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"That day was the longest day I ever remember having in the Navy." (Video interview, 37:22)

   Heather Lori Belanger Sandler
Image of Heather Lori Belanger Sandler
Heather Sandler on the flight deck of the Harry S. Truman [02/2003]
War: War on Terrorism, 2001-2009
Branch: Navy
Unit: USS Abraham Lincoln (VX 23); USS Harry Truman (CVN 75)
Service Location: Great Lakes, Illinois; Tennessee; Mediterranean Sea; Everett, Washington; Patuxent River, Maryland; Virginia Beach, Virginia
Rank: Aviation Ordnanceman Second Class, E-6
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Part of a military family, Heather Lori Belanger Sandler decided to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and join the Navy. Leaving for boot camp in 1995, she initially wanted to be a rescue swimmer, but later opted to become an Aviation Ordnanceman—which meant learning how to put together live bombs to be dropped from airplanes. Stationed on the USS Abraham Lincoln, she was part of one of the first groups of women to serve their deployment on an aircraft carrier, and comments in her interview about the gender dynamics aboard ship and how they shifted over time. Following September 11th, she deployed to the Middle East serving aboard the USS Harry Truman and assembling weapons to support ground troops in Iraq.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (8 clips)
»Part 1 | Part 2 
Download: video(1) | 
Download: video(2) (101 min.)
  Photos
»Photo Album  (31 photos)
 Official Documents
»View List (36 items)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (8 items)
Basic training; experience with gender integrated training; adjusting to military life; interacting with men during basic training. (04:42) Intending to become a rescue swimmer; not passing the physical; deciding on an aviation apprenticeship. (01:25) Service aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln; as a woman, in the vast minority of service personnel aboard ship. (02:05)
Job in weapons assembly; building 500 or 1000 pound bombs. (00:48) Working at Patuxent River on September 11; seeing smoke from Pentagon; chaos; getting planes ready in case of attack; realizing it would mean deployment. (05:58) Service aboard the USS Harry Truman in the Persian Gulf; supporting ground troops in Iraq; intense work environment; going without a port visit; “beer days.” (02:48)
Differences in shipboard gender dynamics between first and third deployments; more women aboard ship; subtle differences; having to prove herself to men she outranked. (03:10) Description of ceremony to mark crossing the equator; becoming a “shellback.” (03:22) 
  
 Official Documents (36 items)
Cover letter accompanying a letter of appreciation Letter to U.S. Marines Col. Gene Fraser from Kathryn I. Clark, Ph.D. Certificate accompanying the State of Connecticut Wartime Service Medal
Letter accompanying the State of Connecticut Veterans Wartime Service Medal Letter of Appreciation to Belanger-Sandler from M.S. Whitty [11/1/1995] Certificate of appointment to Aviation Ordnanceman Third Class [8/28/1996]
Letter of Recognition from K. F. Schultz [8/30/1996] Honor Certificate awarded to Belanger-Sandler [8/30/1996] Certificate of Completion for satisfactory completion of Aviation Ordnanceman Course [8/30/1996]
Certificate of Completion for satisfactory completion of Shipboard Air Launched Weapons General Ordnance Course [3/21/1997] Certificate of Commendation from the CO of the USS Abraham Lincoln Department of the Navy Good Conduct Award
Letter of Commendation from the CO of the USS Abraham Lincoln Performance Information Memorandum to Belanger-Sandler [4/29/1998] Certificate of Appointment to Aviation Ordnancemen Second Class [2/25/1999]
Honorable Discharge [3/17/1999] Certificate of Reenlistment [3/18/1999] Certificate of Award of the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal [6/2/1999]
Certificate of Completion F/A-18 Stores Management Organizational (Initial) Course [8/13/1999] Performance Information Memorandum to Belanger-Sandler [8/20/1999] Certificate of Completion Conventional Weapons Loading course [8/20/1999]
Administrative remarks [10/27/2000] Certificate of Appointment Collateral Duty Inspector Certificate of Training, Organizational Maintenance Course [4/27/2001]
Letter of Appreciation [5/3/2001] Letter of Commendation from the Naval Strike Aircraft Test Squadron Certificate of Qualification as an Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist [11/13/2001]
Plan of the Week memo for January 7-13, 2002 Plan of the Week memo for January 28 - February 3, 2002 Letter of Commendation from the Commander Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division
Certificate of Award of the Naval and Marine Corps Achievment Medal [Gold Star] [9/23/2002] Personal Award Recommendation Letter giving notice of authority to assume the title and wear the uniform of a Petty Officer First Class [5/13/2003]
Department of the Navy Good Conduct Award [2/21/2004] Certificate of Award of the Naval and Marine Corps Achievment Medal [Gold Star] [3/18/2005] Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty
  
 

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  October 26, 2011
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