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NEWS | Aug. 25, 2020

Women's Equality Day – Recognizing Soldiers who lead the way

By Maj. Jean Kratzer Task Force Spartan

UNDISCLOSED LOCATION – Aug. 26 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing and protecting women's constitutional right to vote.

Bold trailblazers such as Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were leaders in a movement that fought for women's suffrage at a national level.

Women now make up 20 percent of the Air Force, 19 percent of the Navy, 16 percent of the Army and almost 9 percent of the Marine Corps, according to the Department of Defense.

Prominent women have been fighting for the country since the Revolutionary War, starting with Molly Pitcher and Deborah Sampson.

Some 21,000 women served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War I. In World War II there were the WASPS, known as Women's Air Service Pilots, Women Army Corps, and the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.

During the Vietnam War, 11,000 military women were stationed in that country.

In 1970, Anna Mae Hays became the first female promoted to the grade of brigadier general.

In 2008, the incredible accomplishments of Ann Dunwoody earned her the title of the first woman in the U.S. military to achieve the rank of four-star general.

In 2019, Maj. Gen. Laura Yeager became the commander of the National Guard's 40th Infantry Division.

And now, as we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, we recognize the women serving overseas in the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield, which falls under the 42nd Infantry Division.

Five women, five different roles in the U.S. Army, each accomplished leaders, successfully taking charge in multiple leadership roles and numerous deployments. All love being in the Army and serving their country.

"This is only the beginning; women will continue to break barriers," said Capt. Jennifer Alvarez, the operations company commander under the 42nd Infantry Division.

These women agree they serve for the love of their country.

"The Army embodies so much of what I believe in; love of country, duty, respect, service, honor, integrity and principled counsel. Military service gives these words meaning," said Col. Jude Mulvey, who falls under 42nd Infantry Division as the judge advocate.

With 22 years of service, Mulvey said: "I had no idea how my life would change, and how the Army would give me the opportunity to accomplish things I never thought possible. I went from volunteer of the year of a Junior League to serving in a combat zone."

According to the Center for a New American Security, as of July 2019, 46 women had graduated from Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course, 72 women from the Armor Basic Leader Course, and 270 enlisted women from Infantry and Armor training.

In 2018, Capt. Emily Lilly at age 38 became the first female National Guard graduate of the U.S. Army Ranger School. The armor officer and mother of two recommends more women to try out for Ranger school.

"I was No. 13, and there are 53 women with tabs now, with quite a few currently in the course. Yes, it's physically demanding, but it is more about heart and drive," said Lilly, who is deployed with the Army National Guard's 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, which falls under Task Force Spartan.

As an African-American woman serving in the military for over 40 years, Sgt. Maj. Debora Mallet, the supply and services noncommissioned officer in charge for the 42nd Infantry Division, speaks about young women following their dreams in the military.

She said that always entails living the Army Values, setting the example, leading from the front, and most importantly, putting forth your best effort in everything you do.

"I am excited and honored to serve during such a historic time where the integration of women in combat arms has begun to occur. The United States has more women serving in its military than any other nation," Mallet said.

During her years in the military, she has been inspired by the positive changes for women.

"The greatest joys in my military career have been in developing Soldiers and watching them grow and achieve greatness," Mallet said.

With the military building a more diverse and inclusive force, women are continuing to achieve greater seniority and leadership positions across the services.

"I am a minority in my field, but I love being in the Army, mostly because of the connection that develops between Soldiers," said Col. Theresa Meltz, physician assistant and clinical operations officer in charge with the 42nd Infantry Division. "Whether it's drilling or deploying with others. A definite bond exists that lasts indefinitely."

From breaking barriers in combat to challenging military physical fitness standards and commanding leadership roles, today's women follow those whose dedication and commitment through the years opened the doors to these opportunities.

Women's History Day can be celebrated by remembering the women who have fought for women's equality.

"There will always be those that say you can't do this because you're a woman, or you're not strong enough, or not enough command presence, or no leadership skills," said Alvarez.

"It is your job to prove them wrong. The only way to do so is by pushing harder and always going after those goals and crushing them," Alvarez added.



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