Fleet Week: Female sailors take Manhattan

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As Fleet Week enters its final stretch, these girls really do just want to have fun.

Metro accompanied two Navy servicewomen and one Marine on their tour about town to take a peek at the female side of Fleet Week, which wraps up Wednesday.

“Pulling in on the ship, seeing Ground Zero, the Empire State Building, the whole skyline, it was beautiful,” Navy servicewoman Gabrielle Milly, 26, said of seeing New York for the first time.

A leave on dry land was welcome. Milly, like other sailors on the USS Iwo Jima currently docked at Pier 88, spends most of her time several levels below the surface of the ship.

“There are days when I don’t see the light of day,” said Petty Officer Third Class Natasha Chalk, 27.
As soon as she was off the ship, Chalk beelined it to Times Square for a slice of pepperoni pizza. Up next was the trio’s first-ever trip on the subway to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After that, it was a stop for cupcakes.

And the servicewomen, in their crisp khaki uniforms, were exposed to another signature aspect of New York City in the summer: catcalls from men on the street. “Looking good, ladies!” shouted a man on 49th Street.

“It happens so much I ignore it,” said Chalk.

What’s it like to be a female soldier?

There are 2,320 sailors and Marines onboard the USS Iwo Jima. About 25 percent, or 573, of those are women. The servicewomen said differences in physical strength are the most apparent.

“A lot of women fought for these rights, but if I can’t physically pick something up, someone should help,” said Natasha Chalk of on-board equality. “Sometimes, people watch you struggle.”

One of the best compliments a female service member could hope for is to be seen as a man, said Milly.

“They say, ‘You’re the man.’ I’m not a man, but it makes me feel good anyway,” said Milly.

Follow Emily Anne Epstein on Twitter @EmilyatMetro.



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