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Nearly 50 years after the release of Z-gram 116, female leaders from the Emory S. Land-class submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40) hosted a tour of the ship for students from St. Joseph’s College for Women during a scheduled port visit to Visakhapatnam, India, Aug. 2, 2022.
Z-gram 116, an all-Navy message from then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt Jr., was released on Aug. 7, 1972, and announced the establishment of a task force to review laws, policies, and regulations necessary to eliminate inequities and open opportunities for women in the Navy.
The CNO message directed the Navy to take nine concrete steps to eliminate inequities and open opportunities for women in the Navy. These steps included the entry of women into all ratings, opening midshipman opportunities at all NJROTC campuses, and offering women various paths to flag rank. Finally, Zumwalt directed that women be afforded the opportunity to command ashore and to serve aboard ships at sea.
During the port visit, Frank Cable hosted discussions with Indian naval officers on the submarine tender’s expeditionary repair, rearm, and resupply capabilities and efforts to support improved platform interoperability. The visit strengthened the cooperation and interoperability between the two countries’ navies.
The ship tour offered the students an opportunity to learn about the U.S. Navy and to speak with female service members assigned to the ship. In total, nine women from Frank Cable’s crew participated in the day’s events, providing a tour of the ship and engaging in discussions about leadership and empowerment.
“I think the impact of our visit is two-fold,” said Chief Logistics Specialist Vivian Gapith, from the island of Yap, of the Federated States of Micronesia. “We have our mission for the Navy and the ship, but it’s also for them; for them to see us - and the prevalence of females in diverse jobs in the U.S. Navy - is very empowering. For us, we can see how far we’ve come because sometimes we take it for granted. Females weren’t always here in the Navy, in these ranks, these positions. For both us and them, the culture exchange is very important.”
“Visiting the ship was a prestigious moment,” said Vineela Prabha, a student at St. Joseph’s. “We came to know about the history of the military and the ship.”
The female students are also members of the English Access Microscholarship Program (Access), a U.S. State Department program which provides a foundation of English language skills to bright, economically disadvantaged students, primarily between the ages of 13 to 20, in their home countries. Since its inception in 2004, approximately 150,000 students in more than 80 countries have participated in the Access Program.
“The program brings changes in their attitude and confidence,” said Sister Anita Yandava, an Access program coordinator for the college. “It gives them more self-confidence and courage. It is very inspiring for me and for them. Their generation is more inspired when they see you [female Navy Sailors], it’s something great for me to see.”
Z-gram 116 was a significant step forward for women in the Navy. The Navy counted approximately 9,000 women in its 1972 population, but they were limited in the types of jobs they could fill and had fewer opportunities to advance. Currently, there are more than 80,000 women serving in a U.S. Navy uniform. Every job, space, and rank in the Navy is open to women, and women serve in nearly every Navy community.
St. Joseph’s College for Women was founded in 1958 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Annecy. It was the first women’s college in Visakhapatnam and all of North Coastal Andhra Pradesh. At the time of its establishment, the college had a faculty of six and enrollment of 28. The college now boasts a student enrollment of 2500, offering three intermediate courses, 12 undergraduate courses and six postgraduate courses.
For more information on Z-gram 116 and women in the Navy, please visit https://www.history.navy.mil/content/history/nhhc/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/z/list-z-grams/z-gram-116.html and https://www.navy.mil/Women-in-the-Navy/.
Frank Cable is currently on patrol conducting expeditionary maintenance and logistics in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.