Dr. Darlene M. Iskra is a retired naval Commander (O-5). During her career, she was a groundbreaker for women in the military. She was among the first women to qualify as a Surface Warfare Officer and to serve as a sea-going officer. She was the first woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy. She was the first woman to command a ship in a combatant zone, the USS Opportune ARS-41, which she took to war during Desert Storm in January 1991. Additionally, she was one of the first female Navy diving officers, completing the Naval School of Diving and Salvage in May 1980. Her diverse naval experience includes staff work at the headquarters level in Washington D.C. and in an overseas environment. This includes enlisted personnel management at the Bureau of Naval Personnel; and civil affairs, disaster and military attaché work in Guam and the Marianas Islands for the United States Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, Representative, Marianas.
Following her retirement from the U.S. Navy in April 2000, Ms. Iskra began her graduate level studies at the University of Maryland. In 2002, she was selected as a Congressional Fellow for Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). In that capacity, Ms. Iskra was instrumental in passing legislation that changed the Department of Defense's (DOD) policy on the requirement for military women stationed in Saudi Arabia to wear the abaya (Muslim covering) when off base. The changed policy helped to improve the personal security of all military in Saudi Arabia, plus it reinforced the authority of U.S. female military officers in theater.
Dr. Iskra holds an MA in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College, Newport, RI and an MA and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Maryland. She has published in Current Sociology and Proceedings on issues related to the military and women. Current research interests include issues of gender integration in the military, non-traditional military families, and the integration of work and family in the military. She is the author of two books, Women in the United States Armed Forces: A Guide to the Issues (2010) and Breaking Through the 'Brass' Ceiling: Elite Military Women's Strategies for Success (2008). She is currently working on a book about women military divers.