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U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC)

U.S. Navy Commissions First Female Tongan Officer

by Petty Officer 2nd Class Storm Henry, Amphibious Construction Battalion 1
11 May 2022

Ensign Mary McCray is the first female Tongan commissioned officer in U.S. Navy history.
CORONADO, Calif. (April 29, 2022) Ensign Mary McCray, assigned to Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) 1, officially departs as an ensign during her commissioning ceremony at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, April 29, 2022. McCray is the first female Tongan commissioned officer in U.S. Navy history. ACB-1 conducts ship-to-shore transportation and construction support as a part of joint amphibious operations around the world. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Storm Henry)
Ensign Mary McCray is the first female Tongan commissioned officer in U.S. Navy history.
220429-N-DK042-1247
CORONADO, Calif. (April 29, 2022) Ensign Mary McCray, assigned to Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) 1, officially departs as an ensign during her commissioning ceremony at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, April 29, 2022. McCray is the first female Tongan commissioned officer in U.S. Navy history. ACB-1 conducts ship-to-shore transportation and construction support as a part of joint amphibious operations around the world. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Storm Henry)
Photo By: Petty Officer 2nd Class Storm Henry
VIRIN: 220429-N-DK042-1247
Ensign Mary MeleNaite Tufui Likio ‘Fui’ McCray commissioned as the first female Tongan officer in U.S. Navy history, April 29, 2022.

Friends and family witnessed a commissioning ceremony at Amphibious Construction Battalion 1 that was full of Tongan heritage and saw McCray transition from her previous enlisted position as a Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class to an Ensign.

“My parents came to Los Angeles in 1985 from Tonga and I was born in Long Beach, California,” McCray stated about her background. “Watching my immigrant parents grind every day to provide for us built a sense of hard work and perseverance in me, which I have carried through every challenge and responsibility I have had.”

In meeting McCray, it was apparent what everyone in attendance knew: This moment was inevitable. Her dedication to duty was noticeable from childhood. McCray remembers when her father, an engineer, wanted to join the Army but was not allowed because his English was not proficient enough. Because of his inability to join, McCray had a desire to fulfill the dream to serve and joined the Navy directly out of high school, so she went to her local recruiters in Euless, Texas.

“I remember getting my ship to basic training date, which was a few months away,” McCray recounts. “I knew I didn’t want to waste any time and lose sight of my goals after I graduated, so I called my recruiter and had my shipping date changed to as soon as possible. One Sunday right after church, the recruiters came to my door, and I already had my bags packed. It took my Mom by surprise, and there was a lot of crying, but I am glad I made the decision I did. It was time to start the new chapter in my life.”

After McCray reported to her first ship as a young Boatswain’s Mate aboard USS Dewey (DDG 105), she was already making history by commissioning the vessel and becoming a plankowner. It was soon after this that she recalls coming across her first Boatswain on a neighboring ship. McCray saw an officer directing personnel over the deckplates. She saw the leadership they exuded and the respect they earned and asked who they were. After a Sailor explained who the Boatswain was, McCray had her ultimate career goal.

“After that encounter, I wanted to be that person,” McCray stated. “God really paved the way for me and gave me that energy and strength to get through every obstacle. In the Navy, there are so many who led the way for me. I am grateful that all of my leaders and mentors along the way weren’t afraid to tell me direct and get into the nitty gritty of how to be successful.”

McCray’s career soared. She sought a higher education and married a fellow U.S. Navy Boatswain’s Mate, who is now also a commissioned Boatswain. They have welcomed three children. Now, she has met her goal of becoming a Boatswain. Ensign McCray attributes her groundbreaking success to the important advice provided by her father, Alifeleti Likio, “He told me, ‘Are you going to run with what you have or are you going to quit on yourself? You know, if you quit on yourself now, you are always going to quit.’ I have carried that with me everywhere I have gone.”

McCray has a message for other Tongan females, “Now there is a living testimony that this is all possible. You can have a successful family, both professionally and personally, and you don’t have to limit yourself. Only you can limit yourself, and you are limitless. The door is now wide open, and you are looking at me, and I am looking at you and we are both real. We can all make it. Don’t ever entertain negativity and carry grace wherever you go.”

‘Fui’ would like to dedicate her story to her late father, Alifeleti Likio, from Kolomotu’a, for the love and guidance he provided always.


 
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