Suffolk residents Layla and David Pace recently were commissioned to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 2. She became the first female engineman chief to be commissioned to the rank in the Navy.
Suffolk residents Layla and David Pace recently were commissioned to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 2. She became the first female engineman chief to be commissioned to the rank in the Navy.

A first in 2013

Published 9:58pm Monday, December 23, 2013

Suffolk residents David and Layla Pace recently were commissioned to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 2 four months apart.

The promotions were especially rewarding for the husband-and-wife team, because she became the first female engineman chief to be commissioned to the rank in the entire Navy.

“Here it is 2013, and females are still doing something first,” Layla Pace said. “It’s stereotypically the male thing. Now I can tell other girls, females in engineering, you can still do this. A lot of women get discouraged in engineering.”

The New Jersey native has been in the Navy for more than 23 years.

“My mother gave me some choices,” she said. “Get a job, go to college or join the military. I don’t think she thought I would join the military.”

Layla Pace admits she didn’t even know how to drive a car when she joined the military.

“I knew nothing about a car.”

But others kept pushing her toward the engineman rating, which requires caring for the engines, air conditioning, refrigeration and other mechanical systems on board the ships.

“After my first appointment, I wanted to stay as an engineman,” she said. “It was something different, and there were not a whole lot of females.”

Currently stationed on the USS Normandy, Pace says she had no idea when she first joined the Navy that becoming a “first” was in her future.

“I kind of shocked myself. If somebody had said, ‘Hey, in 23 years this is going to be you,’ I would have thought they were lying or playing a mean joke.”

Her husband has been her support “200 percent,” she said.

David Pace, also a native of the Garden State, joined up almost 21 years ago. His father had been in the Navy.

He, too, works on the ship’s engines, but in a different area. Like his wife, he enjoys the opportunity to inspire the younger generation.

“I get to help mentor junior sailors and help them achieve what they’re trying to achieve,” he said.

The couple has three daughters and one son.

Navy chief warrant officers, the rank to which they were both promoted, are technicial specialists with knowledge and skills of a specific occupational field at a level beyond what is normally expected of a master chief petty officer.

Both Paces went through a program that provides commissioning opportunities to qualified senior enlisted personnel.

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