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Navy MA1 Colleen Dibble knows about being the only female in the room as she works in a male-dominated field and is part of the 15 percent of women who are active-duty U.S. military.

She was the only female master-at-arms during her first assignment to Misawa Air Base in Misawa, Japan, for 11 months and has been one of the few women to work in Naval Support Activity Bethesda's Security Department since she came to the installation in 2013.

But she views herself as just another member of the team.

"You can't have bias," Dibble said. "You have to see yourself as an equal and you have to be an equal. So you're in the same boat. We're all Sailors - not male, not female - we're all Sailors, we're all trying to get the mission accomplished."

Dibble still sought out a female mentor to work through challenges she has faced as a woman working in a male-dominated field. As her leadership is all male, she had to go outside her command to find Navy Lt. Cmdr. Melissa Burke, a former master-at-arms who now works with the Warrior Family Coordination Cell, to guide her through some of the challenges Dibble has faced.

Burke said she gives Dibble advice on how to handle stressful situations and passes on advice she received from female colleagues when she was a master-at-arms in the '90s.

Burke said she's seen Dibble grow during her time at NSAB and that she's honored to be her mentor.

"She's branched out from 'I'm a Sailor and now let me think what needs to be done,' to 'Let me think about my fellow Sailors and how I can mentor them and how I can help them,'" Burke said.

March is Women's History Month - and the theme this year is "Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government."

Another woman Dibble said she looks up to is Navy Vice Chief of Naval Operations Michelle Howard, who became the first female vice chief of naval operations and four-star admiral in 2014.

"She speaks a lot on different leadership traits which I like," Dibble said. "I look up to her. She comes here often, but I haven't seen her yet."

During her time at NSAB, Dibble has been tasked with starting the base's crime prevention program and one of her biggest responsibilities was putting on a National Night Out event.

"She networked with so many people out in the local community, inside the base populations and she far exceeded anyone's expectations," said NSAB Security Department Leading Petty Officer Master-at-Arms 1st Class Raymond Herrera.

"There was food, vendors, and so many things put together that it completely blew people's minds ... she didn't have to do that. She could've done something really small, but she took it upon herself and said 'I want this to be huge, I want it to be lasting, and I want it to continue on even when I'm gone from this installation.' She set the bar really high."

That event was a major accomplishment for Dibble, not because it was a big event but because it got the Sailors excited about working in the community.

"The Sailors enjoyed themselves and they keep asking me, 'When's the next event?'" she said.

Dibble, 28, said she joined the Navy because her goal is to join the Judge Advocate General's Corps. She is a step closer to that goal as she is cross-rating to legalman and leaving NSAB to go to Naval Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island.

She is the first member of her family to enlist and her reenlistment is set to take place at a Washington Capitals game at the Verizon Center in April.

Dibble always has been interested in sports, but it wasn't until she came to NSAB that she actually decided to play football, which is one of her favorite sports. Before playing on a team she coached a youth football team and was the coach of the Naval Air Facility Misawa Command Team.

"I never felt that I was good enough to play football," Dibble said. "I always thought of football as a guy's sport."

That changed after she played on her Purdue alumni flag football team where she saw a flyer to try out for the all-women's tackle football team: the Washington Prodigy. She now plays left guard on the offensive line for the team and said she likes being able to get in hits and tackles during each play.

"I've gone against some people that are three times the size of me," Dibble said. "It's just such a good game - that's why I love playing it."

Dibble will only be able to play half of this year's season since she is moving to Rhode Island, but said she plans to continue being involved with the sport in some fashion.

Dibble and Burke both said they've seen changes in allowing woman to perform roles in the military that were traditionally done by men.

"We continue to break down barriers and show we actually have a lot to bring and a lot to offer to those [security] fields," Burke said.

When asked if she sees herself as a role model, Dibble said she wouldn't necessarily call herself one.

"I just try to set [my Sailors] up for success," she said. "I make sure that the other Sailors are motivated and I want everyone to succeed."

For more news from Naval Support Activity Bethesda, visit www.navy.mil/local/nsabethesda/



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Updated March 1, 2017 (kbh)