From Vietnam Veterans Against the War,

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Long Way Out

By Daniel Lavery (reviewer)

Long Way Out: A young woman's journey of self-discovery and how she survived the Navy's modern cruelty at sea scandal
by Nicole Waybright

(SpeakPeace Press, 2016)

After eight years of writing and research, Nicole Waybright finished her memoir, "Long Way Out" that tells the story of her coming-of-age struggles while deployed as an officer on a US Navy destroyer. Waybright reports the psychological critical moments that she experienced when she discovered she was not cut out for a naval career during her five-year military commitment. Her book sets forth the factual detail based on her service as an officer in the Surface Warfare (SWO) Navy when the initial group of women were stationed aboard naval ships. This intense offering gives the reader a view into a deplorable and tragic account of an egregious executive officer criticized by her seniors when removed from command for "cruelty and maltreatment" of her crew. Nevertheless, she was the first such United States female to command an Aegis destroyer and was infamously known as the female Captain Bligh.

The author uses the name, Brenda, to tell her story. She served for 18 months aboard Navy destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) in 1997-1998. She reports the incredibly stressful Navy life during five years of service before her honorable discharge. Her nightmare removed the adventure, romance, and excitement her parents and others, including herself, thought would await her in a world of opportunity for a woman so few had previously had the opportunity she earned. This intense ordeal forced her to find her authentic self after studying the military for her career and catalyzed discovery of her authentic self when she submerged into an intense study and self-realization of Jungian psychology.

At Boston University on a Naval ROTC scholarship Brenda graduated with an M.S., Cum Laude, in Mechanical Engineering. Later as a summer intern with the CIA she had sea duty on a summer cruise aboard the destroyer USS Spruance (DD-963). After college graduation and then six months of Surface Warfare Officers School in Newport, Rhode Island, Brenda flew to Sydney, Australia to rendezvous with her first ship, whose home port is the US Naval Base at Yokosuka, Japan.

A determined daughter of conventional patriotic parents, Brenda absorbed their ideals and planned a practical career in the US Navy dreaming to attend Naval Nuclear Power School. She hoped to serve on one of 10 US nuclear-powered aircraft carriers since women were banned from serving on the 70-plus nuclear submarines. To qualify for nuke school, she had to win the essential Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) pin. However she experienced chronic sleep deprivation, difficult technical duties, and discovered her past academic success was insufficient for complex shipboard problems. Then she had to deal with a new Lieutenant Commander who made life miserable.

Midway through her memoir she met the new Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Heather Gates. A woman's blue eyes piercing her like daggers. The XO's routine of profanity and screaming at subordinates destroyed morale and endangered the ship. The Captain ignored her outrageous conduct since the Navy hierarchy wanted the XO to help recruitment of the new women naval officers. Not surprisingly, after twelve years she was relieved of command and discharged from the Navy for cruelty toward her crews and conduct unbecoming an officer. Yet her record appeared unsullied until her discharge when enough was known to end her disgraceful naval career.

At the end of her story, Waybright became a full-time writer, featured speaker and resided in New England. She found her radicalized self exploring building a culture of peace. She was honorably discharged from the Navy in 2001.

Dan Lavery graduated from Annapolis, navigated a jet, then a ship to Vietnam. He resigned, joined VVAW, and became a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW, the ACLU and in private civil rights practice. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his change from a pawn in the military to crusader for justice.

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