Navy in Hawaii celebrates Women’s Equality Day

Retired Rear Adm. Alma Grocki, Navy League Board of Directors, was featured as a special guest on KHON Wake Up 2Day to discuss Women’s Equality Day, Aug. 24.
Photo by Bill Doughty

Veterans Talk Story: Retired Rear Adm. Alma Grocki

Ensign Britney Duesler

Navy Region Hawaii
Public Affairs

Thirty-six years ago, Alma Lau Grocki, a Kalihi native and graduate of Punahou High School, was a newly commissioned ensign in the United States Navy. She was the first woman from Hawaii to graduate from the United States Naval Academy, which had only recently begun allowing women to attend the school. Today, as a retired rear admiral, she sits on multiple volunteer boards here in Hawaii, giving back to the community that set her on her path in the Navy.

Grocki, whose father worked at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, grew up walking the piers of Pearl Harbor. She was a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Punahou High School, and knew the military was where she wanted to go. However, as a woman in the 1970s, options for military service weren’t equal across all branches.

In 1973, President Richard Nixon stated in his Proclamation of Women’s Equality Day that the country was “paving new avenues to advance economic opportunity for women… Yet, much still remains to be done.”

Grocki, just four years later, reaped the benefit of that advanced economic opportunity by becoming a member of the second class of women at the Naval Academy.

“I thought the Naval Academy was the best option. When you graduated, you could do more mainstream kind of things. You could fly jets or helicopters, or drive a surface ship. That’s why I went towards the Navy,” Grocki said.

The Naval Academy also offered her a guaranteed job after college, which, as a young woman growing up in Kalihi, played a part in her decision-making.

“I needed a scholarship in order to go to college. My family scrimped and saved in order to send me to Punahou,” Grocki said. “I strongly believe that going to the Naval Academy led to having opportunities in the fleet that allowed me to get jobs and do things I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. After 35 years, I was able to retire and not have to work. That’s huge.”

Grocki, whose career as an engineering duty officer ultimately led her back to Pearl Harbor, uses her time as a retiree to ensure that today’s Hawaii teenagers know about the opportunities available in the military.

“Joining the Navy meant we weren’t pigeon-holed into traditional ‘women’s jobs,’ and because of that it opened up a whole world of what we could do and how we could advance,” Grocki said. “But here in Hawaii, we live so far away from the mainland, I don’t think we get all the messages about how to be in the service.”

Holding positions on multiple volunteer boards in the community, where she works on veterans issues and community outreach, Grocki also works to spread education opportunities to Hawaii’s youth, preserving the heritage of Hawaii’s military history, and improving community-military relationships. For Grocki, as well as many of Hawaii’s service members, the ability to serve in Hawaii is more than just “duty in paradise.”

“Hawaii is an island state. We’re completely surrounded by water, and the Navy keeps the sea lanes open. We’re a strategic place in the middle of the Pacific. The Pacific Missile Range in Kauai and the Pearl Harbor base are essential to the Navy, but more importantly we live aloha here and we can bring that aloha spirit anywhere in the world the Navy goes,” Adm. Grocki said.

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Category: News