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Home : News : State Partnership Program
NEWS | March 18, 2015

Inspired in cotton fields, retired Air Guard general speaks at Women's History Month event in South Carolina

By Lt. Col. Cindi King, South Carolina National Guard

COLUMBIA, S.C. - March is recognized as women's history month and to celebrate the achievements of women in the community and military, the South Carolina National Guard is participating in various women's history themed events.

Retired Air National Guard Maj. Gen. Dr. Irene Trowell-Harris, the first African-American woman to be promoted to the rank of general officer in the National Guard, was the keynote speaker at the South Carolina Historic Aviation Foundation gathering here on March 14. Members of the South Carolina National Guard and South Carolina Youth Challenge Academy attended the event, where they heard about her inspiration to become a pilot.

"I was in the field picking cotton with my family and I saw an airplane flying over," Trowell-Harris said. "It was then I told myself one day I would fly and work on an airplane."

Trowell-Harris, a native of Aiken, S.C., rose to the rank of major general while serving in the Air Force and Air National Guard for 38 years. She is the recipient of many distinguished honors, including being inducted into the Columbia University Nursing Hall of Fame and Yale University School of Medicine and receiving an Eagle Award from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for her contributions to aviation.

At the Historic Aviation Foundation gathering, attendees were able to tour a B-25C Mitchell bomber aircraft. They also viewed many displays on the contributions of women during World War II. A "Rosie the Riveter" character actor also walked among the crowd, sharing the history of women mechanics.

"This was a great experience learning about news things, especially about females working on airplanes," said Tonyeka Baker, a Youth Challenge cadet.

Baker said she hoped to join the Air Force one day and was inspired to learn that women helped build airplanes during World War II.

When asked about the importance of women's history month, Trowell-Harris told the Youth Challenge group of female cadets, including Baker, that the accomplishments of women are celebrated every day by the goals they reach and the way they help each other.

"It is important when you rise to the next level, mentor and bring someone with you to achieve their goals too," said Trowell-Harris.

Brig. Gen. Darlene Goff, the Director of Joint Staff for the South Carolina National Guard, was also in attendance, and will be the honored guest at the women's history celebration hosted by the South Carolina National Guard on Wednesday, March 18.

"It is fitting that we are recognizing the achievements of women at multiple community events around the state," said Goff. "We were truly inspired at the Women in Philanthropy event a few weeks ago where we heard stories of South Carolina women who have done so much for our state and nation."

Goff said she was very pleased the Youth Challenge cadets were able to attend the aviation event and have a chance to ask questions of Dr. Trowell-Harris, as well as speak to female members attending from the South Carolina National Guard.

"It is important for them to meet mentors and interact with other women leaders and learn the possibilities are endless to what they can achieve," said Goff.