JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The legacy of women’s contributions in history came alive for one Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast leader during a ceremony recognizing Women’s History Month March 21 at Fleet Logistics Center Southeast (FLC SE) in Jacksonville, Fla.
Keynote speaker Camille Destafney, NAVFAC Southeast Environmental Business Line Coordinator and Environmental Program Director for Navy Region Southeast, addressed the FLC SE workforce during the event. This year’s theme is Women Inspiring Innovation through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
According to Destafney, given the opportunity to speak about the achievements of women was an honor.
"I have a love for math and at the time I graduated in the late 1970’s, you taught it,” said Destafney. “I knew my personality would not allow me to teach so my counselor suggested engineering.”
Destafney began her environmental engineer career at Naval Construction Battalion Center, Port Hueneme, Calif. where she was the underground storage tank and installation restoration program manager. During her time there, she managed the removal of 65 underground storage tanks and construction of the soil remediation land farm that led to the installation being the first Department of Defense National Environmental Technology Demonstration Site.
“Being in this job was fun,” said Destafney. “The actual job site is where the rubber meets the road.”
Destafney spoke of historical women with STEM backgrounds and how they paved the way for current and future women of STEM. She described the achievements made by Mary G. Ross, who was the first female engineer at Lockheed’s Missiles Systems Division in 1952 and the first known Native American woman to be an engineer; and
Flossie Wong-Staal, one of the world’s foremost authorities in the field of virology who was a pioneering researcher of retroviruses and her team identified the HIV virus as the cause of AIDS.
Effective communication and respect of others is essential in engineering; without it, Destafney and her teams would not be able to develop solutions that allow U.S. naval forces to train for combat and effectively carry out their military missions while minimizing impacts on the environment.
“I am fortunate to have a very interesting job,” said Destafney. “You never know what the day will bring.”
She spoke about how the Navy does aerial surveys of the North Atlantic Right Whale during calving season in support of this endangered species. The North Atlantic Right Whale travels from New England to the Southeast to have their calves.
“By knowing where the whales are we can avoid them and prevent ship strikes,” explained Destafney. “Communication is key, by working with the survey crews and the ships, we can ensure good communications.”
During the speech, Destafney mentioned there is a saying, “We are often afraid of what we do not understand.”
“Ensuring a solid foundation of STEM subjects can open many opportunities for women in business,” said Destafney. “One way we can develop and mature our STEM specialty is to mentor young women and children at early ages.”
According to Destafney, making STEM subjects fun and appealing to children will dissolve the stigma attached and invite new ideas with free flowing thought processes to catapult STEM fields into everyday life.
“As women, we are strong and can achieve greatness in whatever we do,” said Destafney. “Just don’t give up; seek advice from others, learn from our founding leaders and help others to become successful.”