PACIFIC OCEAN -- This milestone for women has not been forgotten. Even now, 97 years later, men and women aboard USS San Diego (LPD 22) come together to celebrate Women’s Equality Day on ship while underway by holding an event in the ship’s chapel hosted by the Diversity Committee, Aug. 26, 2017.
“[The Diversity Committee’s] job is to educate people, but not in a cookie-cutter way. We want everyone to take something away, for what we teach to mean something,” said CS2 Charlene Cruz, vice president of the ship’s Diversity Committee. “We planned this Women’s Equality Day event over a month in advance. The Diversity Committee is completely voluntary, so all the members came up with all the ideas for the event and made the props on their own to make the event come together.”
Every seat was filled with both men and women, Marines and Sailors, officers and enlisted. Everyone gathered together to celebrate the progress made by women over the years. The evening began with opening remarks about the history of Women’s Equality Day, remembering the importance of the date and the notable women who forged the path of progression. Then there were guest speakers, Staff Sgt. Dana Cisneros, the senior Unit Victim Advocate for the Combat Logistics Battalion 15 and Chief Susan Dang, Damage Control Chief of USS San Diego (LPD 22).
“It was an honor to be there and speak. I just wanted to get across that women make a big impact in all that we do, and are constantly moving forward on a daily basis. This event is so important because it allows everyone across the ship to support everything women do. It’s an opportunity to move forward and keep pushing towards equality,” said Cisneros.
Following the speakers, the Diversity Club hosts played a short video remembering all the contributions women through the ages made to society.
“Women affected the current state of living in so many ways. Inventing practical things like the water heater and windshield wipers has transitioned to education, where now women can receive scholarships for education and sports; it’s having nothing but positive impacts. It’s amazing to see the opportunities women have now,” Cisneros said.
After the film, Marines and Sailors in attendance played a game where a member of the audience read a clue describing different women on the USS San Diego, recognizing their roles as women holding difficult, unique jobs aboard ship.
“You never hear what these women do day-to-day, and it was nice to have a special occasion to celebrate them. It was so humbling go see everyone’s enthusiasm, and how many different ranks and people attended the event and learned something,” said HM3 Jesus Valdez, a corpsman with CLB-15. “Seeing what women do every day on this ship really proves there are no limits. It shows that anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it.”
Among the many descriptions read, there were ones about the woman who leads the maintenance division aboard ship, one who is the MEU’s sole female to fly UH-1Y Hueys, another who is the only shock trauma nurse on San Diego, and even one female Marine who earned a combat military occupational specialty, Staff Sgt. Emma Bringas, currently an embarkation specialist for the 15th MEU.
To be selected to go through the School of Infantry in 2014 when Bringas did, female Marines submitted qualification packages and were selected by Headquarters Marine Corps. From there, she completed training with Infantry Training Battalion as part of the integrated task force over the next year.
“We started the training at Camp Lejeune, then went to Twentynine Palms where we were evaluated on hiking, shooting and teamwork. After that we went to Bridgeport for a few weeks to be evaluated on endurance,” explained Bringas. “We worked hard doing a different aspect of training every day, and were fully integrated with the males.”
When the year of rigorous training was complete, Bringas was one of the few women who stood at the finish. She was one of four women to receive the MOS 0352, tow gunner.
“Going through the integrated infantry training showed me that we [women] still face challenges, but we keep proving ourselves every day,” said Bringas.
Also throughout the event, service members in attendance were given facts to read about the progression of women throughout history. The timeline facts were read at different points throughout the event.
“I thought the timeline really helped people learn how far women have come and everything they’ve done. It kept people engaged and was a good way to learn,” said Valdez. “The crowd feedback was cool. It was good to see people invested in what they were hearing.”
The facts ranged from when women couldn’t even vote, to a woman being a candidate on the presidential ballot. Marines and Sailors remembered how far women have come since Opha Mae Johnson enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1918 to now, when women have the ability to join combat MOS’s, like Bringas did.
“What these women throughout history did opened so many doors for us. I can’t wait to see what opportunities continue to unfold for future women in the military,” said Cisneros.
When the last fact was read, the closing remarks given, the tea and cupcakes were served, and the event concluded, the Marines and Sailors of San Diego not only learned about the accomplishments women made throughout history, but the accomplishments their female counterparts achieve every day.
“One of the best things I saw from the event was not only that so many people came, but everyone wanted to stay afterwards and talk to each other about what they learned,” said Cruz. “It was awesome to see this event bring people together on ship, having a great time celebrating each other.”