GREAT LAKES (NNS) -- Female junior officers, currently assigned as Naval Science Instructors (NSIs) for Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) units at universities around the United States, play an integral role mentoring and training the newest officers in the Navy and Marine Corps.
Currently there are 26 female Naval junior officers working as instructors and mentors at 19 universities. There is also one female executive officer at the University of Oklahoma NROTC unit and in June Capt. Shaun McAndrew will take over as the professor of Naval Science and NROTC commanding officer at the University of Idaho.
"Being an NSI is a valuable, fun and challenging experience," said Cmdr. Maureen Studniarz, executive officer of the Sooner Battalion in Norman, Oklahoma.
"I decided to try and be an NSI after my first sea tour. I wasn't sure I was going to stay in past my commitment and figured it would be a good chance to get a master's [degree] and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. It ended up teaching me a lot about what I wanted in life. [To stay in the Navy] gave me a challenge and also allowed me to have a better work-to-life ratio. I worked normal hours and I felt like I was actually contributing to the Navy by teaching students to become quality Navy and [U.S. Marine Corps] officers."
In a November 2016 memorandum to military leaders, former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter called for a need to "develop the propensity of young women to serve in military combat arms occupations by assigning more female service members to recruiting duty, publicizing the successes of the growing number of women in the Armed Forces."
Naval Service Training Command (NSTC) has strived to raise its ranks of female junior officers to help encourage a rise in female midshipmen joining NROTC units and reflect gender diversity among leadership roles. According to NSTC production management officials, there are currently more than 3,400 Navy-option male midshipmen and more than 950 Navy-option female midshipmen enrolled in NROTC units. There are also more than 1,300 Marine-option male midshipmen and more than 250 Marine-option female midshipmen assigned to university NROTC units.
Overall Female NROTC enrollments were up 25 percent in fiscal year 2015 and have been projected to increase to approximately 30 percent by fiscal year 2020. Due to this potential increase in female NROTC enrollments, NROTC scholarships awarded are also expected to increase 35 percent by fiscal year 2020.
"The greatest strength in our Navy comes not from weapons but from the diversity of our people," said Rear Adm. Stephen C. Evans, NSTC commander. "Training and education are vital to readiness, which is why we strive to attract talent from diverse pools of future leaders and provide them the highest quality naval accession training. It is equally important that our mentors and leaders reflect the same level of diversity we aim to achieve among our new recruits."
Lt. Jennifer Malherek, a Nuclear Surface Warfare Officer and NSI with the University of Notre Dame NROTC unit said female midshipmen need female junior officers.
"These midshipmen need you! They really do. The Notre Dame NROTC unit had zero female instructors at the time of my arrival and the midshipmen were unbelievably excited that I was coming here... they just wanted a female to talk to and get their perspective," said Malharek, who has already completed two shipboard tours on board the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83) and the Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77).
"I would say that I know all of the students in the battalion very well because all of them stop by my office to talk at some point or another (male and female) even if they aren't my students who I advise. I know there aren't a lot of female NSI's across the other units, so I also frequently get phone calls from other LTs asking if their students can talk to me because I'm a female and because I'm a SWO-nuke. Bottom line, these future officers need both male and female officers to mentor them. We are their first exposure to the Navy and the more they are exposed to and the more mentorship they get, the better Ensigns we are going to send to the Fleet!" Malherek said.
Studniarz said she became an NSI because she wanted a break from the typical OPTEMPO (Operational Tempo) there is in the fleet.
"I honestly was ready to get out of the Navy, but being an NSI made me realize how much I liked being a Naval Officer, and I could not imagine doing anything different. I became used to working with a certain caliber of individual and I realized that it would be hard to find outside of the Navy," she said.
"I would say the benefits to being an NSI will vary depending on what things you find important; is it having better work hours, a predictable schedule, a chance to get your Masters or a chance to spend quality time with your family? I would say for me, the benefits included that I felt my job was valued and important, and that I was able to enjoy a better life-to-work ratio."
Other NSIs serving with units have similar thoughts and experiences.
"This can be a pretty challenging job, I have a lot of students that I am responsible for in addition to instructor duties," said Lt. Jasmine Lee, an NROTC NSI from the SUNY Maritime College in The Bronx, New York. "I like helping the midshipmen achieve their goals and aspirations. I also like telling them what is out there. I think a lot of times students don't see the many opportunities available to the midshipmen to travel, continue their educations or continuing to serve in the Navy. I like to make them aware of these opportunities and I find it very rewarding."
Lt. Erin Arthur, NSI at the University of Washington in Seattle, called being an NSI a great opportunity.
"There are normal working hours and a set schedule. It's great to get your master's degree and on another positive side, I think it's great for your own personal development as a naval officer with the counseling we do here and helping with the midshipmen problems and questions," she said.
Lt. Katherine Irgens, another University of Washington NSI, said being a naval instructor has been interesting finding out what motivates different people and establishing her own leadership style.
"As a woman at an NROTC unit and the fact that there isn't as many of us, it's good to have someone (in a unit) to inspire some of the female midshipmen going into the fleet and share with them some of the experiences we've had and give them some perspective."
Female and male officers interested in becoming Naval Science Instructors and mentoring, advising and teaching students to become quality Navy and Marine Corps officers should contact their officer community detailers.
Evans and his NSTC staff manage the NROTC program from his headquarters at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois. The NROTC Program was established to develop midshipmen mentally, morally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, and loyalty, and with the core values of honor, courage and commitment in order to commission college graduates as naval officers who possess a basic professional background, are motivated toward careers in the naval service, and have a potential for future development in mind and character so as to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.
NSTC also oversees 98 percent of initial officer and enlisted accessions training for the Navy, as well as the Navy's Citizenship Development program. NSTC includes Recruit Training Command (RTC), the Navy's only boot camp at Naval Station Great Lakes, NROTC at more than 160 colleges and universities, Officer Training Command (OTC) at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island, Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) and Navy National Defense Cadet Corps (NNDCC) citizenship development programs at more than 600 high schools worldwide.
For more information about NROTC, visit www.nrotc.navy.mil.
For more information about Naval Service Training Command, visit http://www.netc.navy.mil/nstc/ or visit the NSTC Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/NavalServiceTraining/.