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NEWS | Aug. 7, 2022

Women in the Navy: the 116th Z-Gram 50th Anniversary

By USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) Public Affairs

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) commemorated the 50th anniversary of the 116th “Z-Gram” from the then-Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, on Aug. 7, 2022.

As the 19th CNO, Adm. Zumwalt established the concept of Z-grams, which were naval messages sent directly to the Navy. He released the first Z-Gram when he assumed duties as CNO, July 14, 1970. By 1972, Zumwalt had released Z-Gram 116, titled “Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women.” This historical instruction opened doors for women to serve in roles equal to men in the Navy.

Lt. Savannah Boleky, Damage Control Assistant aboard Arleigh Burke, spoke to Sailors in attendance about the challenges and hurdles many women in the Navy have experienced, and also about their achievements and triumphs.

“Going into this, I wanted to give a full recount of women in the Navy, starting from the beginning,” said Boleky. “I focused on the major directives that were passed and then found women along the way that were the firsts in their community. As I was researching for the presentation, I just continually found myself in awe of these women.”

Sailors learned the important roles that women played through history. The events covered went back to 1862, when women joined the ranks as military nurses, and continued through the centuries to present day. Key programs and laws discussed include the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) program that allowed women to serve as full members in the U.S. military during World War II, and the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act years later that allowed women to maintain a permanent status in all branches of the U.S. military, with limited billet options.

One of the major directives, and the anniversary that was being celebrated, was the release of the 116th Z-Gram. It established a “task force” that increased the opportunity for women to obtain professional growth by eliminating the pattern of only assigning women to certain billets and gave qualifying women the full spectrum of challenging billets.

“It is crazy to think how far we have gotten in the last 100 years and how much we have expanded the opportunities for women in the military,” said Cryptologic Technician (Maintenance) 2nd Class Alyssa Leidigh, commemoration attendee. “Women can be engineers, maintainers, firefighters…the list goes on. I am proud to be part of a community that is always advancing and broadening themselves to include us and our ideas.”

After the presentation, the Sailors were led in a themes workout led by Boleky.

“When I began to create the workout, I wanted to incorporate these women into it and I wanted to include movements they probably did somewhere along the way in their training,” Boleky said. “I wanted everyone doing the workout to have to push themselves to finish, just like these women had to push themselves into unknown waters.”

Senior and junior Sailors are always encouraged to learn about their naval history and to remember those who came before them.

“You never want to forget where you came from and we do not want the sacrifices those women made to be in vain,” said Boleky. “We only ever want to move forward in our progression and not backwards, recounting our history will ensure we continue to move forward with our progress.”

Arleigh Burke is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe area of operations, employed by U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., allied and partner interests.

For over 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with our allies and partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.

Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.