Letters from the Front!
By Evita Salles, EdD
Commander, U.S. Navy
President, Women in National Security
When I first decided to join the Navy, I knew it was to do something much bigger than myself. I had worked in the private sector for a few years but was looking for more adventure and a challenge in my new career. Thankfully, my family was very supportive of my decision to join. I was in my 20s with no spouse or kids when I joined. I was the only woman in my family to join the military and the only person to join the Navy. All my other family members had been members of the Army. Go Navy! I also knew that far fewer women join the military than men. That did not deter me because I knew I could fully serve in the military. The Navy seemed the perfect fit to serve a bigger purpose, be challenged, and have adventures!
I was amazed at how my military service evolved over the years. At the start of my military time, I was thrilled to start a new career in naval aviation. I had never flown a plane, so I was up for the challenge. During my time flying, an opportunity arose to join the Public Affairs community, which I did. It was a great career path that exposed me to many challenging assignments. I got married and had children during my time as a Public Affairs Officer (PAO). Unfortunately, my marriage failed, and I became a single parent. The demands of being a single parent and the operational commitments of being a PAO were too straining. However, an opportunity to become a Human Resources Officer arose, which offered a more favorable work/life balance. I switched over to HR in 2015 and have loved it! It allowed me to serve and be a dedicated parent to my two children. In addition, unique assignments still challenged me, and I experienced healthy doses of adventure.
My favorite assignments have been my command tours, where I led and inspired Sailors to be the best versions of themselves. However, serving as deputy director of the Office of Women’s Policy is near and dear to my heart because of my direct impact on Navy women. I moved the needle more acutely for Navy women by shaping programs and policies that affect the 70,000+ women in the Navy. Many of these women, like me, are parents and face unique challenges serving in a predominantly male organization. When I joined the Navy in 2008, women comprised under 15 percent of active-duty personnel. As of May 2023, over 20 percent of women serve on active duty in the Navy. Our recruiting and retention policies for women have come a long way, but there’s still more work to do.
As a woman in uniform and single parent, I am thankful to the individuals and organizations who have pushed for more significant progress in making military service possible for people like me. I have served for 15 years and have grown and accomplished so much. Many more possibilities are available now to women and single parents that did not exist just a few years ago. This progress shows how important an inclusive and diverse workforce is for the success of our military.