Retired Rear Adm. Alene Duerk spent her career in the Navy’s nursing corps, serving during three major wars and eventually rising to the Navy’s top nurse position. Duerk recalled feeling honored when she learned she’d become the Navy’s first female admiral. “I traveled a lot and made extensive trips, both here and overseas,” after being promoted to rear admiral, she said. “And whenever I visited naval hospitals and naval facilities, I tried to speak with the women serving in the Navy, and not just the nurses.
Phillip Walter Wellman / Stars & Stripes
“You know, no pressure,” she joked when her status was brought up. A few seconds later, her smile faded and she said: “I don’t want people to judge me on that.” Fontes would rather people focus on her work, which is vital to a mission that she believes is on the verge of unprecedented success, despite a history of setbacks.