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TopRank: Navy Adm. Lisa Franchetti

Admiral Lisa Franchetti. Photo Credit: U.S. Navy

Navy Admiral Lisa Franchetti made history last month by becoming the first woman to lead the U.S. Navy. The Senate voted 95-1 to name her Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). She becomes the first woman to join the elite group of senior military officers who make up the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The White House announced her nomination July 21 and she was sworn in as the 33rd Chief of Naval Operations in early November. 

Her nomination by President Joe Biden marked the first time a woman has been put forward to head a Pentagon military service branch. The US Coast Guard is also led by a woman - Admiral Linda Fagan - but that branch falls under the Department of Homeland Security rather than the Department of Defense.

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro swears in Adm. Lisa Franchetti as the 33rd chief of naval operations in the Pentagon, Nov. 2. Franchetti became the first woman service chief and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Photo Credit: U.S. Navy/Chief Mass Communication Specialist Amanda R. Gray/released

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro swears in Adm. Lisa Franchetti as the 33rd chief of naval operations in the Pentagon, Nov. 2. Franchetti became the first woman service chief and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Photo Credit: U.S. Navy/Chief Mass Communication Specialist Amanda R. Gray/released

“She cares a lot about her people [and] you want a CNO that cares about the troops on the deckplate,” retired Admiral James Foggo said. 

“At the same time, you want a CNO that has experience in some tight, tough situations and some combat situations. One of the things she said is, I learned a long time ago that you do not have to sacrifice your femininity or your gender identity to be a good leader in the Navy. In other words, you don’t have to lower your voice. You don’t have to yell. You don’t have to use bad language. You can just lead. You can be an effective leader by listening to your people, caring for your people, understanding your people, [and] knowing something about your people. That’s leadership, and it has nothing to do with gender.”

Franchetti, a Rochester, NY native, received her commission in 1985 through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Program at Northwestern University, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Journalism. At the time, she had no idea she’d make history for the Navy.

“I joined the Navy for free college, for books, and a chance to be part of a team,” she said in a statement after the ceremony. “It was going to be for four years and then I’d go on and find something else to do. What I stayed for was the team, I stayed for the mission, I stayed for what we get to do for our nation every day as part of great teams.”

She holds a master’s degree in organizational management from the University of Phoenix and furthered her education at the Naval War College. She became a Navy officer only five years after the first woman graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, making her one of the first females to be integrated. 

Continuing to make history, she became the second woman to serve as vice chief of naval operations on Sept. 2, 2022. She was also the second woman promoted to four-star admiral in the United States Navy. Her personal awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal (two awards), Legion of Merit (five awards), Meritorious Service Medal (six awards), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (four awards), and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (two awards).

Retired Vice Adm. Nora Tyson said Franchetti “is probably one of the best, well-rounded officers that we could put in as CNO. And that’s because she’s had, A, the leadership experience; B, she has had a lot of experience working with our allies and partners around the world.”

“I’ve always believed that if you can see it, you can be it… so set your sights high,” Franchetti adds. “In today’s military you get to choose your own adventure and make a difference every day by being part of a great team and something bigger than yourself.”

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