Gökçen Fırat makes history as the Turkish Navy’s first female Admiral

A female naval officer has become the most senior ranked woman in Turkish naval history after being promoted to Rear Admiral. Gökçen Fırat’s elevation to the third highest naval rank makes her one of the most senior military figures in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).

Rear Admiral sits just below Admiral and Vice-Admiral, positions currently held by Adnan Özbal and Aydın Şirin respectively.

About Gökçen Fırat

Gökçen Fırat has enjoyed an exemplary career in the Turkish navy since joining over 25 years ago. She was born in Istanbul on 22 June 1977 and graduated from the Turkish Naval Academy in 1998, paving the way for women in the navy ever since.

She made history as the first female ship commander in Turkiye, commanding the TCG Training Boat-2 — one of the training ships where Naval Academy students are prepared for naval duties. Firat has also served as an underwater weapons officer and as an anti-submarine warfare officer on the TCG Yavuz frigate.

Her career has seen her spend time working in the headquarters of the General Staff, as well as at Turkiye’s Ministry of Defence, in the SACT Joint Warfare Centre in Norway, and at the NATO Allied Maritime Command in Northwood, England.

In 2019, Firat completed her staff officer training at the Naval War College and was promoted to the rank of Naval Staff Colonel. She made history again when she was promoted to Naval Admiralty as a Rear Admiral earlier this week.

In a rare interview in 2004, soon after becoming the first woman to be promoted to Colonel in the navy, Firat said, ”There are many female doctors, but being a female officer is different.”

“Being an officer [in the military] has a very respected place in Türkiye; it’s a very beautiful profession. It’s also something very new for women. The Turkish Armed Forces are a highly respected institution in Türkiye. I wanted to be a part of it.”

Firat joins another pioneering Turkish female soldier, Özlem Yılmaz, in heading up the Turkish military. Yılmaz made history when she was promoted to Brigadier General in 2022 after three decades of service, becoming the first ever female general in Türkiye.

Changes to Turkiye’s senior military command personnel

Fırat’s promotion to Rear Admiral was announced following a meeting of the Supreme Military Council on Thursday. The meeting, chaired by President Erdoğan, discussed a raft of new appointments as part of changes to the current military command structure following the departure of Yaşar Güler as Chief of General Staff in June, when he was appointed Defence Minister by President Erdoğan following his re-election.

Metin Gürak was named the new Chief of General Staff of TSK on Thursday. General Ziya Cemal Kadıoğlu becomes the new Air Forces commander following the retirement of Atilla Gulan.

A total of 32 Generals and Admirals have been promoted, along with the promotion of 63 Colonels to the rank of General or Admiral, effective from August 30. The number of generals and admirals in the Turkish Armed Forces will now rise from 266 to 286.