Pioneering general wants all Soldiers to thrive, despite their gender
By Sean Kimmons
| U.S. Army | April 19, 2017
March 8, 2017 --
Education is Brig. Gen. Miyako Schanely's passion.
While in uniform, she leads the Army Reserve's 102nd Training Division, where she molds engineers and military police officers as well as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialists.
As a civilian, she's the chief of a partnership involving six college campuses near Fort Drum, New York, which provide higher education to Soldiers and their families.
If that's not enough, she also has three master's degrees to pad her resume.
"On a personal level, I like learning myself," Schanely said. "In terms of what I do, I have a personal mission statement and that is to help people reach their potential and I feel like I do that both through my civilian job in higher education as well as through my Army job as a leader."
In December 2013, Schanely made history as the Army's first Asian-American female to join the ranks of general officer. She also became the Reserve's highest-ranking female engineer.
"Obviously it's an honor to serve at this level and I hope I can make a difference," she said in a recent interview.
Schanely belongs to a small, but growing club of Army women with general stars on their uniform.
In the Army Reserve, she's among 21 women, or about 18 percent out of a total 115 generals on active status. There are 11 women out of 92 generals on active status in the National Guard, while the regular Army has 24 female generals out of 230, according to the General Officer Management Office.
Anna Mae McCabe Hays, in 1970, became the first woman in the armed forces to be promoted to general officer. Before retiring, the Army brigadier general served as chief of the Army Nurse Corps.
As a leader in Army engineering, a career field mostly populated by men, Schanely said she is excited to open the doors to more women following the Defense Department's decision to make all military jobs gender neutral, including 12B combat engineer.
"I love being a part of recruiting and encouraging all young people, but especially women," she said. "There are plenty of opportunities out there and we certainly need the talents wherever they lie."
Under her command, the 102nd Training Division helped validate high-physical-demand testing last year, as part of the Army's move to test Soldiers looking to serve in military occupational specialties that require strenuous activity such as heavy lifting.
"If you're going to graduate and be awarded an MOS, you're going to have to perform certain physical tasks that are required for that MOS," she said.
Unlike the Occupational Physical Aptitude Test for new recruits, the HPDT has specific tasks tailored to a particular job.
For instance, combat engineers have to do a 12-mile road march, bridge crewmembers perform a two-person carry of a heavy bridge component, and Army plumbers lift the equivalent of a toilet bowl as if they were installing one.
"Because to be a plumber, you have to do that," the general said.
Feedback from Soldiers who now have to pass these tests to be part of an MOS, where many already serving were exempt from them, has been mostly positive, she said.
"We were kind of expecting a lot of push back [from students]," she said. "Instead, they were really pumped about it and proud of their achievements in meeting those standards."
Her division has also been busy partnering with proponent schoolhouses, she said, as part of the One Army School System, which synchronizes all three Army component school systems to allow Soldiers to attend the right class at the right time regardless of component.
In the system, for example, she said that an active-duty Soldier could attend a Reserve or National Guard course, or vice versa, if it was being taught closer to their post, rather than having the Soldier go back to train at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, where the division is headquartered.
"It should save the Army a lot of money in terms of travel because it now becomes a much more cost-effective and convenient process for those students and for the commands that are sending them," she said.
Her efforts in educating Soldiers also stretch to her job as the executive director for the State University of New York's North Country Consortium, a partnership of college campuses that offers extension programs to the Fort Drum area.
"All of the schools are definitely military friendly and it's considered a priority to serve our military and to serve them well," the general said.
Schanely currently resides in upstate New York, and each month she travels back and forth to Fort Leonard Wood as part of her duties as a reservist.
With all the travel, meetings and stress of her military-civilian careers, Schanely said she and her husband Steve often escape to their cabin in the Adirondack Mountains to decompress.
They kayak, hike and golf in the summer, she said, and ski and hike in snowshoes in the winter.
"We have easy access to more mountains, lakes and trails than we can probably ever explore in our lifetime, although we're sure going to try," she said, laughing. "That is how we recharge."
When fully charged again, Schanely also draws on inspiration from her military family. Her father and mother both served in the Air Force, and her stepfather worked as an Army intelligence officer while his family was forced to live at internment camps during World War II.
"He and many other Japanese-Americans volunteered to serve during that time even while their families were living under those conditions," she said.
She also had two uncles serve for a short time in the military. Despite all of their service, none of her family members insisted on her serving as well, according to the general.
"I come from a long line of patriots," she said. "They did not put pressure on me at all (to join). They really allowed me to discover for myself that this was what interested me and motivated me."