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Feature Stories

NEWS | Aug. 2, 2022

U.S. military women show support at historic Lebanese graduation

By PO1 Anita Chebahtah U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / U.S. 5th Fleet

Women from the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, Army National Guard and Air Force attended a ceremony in Lebanon, Aug. 1, to support the first group of women who graduated from the Lebanese Army Military Academy and into the field of combat arms.

A half-dozen female officers from the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. Army Central Command and U.S. Air Force Central Command traveled to Lebanon to attend the graduation ceremony and show support to 46 women who became the first to ever complete Lebanon’s full three-year officer program.

Previously, women were only able to earn an officer commission in the Lebanese Armed Forces by attending a six-month officer training course after finishing their university education. As a result, female officers only worked in specialty fields such as medicine, human relations and security.

The majority of the 46 newly commissioned female graduates were also the first to join the Lebanese Armed Forces’ combat arms field.

“There are so many challenges that are universal to all women, no matter rank or country of service,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kendra Carter, U.S. 5th Fleet’s lead engagement officer for Lebanon who previously served as a nuclear-qualified surface warfare officer. “This was a wonderful opportunity to support women who are breaking barriers within their military and offer our experiences, wisdom and encouragement.”

As the military academy’s only female instructor, Lebanese Capt. Nancy Hawat taught many of the women who graduated. She said attending the academy as a student wasn’t an option for her, so being able to train women who had the opportunity meant a lot.

The top three cadets in a total graduating class of 121 were women.

“These women are a reflection of the tenacity of women who serve in the armed forces around the world and break barriers and glass ceilings every day,” said Ensign Rochelle Brown from U.S. 5th Fleet. “They have shown that they are beyond capable and those that they lead will be in great hands.”

The U.S. officers sat down for dinner with several of the cadets the night before graduation.

“We are able to relate to these women with their sacrifices and their struggles as they work in a predominantly male industry,” said Army National Guard 1st Lt. Ashley Estep. “It will be wonderful to watch the partnership between the United States and Lebanon grow stronger with these changes, and it was started with these strong women we saw graduate.”