Cmdr. Josée Kurtz has officially taken charge of the warship HMCS Halifax, the first time that a Canadian woman has led a major warship.

Kurtz assumed command as the 11th Commanding Officer of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Halifax on Tuesday morning during a change-of-command ceremony on board the ship.

Kurtz said it's not as big deal for women to take lead roles in the military as it was when she first joined the Canadian Forces 19 years ago.

'It was a bit of give and take on my part to accept that they were not going to accept me overnight and just go on little steps one at a time.' —Cmdr. Josée Kurtz

"When I joined, I realized I was joining an environment that had not had women traditionally working with them, and that transition was not going to happen overnight," said Kurtz. "So, it was a bit of give and take on my part to accept that they were not going to accept me overnight and just go on little steps one at a time. And I think that whole attitude, on both sides, paid dividends."

Halifax has a crew of about 220 sailors, including 15 women.

Kurtz succeeds Cmdr. Art McDonald, who assumed command in June 2007.

She has served on other ships, including HMCS Nipigon and Protecteur. Last June, she was appointed executive officer of HMCS Ville de Quebec while the ship was escorting food aid being delivered to Somalia.

Kurtz holds a bachelor of arts from the University of Ottawa and a masters in defence studies from the Royal Military College of Canada. She is also a graduate of the joint command and staff program at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto.

She was born in Joliette, Que., and currently lives in Halifax with her husband and daughter.

The first woman commanding officer of a Canadian Navy ship was Lt.-Cmdr. Marta Mulkins who took command of a maritime coastal defence vessel, HMCS Kingston, in July 2003.