I first joined the Navy in 1992 as an Aviation Structural Mechanic (Structures) (AMS) because I wasn’t ready for college but didn’t want to “take a break”.  I’m from Detroit and too many people I knew took a break and stalled.  When I think back on those early days, being a woman in the military isn’t what jumps to mind because I felt welcome by the other Sailors and I didn’t think much of it.  Giving it more thought, I remember being frustrated that even though I was the top of my ‘A’ School class and should have had #1 pick of orders, I had to pick from the “female orders” list, which was much shorter.  I didn’t even realize until decades later that combat ships weren’t open to women when I joined.

Fast forward a bit, I decided that being an AMS as a career wasn’t for me and I left the Navy to attend college where I earned a Linguistics degree from the University of Michigan in 2002.  While looking for a job, I came across the Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) (CTI) rating.  I enjoyed the friendships and travel afforded me from my time in the Navy and decided to come back in as a CTI.  Because I was uprooting my life in my late-20s, this time I would go all the way to 20 years.  The CTI rating is more balanced between men and women than many ratings and I generally never thought about being “a woman” in the military.  That started to change as I moved up in rank.  I realized that it’s important for Sailors to see themselves in leadership and not just the CTIs.  I had the opportunity to fly as an Aircrewman, often as one of few women of any rating on the aircraft.  Since I hit 20 years of service, I have made the decision about whether to stay or go based on two things: 1) am I still enjoying myself? and 2) do I feel like I’m still contributing?  Part of contributing, for me, has been as an example to Sailors (of any gender) of how one can be as a Sailor and a leader.

I once had a junior officer ask me if I thought I had to work harder to prove myself because I am a woman.  Initially I thought, “no way!” because my parents taught me to do my very best no matter what since all we have is our reputation.  As I think about it more, I think that many of us do feel we have to work harder so that people will take us seriously, for better or worse.  I do think society as a whole is getting better about judging each individual based on merit but we still have a long way to go.  When I went through CPO Initiation in 2014, I was the only woman in my group of Chief Selects and there were only 3 female Chiefs on the entire base.  I don’t recall ever feeling singled out by the Selects or the Mess because I am a woman but I did lean on those sisters to share their experiences because, like it or not, they have had experiences my brothers in the Mess have not.

In 2018, I had the opportunity to take orders to a submarine direct support billet.  These billets had been closed to women because the platforms “couldn’t” support.  My experience with the crews of the boats I rode were nothing but professional and enjoyable, this includes one with no enlisted female crew.  I met some of the women in submarines trailblazers and have watched, with great joy, as they continue to push doors open for enlisted women.  I also had the opportunity to lead a Department of 140+ men during my time in that billet.  My hope is that those Sailors continue to serve in a Navy that looks more at one’s qualifications and less at their gender.  My hope is that no Sailor thinks twice when they look to the left or right of them, no matter who is there.

CTICM Jacqueline F Hughes biography follows:


Master Chief Jacqueline F. Hughes was born in Plattsburgh, NY and raised in Detroit, MI.  She graduated from Saint Agatha High School and joined the Navy in August 1992.  After completing Recruit Training in Orlando, FL she attended the Aviation Structural Mechanic (Structures) (AMS) “A” school in Millington, TN.  As an AMS, she was stationed at Assault Craft Unit Five (ACU-5) on Camp Pendleton, CA and at Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Five (HC-5) on Anderson AFB, Guam, deploying aboard the USNS Niagara Falls (T-AFS-3).

Master Chief Petty Officer Hughes left the Navy in July 1998 to pursue a degree and graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics in 2002.
In August 2003, Master Chief Hughes reenlisted and attended the Defense Language Institute Chinese Mandarin course.  After graduating with distinction, she took orders to Naval Security Group Activity Kunia, HI in March 2005.  In May 2008, she completed the Aircrew training pipeline and reported to Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Misawa, Japan deploying to Okinawa, Japan and SWA.  In 2010, Master Chief Hughes was accepted into the highly competitive Military Language Analyst Program at NIOC Maryland, graduating in 2013.  She returned to the Aircrew mission at NIOC Misawa in July 2013, advanced to Chief Petty Officer in 2014, and had the honor of being one of the final Sailors at NIOC Misawa when it was disestablished.  In June 2015, she transferred to the NIOC Hawaii Air Operations Department and was promoted ­to Senior Chief in June 2018.  In August 2018, then Senior Chief Hughes reported to the NIOC Hawaii Direct Support Subsurface Department as the first enlisted female Sailor to be billeted there.  She deployed aboard two Pacific Fleet combatants and served as Department Leading Chief Petty Officer.  In February 2021, she reported to Navy Personnel Command as the senior CTI rating detailer and was promoted to Master Chief in May 2022. 

Master Chief Hughes has earned the Enlisted Information Warfare Specialist, Submarine Generalist, Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist and Naval Aircrewman designations and her personal awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, Joint Service Achievement Medal, and three Navy and Marine Corp Achievement Medals.