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NEWS | March 24, 2014

For Women's History Month, Pennsylvania Guard WACs reflect

By Maj. Angela King-Sweigart Pennsylvania National Guard

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. - Numbers are hard to come by, but few women remain in the Pennsylvania National Guard who were members of the Women's Army Corps (WAC). Formed as the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps in 1942, it transitioned into the WAC in 1943. The WAC remained a separate command until 1978.

The subject comes to mind in the closing days of Women's History Month.

Master Sgt. Terry White is one of these women, She enlisted into the WAC July 13,1974, and has served for 40 years with the Pennsylvania National Guard.

"After I enlisted, I went to Fort McClellan, Ala., and attended WAC basic training. The training was segregated, all women with women drill instructors," she said. "After graduation I wore the Pallas Athene on my uniform."

The symbol often associated with the WAC, and worn on WAC uniforms, is the Pallas Athene, Greek goddess of victory and womanly virtue - wise in peace and in the arts of war. The Pallas Athene logo depicts the Greek goddess Athena in profile wearing a Greek military-style helmet.

Once White returned to the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, she was incorporated into the ranks the same as other Soldiers, but she remained a trailblazer. At a time when many women opted to serve in medical and administrative roles, White opted to serve in what was then the 28th Finance Company in finance and accounting fields. The 28th Finance Company is still a unit within the Pennsylvania National Guard, and is now the 28th Financial Management Company out of Lebanon, Pa.

White continued to serve in a variety of capacities within the Pennsylvania National Guard as a full-time technician. Her positions encompassed a variety of areas including, finance, logistics and safety.

One of the changes she has seen over the years is with the uniforms women have worn. A sentiment shared by retired Master Sgt. Ann Kaltreider, who enlisted in the WAC in 1972, and after a brief stint on active duty served in the Pennsylvania National Guard from 1976 to 2013.

"In basic training, we had to wear cold-starched blue skirts," Kaltrieder said. "When the class sat down we all crunched in unison."

Both women said the "cords" were one of their favorite uniforms. This uniform along with its winter green counterpart was the first official green uniform worn by women in the service. It symbolized the greater acceptance of women into the service as it was the same color as the men's. The two-piece ensemble consisted of a pinstriped skirt and green blouse. By the 1990s the women's uniforms were very similar to the men's.

Reflecting back on their service, both women experienced some of the challenges and triumphs that come with being the first.

"I was encouraged to apply for a full-time position with the National Guard. At the time, you had to take a civil service exam. It was pretty tough," she said.

But Kaltreider persevered.

"I was the first woman to hold the administrative supply technician position in the state," said Kaltreider.

White echos those sentiments.

"I was the first female first sergeant in the Division Support Command, 28th Infantry Division," White said. "Looking back, my advice would be stay persistent. Do the best job you can. Don't let anyone tell you can't. Know your job, and don't give up."