Vice Admiral Lisa M. Franchetti, The First and Only Female Commander of an Entire Navy Fleet

“Change is inevitable; growth is a choice.” I heard this little gem a long time ago in another context, but it is a truism in any case. This story is about a very big change. It was a change in the life of an individual and in the unfolding history of the United States Navy.

Vice Admiral Lisa M. Franchetti is a woman who clearly has what it takes to be a commanding officer at the highest levels of command in the United States Navy’s combat commands. She did not have those ambitions as a young college student though. She originally wanted to be a journalist.

Photo: YouTube/CBS Mornings

Franchetti graduated with a degree in journalism from Northwestern University, where she also enrolled in the Navy ROTC Program in the mid-1980s. She soon found a different direction for her life as she began her original service in the United States Navy. Everything changed, and, clearly, this new direction suited her.

Her first assignment in the Navy was as a training/special programs officer at the Naval Reserve Readiness Command Region 13. While serving in the Navy, she also graduated from the Naval War College, where she learned combat command and tactical war fighting theory, among other things. She also earned a master’s degree in organizational management from the University of Phoenix.

Photo: YouTube/CBS Mornings

Her sea assignments include being an auxiliaries officer on the USS Shenandoah (AD 44), as a navigator and jumboization coordinator aboard the USS Monongahela (AO 178); as an operations officer on the USS Moosbrugger (DD 980); and as a combat systems officer and chief staff officer for Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21. She then became the executive officer aboard the USS Stout (DDG 55), followed by a time as assistant surface operations officer on the USS George Washington Strike Group.

Her command experience began on the USS Ross (DDG 71), then on the carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 9. She also embarked on the USS George Washington (CVN 71) and CSG-15. She also served as commander of Pacific Partnership 2010 while commanding the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19).

Photo: YouTube/CBS Mornings

Franchetti’s onshore command assignments include: Commanding officer, Naval Reserve Center Central Point, Oregon. She was an aide to the vice chief of naval operations and protocol officer for the Commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. She held the position as the 4th Battalion officer at the U.S. Naval Academy and many other leadership roles, including military assistant to the Secretary of the Navy.

Rear Admiral Franchetti was raised to Flag rank and nominated by President Trump to take Command of the U.S. 6th Fleet in October of 2017. She held the command of US 6th Fleet until July 1, 2020, when she handed the command over to Admiral Eugene H. Black III in ceremonies held at the Naval Support Base in Naples, Italy. The video you will see here was done aboard the flagship of the U.S. 6th Fleet, the USS Mount Whitney (LLC 20), a highly sophisticated, Blue Ridge-class amphibious command and control ship.

Photo: YouTube/CBS Mornings

Her personal military awards include: A Defense Superior Service Medal, five Legion of Merit Medals, five Meritorious Service Medals, four Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.

The idea of a woman serving on a U.S. Navy warship, much less commanding one, was outside of the range of understanding not that long ago. It was not until 1994 that President Bill Clinton opened service on combat ships to women. Thirteen years later, the U.S. Navy would raise a woman to such an important command as the Commander of and entire Fleet, the U.S. 6th Fleet, which has security and strategic responsibilities for an area covering some 20 million square nautical miles.

Yes, change is inevitable in all things. Growth, and all of its responsibilities and lessons to learn, is a choice. Vice Admiral Lisa M. Franchetti knows and has managed these things personally in her life and in her service to the nation and the United States Navy. The Navy has also grown in its awareness of the skills and leadership qualities that women can bring to bear in the the United States Navy.

We thank Vice Admiral Lisa M. Franchetti for her service and example for all to follow. We wish her Fair Winds and Following Seas over the course of the rest of her life.

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