US woman admiral to GIs in RP: Behave
Rear Admiral Carol Pottenger, the first woman to command an expeditionary strike group in the United States Navy, led 600 sailors and Marines in humanitarian missions and military training that resumed over the weekend, three months after a court convicted a US serviceman for raping a Filipina here.
They hosted a reception for local leaders in Olongapo City where soldiers held medical and dental clinics and are set to do community service projects in an Aeta village as part of the activities of Balikatan 2007.
Aboard the USS Juneau for Friday night’s reception, Pottenger was also seen mingling with sailors, asking them about their health and their work.
She kept her hair in a tight bun and, garbed in a white uniform, walked with feminine grace.
As it turned out, this Purdue University graduate isn’t all beauty.
Her military career is packed with accomplishments, including the Admiral Arleigh Burke Leadership Award early on in her years in the service, according to a profile provided by the US Embassy.
Pottenger has allowed troops with the USS Juneau, commanded by Capt. John Alexander, to take liberty or rest and recreation but within the premises of the freeport, formerly the home of the Seventh Fleet.
The rape of a Filipina, called “Nicole” in media reports, happened shortly after US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith met her at the Neptune Bar on Nov. 1, 2005.
“We know we are guests here. We very much want to enjoy the hospitality of the Filipino people but we need to behave in a manner that is appropriate and representative of the fact that we are here working and trying to build relationship with the people. So all of the sailors and Marines have been advised of that,” Pottenger said.
She said she expects “a high standard of conduct and they know what they are supposed to do.”
Asked if her instruction would make a difference since she is a woman, she said: “Oh, heavens, no. I’m wearing the uniform. I’m wearing the stripes and star and that is all that matters.”
The Balikatan exercises, which were briefly suspended, resumed after the Philippine government turned over custody of Smith to the US government.
Philippine officials took Smith out of the Makati City jail and returned him to the US Embassy in December last year.
This year’s Balikatan has been scaled down to 600 troops from the usual 5,000 and to humanitarian missions and exercises focused on situations at sea instead of a series of mostly field war games.
McClenny said the modification was not the result of the controversy over Smith’s custody.
Aside from other difficult missions, Pottenger also commanded the USS Bridge that supported Operation Enduring Freedom, resupplying 10 battle groups, amphibious groups and dozens of coalition ships. For that, she earned the Battle “E” and the 2002 Arleigh Burke Fleet trophy, the embassy said.