‘Always pursue your dreams’: Navy women talk paving the way in male-dominated field

DUVAL COUNTY, Fla. — This International Women’s Day, Action News Jax is highlighting a group dedicated to serving their country from the ground all the way up to the skies.

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Action News Jax’s Kennedy Dendy spoke with Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 40 at Naval Station Mayport, who say around 70 out of the 600 people on the team are women.

These powerful Navy women say this job isn’t only for the guys.

Maraciel Anthony works within laws and records with HSM Squadron 40.

“I work with the paperwork side of all of the mechanics and aviation that goes on with the aircraft,” Anthony said.

When asked what keeps her motivated, she said it’s her niece, nephews and entire family.

“Just to be a role model and a positive influence for younger people and even older people as well,” Anthony said.

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Aaliyah Riley is an aviation structural mechanic. She said she fixes parts of the aircraft, manages hydraulics and flight control, just to name a few of her duties.

“I never thought that I would ever be good at something like this, but I’m getting better and I’m learning more,” Riley said.

Morgan Alvarez has worked with her current team for a year and a half but has served in the Navy for 11 years.

“I have three boys at home,” Alvarez said. “My husband is also active duty, so we motivate each other to keep pushing forward.”

She said she loves inspiring others, as well as her own children, to show them that anything is possible.

“We have a bunch of female mechs here that get out here and prove themselves every day,” Alvarez said.

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HSM Squadron 40 trains the future of aviation before they head out to the fleet.

Action News Jax is told that none of the staff air crew are women. Air crew are the enlisted individuals who sit in the back of the helicopter and fly with the officer.

Several women expressed the importance of representation, especially for the young girls aspiring to serve their country as well.

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“I would like to say that you should always pursue your dreams, and you should keep chugging along no matter how hard the road may seem,” Anthony said. “You can acquire and accomplish anything you want to.”

“Don’t let anyone make you feel little or like you can’t do the job,” Riley said. “It comes with time and it comes with experience. Take your time.”

“It comes down to just because this is a ‘man’s world’ type of thing, and this is a ‘guy’s job’ doesn’t mean it’s a guy’s job,” Alvarez said. “I get to get out here every day with the guys and learn how to take care of an aircraft.”

As they put it, there’s room for everyone to serve.

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