THE first female chief petty officer in the history of the naval service is West Cork woman, Patricia O’Sullivan from Gortnagrough in Ballydehob.
Patricia (39) has been a member of the naval service for 22 years. It was in 1998 that she joined as a recruit at the tender age of 17, something that was permissible at the time.
‘I had heard about it from my guidance teacher in Schull Community College,’ said Patricia. ‘It was something that appealed to me because it was very diverse. I knew I didn’t want an office-based job and that the navy would offer lots of variety.’
When she started out, just four of 32 recruits in her class were women. Today, just two of the four are still serving.
Over the last 22 years, Patricia was promoted on three occasions. Her most recent promotion on Friday, November 20th, elevated her to the rank of chief petty officer.
This has the distinction of being the highest enlisted, non-commissioned officer in the service.
Patricia explained that when she arrived into work that morning she was told by her superior officer to go to the personal management services.
There, it came as a complete surprise to her that her brother, Donal O’Sullivan, was on standby to present her with her new CPO rank markings.
Donal, who has been in the navy for the last 18 years and is now a petty officer, also joined the service at the age of 17.
Their parents were not around to see the ceremony. Their mother, the late Siobhan O’Sullivan, passed away on December 29th, and just six week later, on February 6th of this year, the late Pat Joe O’Sullivan passed away from an illness. Patricia said the family knew their dad was sick, but their mother’s passing in the early hours of the morning, after Donal’s wedding, was unexpected.
‘They were proud of us both,’ Patricia told The Southern Star, ‘personally and of our chosen careers.
‘They would have loved to have seen Donal presenting me with the rank markings,’ she added.
Patricia said: ‘It felt as if they were looking down on us and we just want to make them proud.’