US Navy amphibious assault ship qualifies first female helmsman in a decade

Seaman Gabrielle Connelly stands the starboard aft lookout watch aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Photo: US Navy

U.S. Navy’s amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) recently qualified the first female master helmsman in the past decade.

Seaman Gabrielle Connelly, a junior Sailor in Deck department, accomplished her goal after setting sail aboard USS Boxer on February 12.

“I think it is pretty awesome, I definitely pushed myself with this qualification,” said Connelly. “You have to stand a lot of watches under instruction, drive during special evolutions, it takes a lot of practice. I improved with time. It was frustrating at times, but knowing that I am the first female to qualify on board Boxer in the past ten years I hope that it can inspire other females in deck department or other departments to push for higher goals.”

Connelly said goal-setting helped her plan and pursue this accomplishment.

A challenge to obtaining this qualification for Connelly was the series of pre-requisite qualifications obtained only while underway.

“To get the Master Helmsman qualification you have to be underway watch qualified, normal underway helm and look-out qualified,” said Connelly. “All those qualifications take several weeks to get.”

Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Carl Bethea, Deck department’s Lead Petty Officer, believes it takes a strong focus and a lot of responsibility to become a master helmsman.

“Being a master helmsman is very challenging,” said Bethea. “It requires that qualified Sailors steer the ship during the most strenuous times for example: underway replenishments, pulling in and out of port, straits transits, harbor transits, all of the challenging tasks that take a great amount of concentration and focus.”

USS Boxer (LHD 4), flagship of the Boxer amphibious ready group, with amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18), amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) and the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the Western Pacific in support of security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

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