I left for MEPS with my recruiter in August 1999. I was 17 years old, going to community college, and working three jobs. I had already agreed to join the Army by that time, though no paperwork had been signed, and there was a relentless Navy recruiter who just wouldn’t take no for an answer. I grew up in and out of foster care, raised in poverty, with no real prospects in life. At this point in my story, I just wanted a stable roof over my head and some sleep…the Navy sounded like an opportunity to get both. That may sound funny to some of you reading this, who have spent many a sleepless night on deployment, but for a 17-year-old, struggling to stay afloat, working three minimum wage jobs, and no way to continue paying for college, the Navy was my ticket out.
I finished the next year of school and left for boot camp in June of 2000 to be a “CTR”. To be honest, I didn’t even know what that was, except that it had to do with intelligence, and I thought I wanted to join the FBI, so it seemed like a good fit. It is funny now, looking back at just how little I knew. I came close to losing my career before it began, being a bored teenager, from a rough background, in a tightly controlled environment. I did what a lot of immature young adults have done, made some friends and some dumb decisions and ended up in front of some cranky old Chiefs, right when I was about to graduate. I had been busted for underage drinking and wound up at a disciplinary review board, literally right after I graduated “A” school (I am talking, get my graduation certificate and report directly to Mast Hall type of deal.) I was already under orders to NSGA Northwest for Direct Support, and the board decided to “award” extra duty and a page 13 and then forwarded my case to the DAPA at my new command. I was scared to death! Here I was, with a chance to make something of myself, and I was throwing it away. I told myself, then and there, that if I made it through this with my job intact, I was going to make something of the Navy and make something of myself in the process. I think that I have stayed true to that promise.
The Navy has offered one adventure after the next, and every time, I have jumped at the opportunities without much thought or hesitation. I found myself packing my bags after 9/11, deploying with the USS Theodore Roosevelt on 9/18 headed straight for the Gulf. I came back and in 2002 my Senior Chief said they needed two Sailors to go to Afghanistan, I had no idea what I was doing, but of course, I raised my hand. I spent the next 8 months in Afghanistan with 18th Airborne Corps and turned 21 in the desert. This was before the Navy figured out what an “Individual Augmentee” was and before they realized they had to train Sailors how to fight like Soldiers. When I say I had to wing it, I really had to wing it. The first time I ever touched a real weapon (boot camp was still using laser weapons), was when I was handed an M-16 on my way to the rifle range to qualify.
I found myself in Iraq six years later (the Navy had figured out training by that time and it was a much smoother transition). I made Chief in route and experienced Chiefs induction in Iraq with Chiefs from around the world and around the Navy. It was about two months after I pinned on my anchors that I experienced resistance, solely because of my gender for the first time in my 8 year service. I was working with Special Forces, and I had to go out to a forward operating base for a specific mission. The unit that was operating that base didn’t want me to come and pushed back heavily. They didn’t want to “babysit” a woman and didn’t want to make “special accommodations” (which I neither asked for nor needed). Long story short, I was sent, the First Sargent made it very clear in his “welcome” speech that he wanted me off “his” base as soon as possible and that I should “try not to get killed”. To be fair, I have faced adversity my entire life, I was used to people writing me off, not because I was a woman, but because I was poor, because I was different, because…. pick a reason, and I that type of attitude just makes me want to prove people wrong. By the time I left that area, I had earned the respect of that team and an apology from the First Sargent. I don’t pay much mind to preconceived judgements, because I haven’t had the chance yet, to prove them wrong.
Fast forward another 7 years, I had earned a commission, and found myself with another opportunity that took me under the water this time instead of into the desert. While at NIOC Hawaii, I got the chance to be one of the first females in my community to support submarines. I again, jumped at the chance. I supported multiple boats over the next three years and again, ran into people that were still adjusting to working with females in a community that had historically been all male. Here too however, once I proved that I was competent and added value, I was treated like every other member of the crew. I loved my time on Submarines and am proud to say I got to deploy with one of the first female enlisted integrated crews before I transferred, and it was an exceptional ride! I left and had the honor to manage the entire program next while serving at NAVIFOR.
The Navy has given me so much. I look back, coming up on 23 years of service, promotions up through Senior Chief and then again up to LCDR, 3 wonderful kids, a dual military spouse, 11 deployments on ships, submarines and land and a Navy family bigger than any natural family I ever had, and I count my blessings! This was never what I thought I would do with my life, and let’s face it, where I was from, there wasn’t a lot of people who had any sort of expectation for me. I have to say though, I am proud of how far I have come, and I am thankful for the opportunities the Navy has given me to get me here. I have watched women bust through glass ceilings in the military, and I have helped in my own little way. What I really look forward to though….is the day that there are no more glass ceilings to break through. The day that the discussion of gender is a thing of the past, because Sailors are truly looked at as Sailors and judged based on their work ethic and the results they produce. Until then, I will just say that we have AMAZING Sailors in this Navy, both female and male, and I have had the privilege to work with and be led by the best! I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
LT Nayomie Richards’ biography follows:
LT Nayomie Richards, USN
LT Nayomie Richards entered the Navy on June 27, 2000 from Belfair, WA. She attended Boot Camp at RTC, Great Lakes, Illinois. Upon graduation, she began training at Cryptologic Technician Collection (CTR) “A” School at the Naval Technical Training Center, Corry Station in Pensacola, Florida. LT Richards holds an Associates Degree in Mass Communication and a Bachelor’s degree in Strategic Intelligence, with a Concentration in Intelligence Analysis, from American Military University.
LT Richards was first assigned to Naval Security Group Activity, Northwest Annex in Chesapeake VA as a CTRSA where she was a member of the Cryptologic Direct Support Department. During this time, she deployed on the USS Theodore Roosevelt immediately following the September 11th terrorist attacks and then deployed in support of the Army’s 18th Airborne Corps and 10th Mountain Division to Bagram, Afghanistan from 2002 to 2003. She was one of the first non-special operations Sailors to be deployed boots on ground prior to the creation of the Individual Augmentee program in the Navy.
In 2005, CTR1 Richards reported to Hawaii Regional Security Operation Center (HRSOC) where she served as a Senior SIGINT reporter and was named Reporter of the Year in 2007 as well as Sailor of the Year for NIOC Hawaii. In 2008 she volunteered to deploy to Iraq where she supported the Combined Special Operations Task Force (CJSOTF). During this time she qualified in Expeditionary Warfare and was selected as the Navy Senior Enlisted Leader for CJSOTF after pinning on Chief that year. Following this assignment, in 2009, CTRC Richards reported to NIOC Hawaii to serve in the Surface Direct Support department. During this tour she supported two Carrier Strike Groups and two Amphibious Readiness Groups as the Assistant Cryptologic Resource Coordinator. Upon completion, CTRCS Richards was assigned to the Joint Forces Staff College in 2012 where she served as the Senior Enlisted Leader and one of the only enlisted instructors in the Joint Information Operations Planning Course. She completed her Certificate on College Teaching and also served as a guest instructor for JPME Phase II. While there, she applied and was accepted to Officer Commissioning School (OCS) in Newport, Road Island.
LT Richards was commissioned in April, 2014 and reported to the National Security Agency (NSA), Hawaii as a Cryptologic Officer later that year following initial training. While at NSA Hawaii she served as the Deputy Branch Chief for Signals Intelligence development (SIGDEV). ENS Richards curtailed shore duty after a year when she was hand selected to be the first female officer to support the Submarine Direct Support program in the Pacific. In 2015, ENS Richards transferred to the Subsurface Direct Department where she became the first female in the Pacific to qualify and deploy as a Subsurface Direct Support Officer and supported five Submarine Missions. She then transferred to Naval Information Forces where she led the Submarine Direct Support Program for the Information Warfare Domain.
LT Richards is currently serving as an information operations planner at United States Fleet Forces Command.
LT Nayomie Richards has earned the Enlisted Surface Warfare, Enlisted Aviation Warfare, Expeditionary Warfare, Enlisted Information Warfare and Information Warfare Officer qualifications. Her personal awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), Joint Commendation Medal (two awards), Navy Commendation Medal (six awards), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Navy Expeditionary Medal and several other personal and unit awards. She is married to ITC Jesse Trujillo and they have three daughters.
Note: LT Richards selected to LCDR by the Fiscal Year 2023 Active-Duty Navy Lieutenant Commander line Section board.
24 March 2023 at 18:13
Great story. Keep working at. Outwork everyone else in your office and/or duty station. When one fully applies him or herself to any particular task, it’s my belief that he or she will get ahead. The Navy is a wonderful organization. No, it’s not perfect. It’s never been perfect and it will probably never be perfect. But when we apply ourselves, when we obey regulations, laws and customs, those of us who remain sober, work hard and dedicate ourselves to our jobs and our careers generally will get ahead.
I wish you the best, Lieutenant Richards. Congratulations on your work ethic, your career and your ability to work, work, work.
16 May 2023 at 02:41
Go Navy! My daughter is a new Navy Ensign, in aviation. I’m a retired Navy musician.
16 May 2023 at 13:48
I always knew she would have a great career.