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NMRC Pride Month Highlight: MMN1 Vivian Jaquith

28 June 2024

From Sidney Hinds

Naval Medical Research Command (NMRC) boasts a diversity of dedicated Sailors, scientists and support staff who advance Navy Medicine’s ability to care for service member health through research, development and research support.Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) 1st Class Vivian Jaquith is one such Sailor. A member of the command since 2023, and a member
Naval Medical Research Command (NMRC) boasts a diversity of dedicated Sailors, scientists and support staff who advance Navy Medicine’s ability to care for service member health through research, development and research support.

Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) 1st Class Vivian Jaquith is one such Sailor. A member of the command since 2023, and a member of the U.S. Navy for 16 years, Jaquith has had a noteworthy career as a service member, submariner, engineer, and transgender woman.

Jaquith’s interest in joining the Navy began in high school, with the local NJROTC. She attended Texas A&M university on a Navy ROTC scholarship, and after a semester, joined the U.S Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program as a nuclear machinist mate.
BALTIMORE (June 15, 2024) Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) 1st Class Vivian Jaquith (right) poses with fellow Sailors at the Naval Medical Research Command (NMRC) booth during Maryland Fleet Week and Flyover Baltimore. This year marks the City of Baltimore's fourth time hosting Navy Fleet Week, which provides an opportunity for the citizens of Maryland and the City of Baltimore to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services. More than 2,300 sea service members are expected to participate this year. NMRC is engaged in a broad spectrum of medical research, from basic science in the laboratory to field studies in austere and remote areas of the world to investigations in operational environments. In support of the Navy, Marine Corps, and joint U.S. warfighters, researchers study infectious diseases, biological warfare detection and defense, combat casualty care, environmental health concerns, aerospace and undersea medicine, medical modeling, simulation, operational mission support, epidemiology and behavioral sciences. (U.S. Navy Photo by Tommy Lamkin/Released)
BALTIMORE (June 15, 2024) Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) 1st Class Vivian Jaquith (right) poses with fellow Sailors at the Naval Medical Research Command (NMRC) booth during Maryland Fleet Week and Flyover Baltimore. This year marks the City of Baltimore's fourth time hosting Navy Fleet Week, which provides an opportunity for the citizens of Maryland and the City of Baltimore to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services. More than 2,300 sea service members are expected to participate this year. NMRC is engaged in a broad spectrum of medical research, from basic science in the laboratory to field studies in austere and remote areas of the world to investigations in operational environments. In support of the Navy, Marine Corps, and joint U.S. warfighters, researchers study infectious diseases, biological warfare detection and defense, combat casualty care, environmental health concerns, aerospace and undersea medicine, medical modeling, simulation, operational mission support, epidemiology and behavioral sciences. (U.S. Navy Photo by Tommy Lamkin/Released)
BALTIMORE (June 15, 2024) Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) 1st Class Vivian Jaquith (right) poses with fellow Sailors at the Naval Medical Research Command (NMRC) booth during Maryland Fleet Week and Flyover Baltimore. This year marks the City of Baltimore's fourth time hosting Navy Fleet Week, which provides an opportunity for the citizens of Maryland and the City of Baltimore to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services. More than 2,300 sea service members are expected to participate this year. NMRC is engaged in a broad spectrum of medical research, from basic science in the laboratory to field studies in austere and remote areas of the world to investigations in operational environments. In support of the Navy, Marine Corps, and joint U.S. warfighters, researchers study infectious diseases, biological warfare detection and defense, combat casualty care, environmental health concerns, aerospace and undersea medicine, medical modeling, simulation, operational mission support, epidemiology and behavioral sciences. (U.S. Navy Photo by Tommy Lamkin/Released)
240615-N-UM734-1021
BALTIMORE (June 15, 2024) Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) 1st Class Vivian Jaquith (right) poses with fellow Sailors at the Naval Medical Research Command (NMRC) booth during Maryland Fleet Week and Flyover Baltimore. This year marks the City of Baltimore's fourth time hosting Navy Fleet Week, which provides an opportunity for the citizens of Maryland and the City of Baltimore to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services. More than 2,300 sea service members are expected to participate this year. NMRC is engaged in a broad spectrum of medical research, from basic science in the laboratory to field studies in austere and remote areas of the world to investigations in operational environments. In support of the Navy, Marine Corps, and joint U.S. warfighters, researchers study infectious diseases, biological warfare detection and defense, combat casualty care, environmental health concerns, aerospace and undersea medicine, medical modeling, simulation, operational mission support, epidemiology and behavioral sciences. (U.S. Navy Photo by Tommy Lamkin/Released)
Photo By: Sidney Hinds
VIRIN: 240615-N-UM734-1021

“I wanted to do something scientific that would pay forward,” Jaquith recalled, “and I wanted to challenge myself while still serving in a role where I could apply my skillset.”

Jaquith’s first deployment was aboard fast-attack submarine USS New Hampshire (SSN 778). Following this, she served as an instructor at Nuclear Power Training Unit in Ballston Spa, New York, where she taught students how to operate naval nuclear propulsion plants. She then served a three-year tour aboard guided-missile submarine USS Ohio (SSGN-726), stationed out of Bangor, Washington.

Immediately prior to joining NMRC, Jaquith served with Submarine Squadron 2 out of Kittery, Maine, as an assistant quality assurance officer.

As a nuclear machinist’s mate with a submarine-specific classification, Jaquith has spent a considerable amount of time in the undersea environment, a demanding role even among the already challenging requirements of Navy life.

“The first time on a submarine was daunting,” Jaquith explained. “When things break, there's no calling a vendor if you’re out to sea. It was challenging, balancing my own inexperience with being called on to do things that could feel beyond my skill set, but we make it through as a team.”

In May of 2023, Jaquith joined the NMRC Materiel Management Department (MMD) as a government purchase card approving official. The Navy Medicine Research & Development enterprise relies on MMD and approving officials like Jaquith to ensure the command has access to the resources needed to conduct research on behalf of U.S. service members and people around the globe.

A newcomer to Navy Medicine, Jaquith was impressed by the dedication of the research and development team.

“I didn't know what to expect,” Jaquith explained. “But this is perhaps the most professional atmosphere I've ever been in in the Navy, and everyone takes to heart the job that they do. They are eager to help people, and I think it comes with being a health professional. I’ve asked younger corpsmen at the hospitals, ‘do you like your job and doing what you do?’ and they’ll tell me how much they love helping people. I get that same vibe from the people at NMRC.”

June marks the annual recognition of Pride Month, a commemoration of LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and other sexual and gender identities) rights and culture. Pride Month recognizes the Stonewall Uprising, a series of demonstrations protesting police violence against the LGBTQIA+ community in New York City, beginning the gay rights movement in the U.S. and worldwide. It was officially recognized as an annual celebration in the U.S. in 1999 by President Bill Clinton.

With 16 years of service to date, Jaquith has seen many changes in the Navy over her career which have changed how transgender Sailors like herself have been able to live and thrive while on active duty.

Jaquith joined the Navy while the Clinton-era Defense Directive 1304.26 “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was still in effect. This directive, while prohibiting military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members, barred openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons from military service. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” enforced significant risks discouraging service members like Jaquith from disclosing parts of their lives to their peers and leadership, and resulted in multiple discharges of service members based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Jaquith described working through the conflicting desires to serve her nation in the Navy and her desire to identify openly as a woman and, in her own words, “be true to myself”. It would be 12 years into her career before she felt comfortable taking the plunge.

“I knew that I wanted to serve in the Navy and live a relatively stable life, but I had this other equal but opposite force saying ‘no, you're not being true to yourself.’ I had all of this stress inside me from the prejudice and a lot of negative energy that I bottled up to the point I felt there would be an explosion.”

Ultimately, and despite uncertainty as to whether she might be discharged from the Navy, the first colleague Jaquith came out to as transgender was her independent duty corpsman (IDC) aboard the Ohio.

“I didn't know what was going to happen to me,” Jaquith said. “I just kind of told him. ‘Hey, I'm going through this right now, and I really need your help.”

As luck would have it, a positive reception from her IDC led to further research into resources for LGBTQIA+ service members, and Jaquith was able to find support from an existing group of transgender military personnel.

“That was probably the best thing that ever happened to me,” Jaquith recalled. “I knew that I wasn't alone, there were other transgender service members like me, who were being the best versions of themselves. That spurred me to initiate my transition.”

“I never really considered myself much of a go-getter before that point,” Jaquith added. “I was accomplished, but it felt like it was all just to justify my existence. Transitioning felt like finally doing something for myself and becoming the most effective version of me.”

Jaquith plans to return to the Naval Nuclear Program following her time with NMRC, and is currently pursuing a degree in nuclear energy engineering technology, with two classes to go before graduation. Away from work, Jaquith enjoys running, and spending time with her daughter.

“She is 6 years old, has a lot of energy,” Jaquith said “She loves being outside, trying new things, movies and playing video games together. As a parent, being able to transition has also done wonders by my child. She sees that I'm being true to myself and no longer just robotic, going through the motions.”

In the time since the 2011 repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Jaquith has observed increased emphasis placed on the people that comprise the U.S. military, and on making sure they can operate at full capacity.

“When I joined, there was a prevailing mindset that wasn’t necessarily people-centric, but mostly on getting the job done, which sacrificed the well-being of Sailors, and put excessive mental health strains on them,” Jaquith said. “People generally didn't care about your identity as long as you did your job, but that doesn’t mean people weren’t still using homophobic and transphobic slurs. It was just normal for someone to say ‘that's gay,’ and we grew up around that kind of language. But the Navy can't be at 100% unless our sailors are 100%. People aren’t just resources, but part of the mission. On a submarine, there's no going on autopilot just because you’re burned out. You need the crew, from the captain to the machinist mates, operating at their best.”

Jaquith advises other LGBTQIA+ individuals who are considering careers in the Navy or elsewhere to be true to their own identities, both for the benefit of the mission, but for themselves as well.

“When you're not bombarded by hidden secrets and social stigma, you’re free to be your best self, and personally speaking I’ve been able to pay that forward to the Navy and be 10 times better just by being my true self,” Jaquith explained. “You have to be your own best advocate. There's still a lot of stigma around transgender service, and there are approvals that you have to seek from people throughout the chain of command. You're going to get resistance, but don't give up. Keep fighting for who you are and keep fighting for what you need.”

“Let me be living proof that you can get there,” Jaquith added.

More generally, Jaquith advises all new Navy recruits to make sure they find a job that they think they can enjoy doing.

“They don't lie when they say ‘choose your rate, choose your fate,’” she remarked, “but if you figure out a role that suits your abilities, you can find yourself doing some really cool things in the Navy.”

Jaquith also emphasized the important role Navy leaders play in helping their LGBTQIA+ Sailors operate at their maximum potential.

“Regardless of your stance on LGBTQ issues, listen to your sailors when they come to you for help surrounding their identity,” Jaquith advised. “They have very real issues affecting them, especially with the stigma that still exists. Unfortunately, I run into a lot of people in my circles who don't have supportive leadership, and that is devastating for them, because leadership can aid in or keep them from getting the help they need.”

“One-fifth of Generation Z identifies as LGBTQ,” Jaquith added. “So about one-fifth of the new recruits that are coming into the Navy feel comfortable enough now to identify as LGBTQ. I think that visibility of supportive leadership, and people in the LGBTQ community in positions all across the Navy, from leadership to operating equipment is powerful. You can’t underestimate the power of that, especially in this day and age, when we're facing a recruiting crisis for military members.”

Throughout Pride Month, NMRC strives to recognize the contributions of our nation’s LGBTQIA+ community to Navy Medicine on behalf of U.S. service members, their fellow Americans and people across the globe.

Story originally posted on DVIDS: NMRC Pride Month Highlight: MMN1 Vivian Jaquith 

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