Commanding Officer DonAnn Gilmore holds the coat of arms designed for the USS Daniel Inouye while standing alongside a photo of the late Sen. Inouye, for whom the warship is named, at SupShip in Bath. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

BATH — Cmdr. DonAnn Gilmore joins a rare class as she takes the helm of the most recent Bath Iron Works-built Arleigh-Burke-class destroyer, the future USS Daniel Inouye. Of the more than 1,110 commanding officers in the U.S. Navy, 75 are women, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Until 1993, women weren’t allowed to serve on combat ships in the U.S. Navy. That changed in 1993, when all Navy ships were opened to women. Capt. Kathleen McGrath became the first woman to command a U.S. Navy warship in 2000.

While Gilmore is in a stereotypically male-dominated position, she said she doesn’t think about the fact that she’s a woman. She has previously captained an all-male crew and said she didn’t realize she was the only woman on the ship until she noticed she was the only one using the women’s bathroom.

“A magical thing happens when you put on a uniform and work in an organization that values diversity,” she added. “If we all thought the same we’d never be able to problem solve the way we do coming from different backgrounds.”

“My role as commanding officer is to facilitate growth, development, leadership, and empower the people who work below you,” Gilmore added.

Originally from Anniston, Alabama, Gilmore’s father was in the military, which is what made her want to join as well. She fell in love with ships when her father took her to tour them when she was young, and she decided to join the Navy. She attended Pennsylvania State University where she commissioned through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.


While Gilmore previously commanded a smaller ship and worked on another ship’s staff, she says her proudest moments happen, “when you see a group of people who have worked exceptionally hard accomplish something, or an individual accomplish a goal, personal or professional.”

During a recent interview at the Navy’s offices in Bath, Gilmore stopped at a display case that houses the late Sen. Inouye’s medals and admired each one.

“Sen. Inouye was most proud of his medal of good conduct because that’s the one he felt he really had to earn, rather than life putting him in a position to earn it,” she said.

She referenced Inouye’s motto, “Go for broke,” which she interprets to mean, “give everything you have every day to your job and to your family. Do everything no holds barred and give it everything you’ve got.”

Daniel Inouye served in the U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team during WWII. The team, composed of Japanese-American soldiers, famously went behind enemy lines in France to rescue the “Lost Battalion” of Texans. Inouye later lost his right arm to a grenade in Italy, earning the Medal of Honor, the country’s highest military honor, for leading a charge against several machine gun emplacements during the battle.

Inouye later was elected to Congress, representing Hawaii. He served as a senator from 1963 until his death in 2012. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom one year after his death, making him first senator to receive both the Medal of Freedom and Medal of Honor.

Gilmore and her crew of roughly 300 are currently training to take control of the 500-foot-long guided missile destroyer. The future USS Inouye will leave Bath for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where it will be based, sometime in 2020. Gilmore’s family, including her two children, will move with her.

“I have a pretty proud and supportive family,” she added. “They’re always up for their next adventure.”

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