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    Women provide strength to Bataan Amphibious Ready Group/26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s information warfare team

    Bataan Information Warfare Women Service Members

    Photo By Petty Officer 1st Class Anna Van Nuys | 2000311-N-GR120-1008 ARABIAN SEA (March 11, 2020) – Sailors assigned to the...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    Navy Public Affairs Support Element East - (Active)

    RED SEA – As a child, Jen Gruber always knew what she wanted to be when she grew up.

    “I always wanted to be a scientist when I was a kid,” she said. “My dream was to be a scientist. Now I feel like I’m using my drive to be a scientist every day.”

    Gruber, now a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy, is the meteorological officer onboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), deployed as the flagship of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

    Gruber is one in a large and accomplished group of women working in the information warfare (IW) community across the ARG and embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Information warfare is a wide-ranging community that includes intelligence analysts, cyber defense specialists, weather forecasters, network technicians and communications experts, among many others.

    About half of the khaki-level information warfare positions – chief petty officers and commissioned officers – on or augmenting the embarked Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 8 and MEU staffs are held by women.
    In addition, a number of key leadership positions in the information warfare field on the flagship USS Bataan are also held by women, including the senior intelligence officer and communications officer.
    About 19 percent of the personnel across the Navy and about 9 percent of Marines are women, in comparison.

    In March, units across the U.S. military are recognizing Women’s History Month, including Bataan, which has scheduled a ceremony onboard.

    “We have a lot of great personalities on this team,” said Lt. Katie Hendrickson, PHIBRON 8 communications and combat systems officer. “We have a lot of cohesion on this team. I’ve never been around as many women in the community as I am here [in the ARGMEU].”

    Lt. Cmdr. Ashley McCawley, senior intelligence officer onboard Bataan, grew up in the Navy hub of San Diego and said most of the men in her family served. But she said she’s the first woman and the first officer to do so.

    Like Gruber, she said she was drawn to some of the work in the Navy’s information warfare community at a young age.

    “I always liked the idea of trying to figure out what someone is doing based on limited information, and putting the pieces together,” she said.
    Lt. j.g. Michaela Scrudato, intelligence officer for the embarked Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, said it’s important for junior female officers and younger Sailors to have exposure to women in leadership positions in their community, as the women in the ARGMEU’s IW group currently do.

    “I think seeing women succeed in a field helps when you’re coming into it,” she said. “I liked having the opportunity to talk to women who have been successful in the field to get their perspectives and talk about their careers.”

    Gruber said the number of successful women in the IW community made an impression on her early in her career.

    “I got into this community as an ensign and thought, ‘This is really cool.’ To be surrounded by women leaders who were awesome at their jobs was really inspiring,” she said. “Almost immediately in this community I was introduced to all these (lieutenant commanders and commanders), and I met these senior leaders who were women and who were all very willing to provide mentorship to junior Sailors. I found that very welcoming. And now I’m reaching a point where I can pass down what I’ve learned as well.”

    Lt. NaTasha Riley, Deputy Information Warfare Commander for the PHIBRON, was one of the first 36 cryptologic technicians (networks) designated when the Navy established the rating more than a decade ago. She became a chief petty officer in 2009 and commissioned as an officer in 2011.

    She said a mentor convinced her to take an IW job as a junior enlisted Sailor, and she takes pride in providing today’s junior Sailors the same type of guidance that made such a difference to her.

    “I try to mentor whenever I can and let others know what possibilities are out there,” she said. “I am actively always looking for the next NaTasha Riley. If she’s hungry, if she’s a young woman seeking to advance, I’m looking for her.”

    For any team at sea, building chemistry can be key to success. Aerographer’s Mate 1st Class Jamie Engleman said it has been easier to build that chemistry working in the information warfare field, both within the community and across the ARGMEU.

    “IW is so integrated into the entire command, we come to all the meetings and we’re involved in all the planning,” she said. “It’s easy to build relationships, because we see each other every day and we work so closely together.

    “I think I have six or seven female mentors, from chiefs all the way up through officers,” Engleman continued. “Most of them are moms. I think we all work really well together. I feel like we’re really willing to help each other, no matter what the challenge is.”

    Capt. Melissa Heisterberg, communication strategy and operations officer for the 26th MEU, expressed a similar sentiment, saying that building chemistry can help overcome the challenges of working in close quarters with a small group, like with the ARGMEU team on deployment.

    “In this environment, it makes a difference, because the relationships we build on the personal side while forward deployed help us accomplish the mission on the professional side,” she said.

    The ARG and MEU are operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.

    In addition to the flagship Bataan, the amphibious ready group also includes the amphibious transport dock USS New York (LPD 21) and the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51).

    “With computers, every fix is not going to be the same for every problem, so it’s gratifying when we’re able to bring the circuit back up for our end users,” said Chief Warrant Officer Nkosa Morris, the communications officer aboard Bataan. “To see women dominating in an area in the military like this is almost unheard of. It’s a humbling experience to be part of a team that shows how far women have come in the Navy. There are no limiting factors for us.”

    The U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse includes 20 nations and three critical choke points for global commerce, at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.

    “The threats can change every day,” said Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Collection) Lashunda Eady, PHIBRON 8’s assistant cryptologic resource officer. “That requires us to always be ready to get smarter on what the latest threats are. We need to be able to shift, regroup and still meet our deadlines.

    “The Navy as a whole has grown in that you do see more women in leadership positions,” she continued, “and our unit has done a great job embracing that.”



    Date Taken: 03.18.2020
    Date Posted: 03.18.2020 11:01
    Story ID: 365427
    Location: RED SEA

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