Org Comm writing

Organizational Communications

Organizational Communications Writing Sample


Last Sailor on Deck at DCMA Was First Sailor on Deck at Navy Aircraft Carrier

Carolynn Snyder knew the recruiter who showed up at the Spokane, Wash., pizza restaurant wasn't there to court a woman. As a manager of the family-owned restaurant, Snyder had seen the recruiter come by many times before - he often stopped with his recruits before sending them off to the Navy.

This time, the target was her younger brother. Snyder's curiosity was piqued. The fact that the recruiter had overlooked her in search of her brother was of no concern to her.  She launched her own sales pitch. "I said, 'any opportunities for me?'"

Little did she know that the true answer to that question would include a career in which she became one of the first women selected to serve on a Navy combatant.  DCMA's newest Special Staff action officer, LCDR Carolynn Snyder, was also the first woman to report to a combatant in the Pacific Fleet - the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).  There she served as the Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD) General Maintenance Division Officer.

The road she traveled to her famous first went much like her conversation in the pizza restaurant.  As a young Naval officer, she yearned to go to sea. But at that time, the Navy wasn't employing women in that capacity. 

"When I joined the Navy, it was very unusual for women to be assigned to ships and certainly not combatants. In my community (aircraft maintenance), you are not going to sea unless it is on a combatant," she said.

That fact was of no concern to Snyder, so she started her sales pitch.  Two years before the Navy agreed to allow women on board aircraft carriers, Snyder made sure that every fitness report carried her intentions.

"There are a couple of blocks on the back for future duty assignments. I was having my boss put AIMD Afloat," said Snyder.

"I knew they were going to change the law; it was just a matter of when. The bottom line is that they had to be practical. They were running out of men.  Women were becoming a larger part of the force. There was enough pressure outside of the Department of Defense to open it up to women so that I knew it was just a matter of time," she continued.

And the sales pitch continued. She called her detailer - weekly - to reinforce her request. She stayed in touch with friends who were following the political movement in Washington, D.C., and the squeaky wheel approach eventually worked for her.

"If you don't tell people what you want, they're not going to know.  Quite often that's really all it takes - letting someone know," said Snyder.

It took a lot more in this case. Snyder had assembled a record and reputation for performance. "She was a real go-getter and absolutely had a desire to excel," said Jerry Derrick, DCMA chief of Special Staff, who served as one of Snyder's detailers when he was an active duty Naval officer. Derrick eventually recruited Snyder to come to DCMA. "She was breaking new ground in our business and has been a standout performer from the beginning."

The inevitable happened, and the Navy had decided to let women on board ships.  As fate would have it, however, Snyder was in the middle of a tour of duty that would not end before the first women were assigned to ship openings.  That was unacceptable.

Snyder approached her commanding officer to ask if she could be released early.  "I didn't know when they would open up any other billets.  I knew there were going to be two from my community - one on the USS Eisenhower and another on the Lincoln, and I didn't know when there would be another one," said Snyder.

And so the sailor who would settle for nothing less than going to sea crossed her next hurdle when her commanding officer turned her loose.

It was no surprise to anyone who knew her that when the names of the first women to go to sea were announced, then LT Carolynn Snyder's name was there.

As Snyder would soon find out, being selected to go to sea was almost the easiest part of the process. When she boarded the Lincoln in March of 1994, she was the only woman on board.  And it would stay that way for three months. 

The preparation to ready the ship for a woman on deck included modifying bathrooms, known as "the head," to sailors.  It meant preparing sleeping quarters, known as berthing areas.  It meant addressing attitudes. 

The sailors on board had endured a battery of sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, and fraternization briefings.  While born of good intentions, Snyder says it was almost too much. "When I got there, no one would talk to me.  They were afraid to look at me.  They were convinced if they said, 'boo' I would scream sexual harassment," she said.

Within a week, however, the sailors started coming around.  First the enlisted, many of whom worked on shore duty with women in prior assignments, offered words of encouragement as they passed her in the hangar. 

The challenges came professionally as well.  "The work environment on a ship is rigorous and demanding.  It's what I joined the Navy to do," she said.

She did it well.  After completing her tour of duty on the Lincoln and earning her master's degree, Snyder was selected for another tour aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, a forward deployed carrier in Japan.  It's also a selection for which she is most proud.

"I can't really be proud about getting selected for the Lincoln.  That was a matter of luck," she said. "Being selected as a production control officer on the Kitty Hawk - that had to do with me.  That was a result of persistence and hard work."

It's the same persistence and hard work that paved her way to DCMA.  Of all the names that crossed his desk as a detailer, Derrick said that Snyder's was one that stuck out.  "When her name came up as a candidate to come here, I was thrilled," said Derrick.  "She has taken those hard jobs and done extremely well at them."

Snyder joined DCMA two weeks ago in an acquisition position.  "This job will afford Carolynn the opportunity to see the joint Services environment at it's best, like very few would at her pay grade," said Derrick.  "She brings to the agency proven leadership skills, and a sense for working in a very demanding environment.  She also understands the importance of our products - that they need to be delivered on time and work the first time."

It's a work ethic that has served her well through her career.  Now as she reflects on the impact of letting women on board ships, she is clear on the answer.  "It's normal now, which is probably the best thing it can be.  This is now a standard part of career development," she said.  "Women are expected to go to sea and perform, just like the men."

Maybe now the recruiter will pay more attention to another guy's older sister.