By Russell Toof
Regional Health Command Europe
Each March, the U.S. Army celebrates the important contributions of women to the nation, both historically and in today’s society.
According to the U.S. Army, about 18% of the total Army is female and all positions in the Army are open to women.
Col. Claudia Peterson, who commissioned as a Nurse Corps Officer, is currently serving as the Chief of Readiness and Reserve Affairs for Regional Health Command Europe.
“I work closely with Army Medicine and the U.S. Army Reserve to fill critical medical staffing vacancies which directly impact our ability to provide world class healthcare delivery to our communities,” said Peterson. “I am also responsible for leading and providing oversight medical readiness support for RHCE throughout U.S. Army Europe and Africa.”
Peterson was raised in a military family and her desire to serve came from her experiences growing up as a military child.
“My father served in the Air Force for 24 years,” she said. “I have uncles on both my maternal and paternal sides of the family which have served in the Air Force, Army, and Navy.”
Around 80% of Soldiers come from families where at least one other member has served.
Peterson was commissioned into the Army in 2002 after receiving a Master of Science in Nursing as an Adult Nurse Practitioner. Since then, she has served in a variety of clinical and leadership roles.
“Opportunities for different career experiences along with career progression is one of the main reasons I chose to join the U.S. Army Nurse Corps.”
Her path to nursing really started at birth.
“Born weighing only two pounds, I spent the first two months of my life in Wright Patterson Air Force Base Hospital,” she said. “Growing up hearing my parents praise the nurses, providers, and medics for the outstanding care I received, inspired my choice to pursue a career of service where I can make an impact on people’s lives in a positive way.”
The 2021 Women’s History Month theme is “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced.” This theme honors the brave women who fought to win suffrage rights for women and for the women who continue to fight for the voting rights of others. Women have played vital roles in the Army since the Revolutionary War.
“During my time in the Army, women’s roles have continued to change,” said Peterson. “We saw Gen. (retired) Ann Dunwoody as the first woman to achieve the rank of four-star general in 2008. We also saw Lt. Gen. (retired) Patricia Horoho become the first female Surgeon General of the U.S. Army in 2011. That was followed by the first African American Surgeon General of the Army in 2016, Lt. Gen. (retired) Nadja West.”
Another recent accomplishment was that in 2019, Maj. Gen. Laura Yeager became the commander of the National Guard's 40th Infantry Division. She is the first woman to command a United States Army infantry division.
“We still have ground to cover in ensuring that leadership reflects the diverse and rich experience of the people who make up our Army Corps, inclusive of gender, race, orientation or cultural heritage,” said Peterson. “We have many ‘firsts’ to be proud of but lasting change comes when others follow in the footsteps of those that paved the way and diverse points of view are recognized for the valuable contributions they bring.”
As Peterson approaches 19 years of service, she offered her advice to young women just starting their career in the military.
“Set high goals and make a plan on how to achieve them,” she said. “Pursue your education. Surround yourself with people who support you on a personal and professional level. Don’t allow any setbacks or anything you consider a failure to limit you, but rather, view them as valuable lessons to help you reach the success you aspire to achieve. The Army provides so many opportunities, so pursue a career that you are passionate about. There is nothing you can’t do if you set your mind to it. Be proud and know that the career you chose will have an impact on others, just like those amazing servicemen and women who impacted mine.”
To learn more about Women’s History Month, visit https://www.army.mil/women/.