fry Jones processes non-judicial punishments and administrative separations in the legal office aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69).

This landmark event occurred exactly 70 years after Congress passed the Women’s Armed Service Integration Act, which allowed women to permanently serve in the armed forces following World War II. Legalman 3rd Class Dionesha Simmons arrived aboard IKE last summer after completing legalman training at Naval Justice School. She said, “Although I did not expect to serve in an all-female department when I enlisted, I’m excited about what this means for the future of the Navy.”

IKE has always been on the cutting edge as far as integration and inclusion of female Sailors is concerned. In 1994, the ship was the first combatant vessel to integrate women into its crew, when she completed a six-month deployment with more than 400 women aboard. Currently, over 1,100 women serve aboard IKE, making up more than one-third of ship’s company.

Capt. Kyle Higgins, IKE’s commanding officer, said the trend shows how much the Navy values a diverse, professional workforce. “The Navy excels at taking people from many backgrounds and making them shipmates,” he said. “Diversity makes us a more effective, resilient, and dynamic force. I am proud to command the IKE during this ground-breaking ‘first,’ but I look forward to a time when it is considered routine and just part of how we do everyday business.”