LAKE MICHIGAN – Female officers aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw designed and accomplished an all-female underway watch Tuesday during their transit to Chicago this week to participate in the annual re-enactment of Chicago’s Christmas Ship.
The all-female watch was an idea devised last spring and was finally able to be realized this fall, once all the necessary positions were filled by qualified women.
Cmdr. Michael Davanzo, the ship’s commanding officer, was briefed on the idea and thought it was a great thing for the Mackinaw to accomplish.
“We value the leadership that women provide, demonstrated by their amazing initiative to undertake this project,” Davanzo said. “The Coast Guard provides a great opportunity for women to advance, be successful, and have a rewarding career.”
Lt. j.g. Meridith Palo and Ensign Katie Braynard organized the watch schedule to include all-female bridge and engineering teams and female duty cooks. The teams stood the 4-8 p.m. watch during the ship’s transit down the eastern coast of Wisconsin.
The female bridge team was: Braynard, from Temecula, Calif.; as the underway officer-of-the-deck; Petty Officer 1st Class Erin Hunter, from San Diego, as junior officer-of-the-deck; and Seaman Rebecca Smith-Heshley, from Toledo, Ohio, who stood lookout.
The engineering team was: Palo, from Newtown, Conn., as engineer-of-the-watch; Petty Officer 1st Class Brenda Daniels, from Lake Wells, Fla., as journeyman engineer; and Ensign Erin Nolan, from Lafayette, Ind., who was working towards her journeyman engineer qualification.
The two duty cooks for the evening meal were: Petty Officer 2nd Class Melissa Wetenkamp, from Niles, Mich.; and Petty Officer 2nd Class Nichol Billow, from Las Vegas.
“This was a first for the Mackinaw, and possibly for the Coast Guard,” said Braynard. “It’s great to see women advance in their roles in the afloat community, and it’s even better to be part of that community. We’re all very proud.”