Darlene M Iskra

Commander Darlene M. Iskra retired from the U.S. Navy in April 2000, after 21 years of service. Taking advantage of the opportunities the Navy had to offer in the expansion of women’s roles that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s, She was one of the first female line officers to graduate from the Naval School of Diving and Salvage in Washington, D.C. in May 1980, before attending Surface Warfare Officer School and reporting to her first ship, the USS HECTOR (AR-7) in December 1980. She served on four salvage ships, as Operations Officer on USS GRASP (ARS-51), Executive Officer on USS PRESERVER (ARS-8) and USS HOIST (ARS40). She assumed command of USS OPPORTUNE (ARS 41) in December 1990 in Naples, Italy, becoming the first woman commander of a commissioned naval vessel. She also served on several Navy staffs. Her highest award was the Defense Meritorious Service Medal. She has Master of Arts degrees in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College, and in Sociology from the University of Maryland. In 2002 she worked for Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington state as a Women’s Research and Education Institute (WREI) Congressional Fellow. During her fellowship, she helped staff and pass an amendment to the 2003 Defense Authorization Bill, which forbade the Department of Defense from requiring U.S. servicewomen to wear the abaya garment while stationed in Saudi Arabia. For this work, she was awarded the University of Maryland, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences Phillips Award in 2005. This award recognizes graduate student excellence in research most likely to affect public policy. She was also awarded the Center For Teaching Excellence, Distinguished Teaching Assistant for Academic Year 2003-2004 and the Charles H. Coates Graduate Research Award, University of Maryland, 2000-2001, for her Master’s thesis, which documented the continued negative discourse regarding women in the Navy over time. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2007. She studies the military and gender issues. Darlene is the author of the award winning book WOMEN IN THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES: A GUIDE TO THE ISSUES. She is an adjunct professor at Columbia College of Missouri, teaching in the Sociology and Military Studies programs.

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