Female ensigns garner top awards

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Female ensigns garner top awards

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“Women power” is sweeping the Naval Academy in Jinhae, South Gyeongsang province. At the 60th Graduation and Commissioning Ceremony held on March 6, 17 female ensigns graduated alongside 147 of their male compatriots, with four of them achieving top awards.
The four newly-christened female ensigns won the President’s Award, the Ministry of National Defense Award, the Chief of the General Staff Award and the UN Commander Award. Since 2003, there have been 70 female graduates, 12 of whom have won these awards ― a remarkable feat considering the ratio.
This year’s valedictorian and winner of the President’s Award, Ensign Gang Gyeong, has held top honors since her days as a first-year cadet, topping her class in her academic record, conduct and physical training among others.
In her junior year, she was selected as a training assistant for new cadet recruits, or plebes. Plebes undergo intensive training for five weeks before they are inducted. The training assistants are model second-year cadets, who impose strict rules upon the plebes and are nicknamed the “bad guys.” Ensign Gang further developed leadership skills in her senior year by serving as the First Battalion Commander of the Regiment of Naval Cadets. She wasn’t the first female valedictorian of the Naval Academy (the first was in 2004), but she is the first female to have both entered and graduated the academy with the highest score.
Being a minority at the Naval Academy doesn’t mean one receives preferential treatment. These young women had to show a great deal of determination and grit to get to where they are now. Second lieutenant Ahn Hui-hyeon, who trains the cadets at the academy, says, “They would work out whenever they were given the chance, in order to overcome the gap in physical strength between male and female cadets.”
This isn’t to say female cadets are always at a disadvantage. In areas such as plebe guidance, emergency care and planning, they displayed superior abilities. They were able to demonstrate outstanding leadership skills and exemplary behavior, and consequently earned official recognition.
This year’s new female ensigns have signed up for the some of the most competitive branches. Ensign Gang and three others, Seok Ah-ruim, Lee Jeong-wu and Kim Gui-mi, chose navigation, a combat arm branch. They aspire to become warship captains, where there’s no difference between male and female ensigns.
Ensign Gang said, “There were times when things were so tough I wanted to give up, but I was able to do my best because I had a loving family and fellow cadets who believed in me.” Her father, Captain Gang Hui-gak, is currently the captain of a destroyer, Yangmanchun-ham (KDX-I No. 2), so now there are two officers in her family.


by Kim Min-seok
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