Former Astronaut Inspires Dahlgren "Diversity and Women's Equality Day" Observers - Southern Maryland Headline News

Former Astronaut Inspires Dahlgren "Diversity and Women's Equality Day" Observers


By John J. Joyce, NSWC Dahlgren Division Corporate Communications

Former NASA astronaut Capt. Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper speaks at the "Diversity and Women's Equality Day" observance held at the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren parade field Aug. 26. The veteran astronaut was one of four naval officers citing the impact of diversity and women's equality upon the Navy and nation at the event with a theme of: "Stepping up, coming together and leading change."
Former NASA astronaut Capt. Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper speaks at the "Diversity and Women's Equality Day" observance held at the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren parade field Aug. 26. The veteran astronaut was one of four naval officers citing the impact of diversity and women's equality upon the Navy and nation at the event with a theme of: "Stepping up, coming together and leading change."

DAHLGREN, Va. (August 30, 2010)—Persevere and don't give up on your dreams!

That's what veteran National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut Capt. Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper told "Diversity and Women's Equality Day" attendees at Naval Support Facility Dahlgren parade field Aug. 26.

"If it doesn't happen the first time - then try the second and the third time," said Stefanyshyn-Piper, who was disqualified for Naval aviator training upon failing an eye exam and was not accepted for astronaut training the first time she applied. "You must keep at it. If we try, then all our dreams and desires will happen."

Center for Surface Combat Systems Commanding Officer Capt. Robert Kerno introduced the event's keynote speaker as, "an outstanding patriot and true American hero".

Stefanyshyn-Piper became a Navy diving and salvage officer after receiving a Navy Reserve Officers' Training Corps commission at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1985. Selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in April 1996, she made two space flights, resulting in over 27 days in space and five space walks.

"I thought if I could fix a ship underwater - I could work on a space station," said the former Navy diver, emphasizing that she would not have attained her dream of becoming an astronaut if she had not persevered and applied a second time.

The veteran astronaut was one of four naval officers citing the impact of diversity and women's equality upon the Navy and nation at the event with a theme of: "Stepping up, coming together and leading change."

"Your story is a great example of how far the Navy has come in its efforts to embrace diversity," NSWC Dahlgren Division Commander Capt. Michael Smith told Stefanyshyn-Piper in his closing remarks. "A woman today can hold any job for which she is qualified. We now see women in literally thousands of occupations, which would have been almost unthinkable just one generation ago. Those early suffragists never envisioned the heights women would rise to - even so high as astronauts in outer space."

Teamwork and support are crucial to achieving your dreams at Dahlgren or in the space program, according to the veteran astronaut, who signed her official NASA portrait photograph for attendees at the event with an inspirational note to "reach for the stars".

"You can make changes but it takes people to make it happen," said Stefanyshyn-Piper, currently the Naval Sea Systems Command Chief Technology Officer. "I know Dahlgren does many, many good things because we draw on each others' strengths and we work as a team."

Naval Support Activity South Potomac Executive Officer Cmdr. Dennis Quick welcomed attendees to the event that featured live performances, interactive booths, ethnic food samples and educational activities designed to bring awareness to diverse cultures.

"The belief that diversity and unity can mutually coexist is one of the distinguishing characteristics of modern America," said Quick. "Our diversity is what makes us all Americans regardless of our cultural and ethnic background. We remain strong as long as the spirit of diversity day that we celebrate and enjoy today remains with us every day in all our interactions in the work environment."

August 26 was established in 1971 as Women's Equality Day to commemorate the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women full voting rights in 1920. The passing of the amendment was the culmination of a nationwide civil rights movement by men and women that first began in 1848 at the world's first women's rights convention, in Seneca Falls, N.Y.

"Many people tend to equate diversity as a compliance-driven mandate implemented by the Equal Employment Opportunity Office and Affirmative Action," said Smith. "In truth, EEO and Affirmative Action do not guarantee a productive, diverse workforce. At NSWC Dahlgren, as with all Service organizations, workplace diversity is not just a matter of public policy, but a culture and a strategic business imperative that strengthens us all."

With the passage of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act June 12, 1948, women gained permanent status in the Armed Services. Currently, 53,374 active-duty women and 10,587 female Reservists are serving in the Navy, comprising 16.3 percent of the force.

The Navy has 33 female flag officers and more than 50 command master chiefs. Additionally, nearly 50,000 women serve across the Navy in a wide-range of specialties as civilian employees.

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