Two new voices here on Battleland — both important. Both historic. Both women.
Our newest Battleland crew member is retired U.S. Navy commander Darlene Iskra. Not only was she the first woman ever to command a Navy ship, she’s also been an answer — or is that a question? — on Jeopardy (check it out here — she’s the $1,600 clue in Double Jeopardy in the “In the Navy” category on February 24, 2009). We appreciate her unfurling her sails on Battleland, where we look forward to her aweighing in on the ever-expanding role of women in the military — even subs, soon! — and the challenges facing the Navy in the 21st Century. We met her nearly 20 years ago in Little Creek, Va., in her ground-breaking role as the Navy’s first female skipper. She popped her first post — on women moving into the all-male preserve of special operations — on Wednesday. Commander Iskra now lives in Washington state.
Elspeth “Cam” Ritchie retired as an Army colonel last year, spending her final years in uniform as the service’s top psychiatrist. There she dealt with the immense challenge of soldiers’ mental health, which is how we made her acquaintance, in stories like this. She’s highly regarded in military mental-health circles, has published numerous articles on the topic, and is the senior editor on the soon-to-be-published Combat and Operational Behavioral Health, the Textbook of Forensic Military Mental Health. Still working in the mental-health arena in the Washington area, Colonel Ritchie has already raised some eyebrows with her early posts, including one on how the current disability system “provides incentives for Soldiers to stay sick.” A second suggests the Army take steps to restrict the wide-open access soldiers now have to firearms — when they’re off duty — as a way of combating the suicide epidemic.
They were both top-drawer military officers. We’re confident they’ll be top-notch Battleland comrades as well.