During World War II, Ima Black enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1943 as a Storekeeper under the Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES) program. She was stationed at Naval Air Station Washington (Anacostia) and worked as a cashier in the Ships Service Store, a forerunner of the Navy Exchange.

After achieving the rank of Storekeeper 1st Class, Ima was honorably discharged in 1947 and then began a career as a civilian with the NEX where she continued supporting service members and their families. It was at her job in Anacostia in 1949, where she met Gunner’s Mate Delbert “Del” Black — long before he became the Navy’s first Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy. Ima was an active military spouse throughout Del’s career and has continued to play an integral role in the Navy after Del’s passing in 2000. Ima is credited with creating the three-star master chief insignia that continues to distinguish MCPON from all other master chiefs. Yearly, she travels to educate newly selected chief petty officers during CPO Initiation season about how MCPON helped shape the Navy. In 2007, Ima was named an honorary master chief for her role in the development of countless chief petty officers.