Women first reported to the U.S. Naval Academy with the Class of 1980 on Induction Day, July 6, 1976. (Courtesy USNA)

Vice Adm. Walter E. “Ted” Carter Jr. is superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. A naval flight officer, Carter graduated in the Annapolis Class of 1981. He has led the academy since July 2014.

By Walter E. “Ted” Carter Jr.

Midshipman 1st Class Megan Musilli was recently selected as one of only 32 Americans — and the only service academy student — for a 2016 Rhodes Scholarship. Musilli is a mathematics major training to become a Navy physician. Her remarkable academic achievements reflect her hard work and character, and they are appropriately timed as we celebrate 40 years of women at the U.S. Naval Academy. To mark this 40th anniversary of the integration of women in the Brigade, I’d like to highlight how far we’ve come and look ahead in anticipation of a bright future.

On July 6, 1976, the Class of 1980 arrived on Induction Day. Fifty-five women from that class graduated and became plank owners of gender integration at this great institution.

Last May, 204 of our 1,070 graduates were women, with the numbers growing. More women have applied for admission this year than ever before, with more than 4,300 applications for the Class of 2020. The Class of 2019 boasts the largest number of women in academy history – at ANY of our service academies – with 324 inducted last July.

Women now comprise more than a quarter of the Brigade. America’s talented youth are clearly attracted to the missions of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps. More importantly, the evolution of gender integration has made significant progress over the past four decades. With combat positions being opened to all women starting next year, the attitude and personality of the Brigade has become one of inclusiveness for all – men and women.


Midshipmen from the Class of 1980 study in their rooms in Bancroft Hall just months before they would graduate and become the first female graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy. (Courtesy USNA)

Since 1980, more than 4,600 women have graduated from the Naval Academy and have gone on to excel in their military careers and beyond. One of the academy’s earliest woman graduates, retired Capt. Wendy Lawrence, is my classmate from the Class of 1981 and was the first woman from USNA to fly in space. Our vice chief of naval operations, Adm. Michelle Howard (’82) was the first African American woman to reach flag rank as well as the first woman to wear four stars. Marine Col. Roberta Shea (’91) served as the first female deputy commandant and is currently serving as the commanding officer of the I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) Headquarters Group in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Their legacy of leadership continues today within the Brigade. Midshipman 1st Class Jenna Westerberg, our brigade commander this semester, follows Midshipman 1st Class Margo Darragh’s leadership in the same position during the fall. This is the first year that women earned the position of brigade commander both semesters.


Midshipman 1st Class Margo Darragh, at left, heads the brigade staff during a change of command ceremony. Darragh is one of two female brigade commanders who led the 4,500-member Brigade of Midshipmen in the 2015-2016 academic year. (Courtesy USNA)

A nation-leading 42 percent of women at USNA compete in Division I NCAA Athletics on 15 different sports teams. Last semester, varsity soccer player Midshipman 3rd Class Meghan Hegarty was named to the Patriot League All-Academic squad and was chosen as a First-Team College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-District honoree. Five members of the Navy volleyball team earned placement on the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll, and women’s swimming and diving recently dominated the Patriot League Championship, winning the team title and all three individual meet awards.

We will continue to mark this special anniversary with our annual Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference in April, focusing on “Women and Security: The Implications of Promoting Global Gender Equality.” During Commissioning Week and on Induction Day, we will welcome back many of our alumnae to impart their experiences on our new graduates and incoming freshman class. Our Naval Academy Museum will also open a new exhibit in July for this anniversary.

I’m extremely proud of what our graduates and our current midshipmen have accomplished on the field, in the classroom, in brigade leadership positions and beyond. I look forward to what they will achieve in the future as their opportunities to serve expand. For women in the Navy and Marine Corps, the future has never been brighter, and the Naval Academy will continue to develop women of character and consequence to lead our sailors and marines.


The first female midshipmen in the U.S. Naval Academy graduated May 28, 1980. (Courtesy USNA)