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Black Female officer makes Navy history

KYLE HAFER | 11/19/2017, 6:34 p.m.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Valencia Simmons-Fowler became the first African American woman to achieve the highest chief warrant officer rank ...
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Valencia Simmons-Fowler was promoted as the first African American to earn the highest rank in the information warfare community on Nov. 3. Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Hafer

Navy Recruiting Command

MILLINGTON, Tenn. – Chief Warrant Officer 5 Valencia Simmons-Fowler became the first African American woman to achieve the highest chief warrant officer rank in the information warfare community on Nov. 3.

The Chicago, Illinois, native started her Navy career at Recruit Training Command Orlando, Florida, in March 1988. From there, she attended Cryptologic Technician Collection “A” School, where she achieved the notable accomplishment of honor graduate.

As her list of successes continued, Simmons-Fowler earned the title of chief petty officer in September 2001 while serving aboard USS Bataan – LHD 5. Later, during her tour at Naval Security Group Activity in Norfolk, Virginia, she was selected for the CWO program in 2003, beginning her life as a chief warrant officer.

“This was my goal since the beginning of my career,” Simmons-Fowler said. “I have always strived for the next level, the pinnacle profession, and I earned it.”

The historic promotion is the result of hard work and dedication that isn’t achieved alone, but with the help of mentors and shipmates along the way.

“None of us ever gets here alone,” said Capt. Alonza Ross, the director of enlisted distribution at Navy Personal Command and mentor to Simmons-Fowler. “It takes a lot of support from family, friends and shipmates. I certainly understand how significant this achievement is, and I knew she was capable of doing it.”

Inspiration follows this woman who has achieved so much. The proteges that Simmons-Fowler mentors see that they also have the opportunity to achieve just as much, if not more.

“I am extremely proud of Chief Warrant Officer 5 Simmons-Fowler,” said Yeoman 2nd Class Olivia Likely, one of Simmons-Fowler’s proteges. “Women are pillars of strength and support. To see Chief Warrant Officer 5 Simmons-Fowler achieve this extraordinary goal, I know I have confidence and a voice, to know that not only can I conquer my goals, I can shoot far beyond that.”

Simmons-Fowler explained that being a chief warrant officer in the U.S. Navy requires a person to be more than just skillful in their field.

“You have a lot of leaders out there,” she said. “When it comes to chief warrant officers, we are supposed to be the technical experts. So when the commanding officer needs someone to give him feedback on a system, they are going to find the warrant officers, because they will tell them what they need to know, not what they want to hear.”

In the U.S. Navy, the chief warrant officer rank is a technical specialist who performs duties that are directly related to their previous enlisted rating. They are accessed from the chief petty officer pay grades E-7 through E-9 and must have a minimum of 14 years of service.

“With every successful leader there is always a great team of Sailors that are hard-working, hard-charging and dedicated to completing the mission,” Simmons-Fowler said. “Those are the people doing the work to make sure we succeed as a team. To those people, I’d like [to say] thank you from the bottom of my heart.”