Women in this period became more integrated with enlisted ratings, command leadership, and decision making. Starting off the new decade, the first women graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1980, finishing the courses that started in 1976. Female officers became Surface Warfare qualified, beginning with Billie E. Crawford in 1981. Also that year, Lieutenant Patricia A. Denkler qualified in a jet aircraft. Advancement to flag rank continued with Roberta L. Hazard selected as the first unrestricted line officer for rear admiral in 1984.
In 1990, Darline M. Iskra was the first woman to command a U.S. Navy vessel when she assumed command of USS Opportune (ARS-41) that December. Also in 1990, Captain Marsha J. Evans assumed command of Naval Station, Treasure Island, San Francisco, California and was the first woman to command a naval station, and Captain Rosemary Mariner was the first woman to command an operational naval aviation squadron when leading VAQ-34 during Operation Desert Storm.
In 1993, Congress repealed the Combat Exclusion Law, which allowed women to serve on combatant ships. That July, Rear Admiral Louise C. Wilmot was the first woman to command a naval base, Naval Base Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was responsible for all the naval stations and facilities in the area. In 1996, Patricia Tracey was selected to be the first female three-star admiral in the U.S. Navy. Two years later, Lillian Fishburne became the first African American female promoted to flag rank. Also in 1998, five women were selected to become the first to assume command of combatant ships. The women were Maureen A. Farren, Michelle J. Howard (later the first African American female to become a three and four star admiral and Vice Chief of Naval Operations), Kathleen A. McGrath, Ann O'Conner, and Grace Mehl.
Image: 330-CFD-DN-ST-90-01354: Female enlisted Sailors in the Personnel Support Activity Detarchment, Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, circa 1990. Official U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.