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A historic first for U.S. Navy: women aboard a combat ship

The USS Eisenhower will never be the same now that the Navy has ordered women to report for duty on the aircraft carrier later this month.

"I want to go out and show them that we can do it," said Cecelia Daley, an aviation ordnance specialist.

She was among the 60 or so women who got permanent orders Monday _ in a first for women _ assigning them to regular duty on a combat ship.

"Now I'll be completely equal," said Diana Knight, an aviation storekeeper who has been in the Navy for 12 years. "This is going to be great."

The repeal of the combat exclusion law in the defense authorization bill passed by Congress last year opened warships to women.

With Monday's action, the Norfolk-based Eisenhower became the first Navy combat ship to have women permanently assigned to the crew. The women will begin reporting for duty later this month.

In all, about 500 women will be members of the 5,550-person crew by the time the carrier goes overseas this fall. Later this year, the Alameda, Calif.-based carrier Abraham Lincoln also will get women crew members.

Women have served on Navy support ships since 1978, and a few have had temporary assignments to carriers. But U.S. warships have never had women as full-time crew members.

To prepare for the change, the Eisenhower has modified some of its sleeping areas and bathrooms to give the women some privacy.

Capt. Mark Gemmill, the Eisenhower's skipper, said the women would be assigned to jobs all over the ship, from flight deck work to engineering and maintenance functions.

"There may be some natural tendency to treat them differently early on," Gemmill said. "But we'll try to minimize that. They want to be seen as just another Ike crewman checking in."