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NEWS | Aug. 27, 2021

Women’s Equality Day – Leading from the front.

By Capt. Christina Winters 84th Training Command

On Aug. 26, the 84th Training Command celebrates Women’s Equality Day. The Women’s Suffrage Movement began back in 1848 with the first women’s rights convention held in Seneca Falls, New York. Since then, the long road towards those civil liberties were paved by the sacrifices and contributions of many extraordinary women.

One of those trailblazers was Susan B Anthony, who famously said, “Here, in this very first paragraph of the Declaration, is the assertion of the natural right of all the ballot; for how can ‘the consent of the governed’ be given if the right to vote be denied?”

Over 400 women disguised themselves as men and fought in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War.

Harriet Tubman, known for her work in the underground railroad, recruited locals throughout conquered areas in the South to pass information along to Union commanders and assist in assault preparations.

Although women were not allowed to serve in the Army during World War I, many volunteered with the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army to serve in medical capacities. By June 1918, there were more than 3,000 American nurses in over 750 in British-run hospitals in France.

During World War II, more than 1,100 young female volunteers served as the first all women aviation unit known as the WASPS, or Women’s Air Service Pilots.

During the Vietnam War, more than 265,000 American women served the military and 11,000 women served in Vietnam, with 90% working as volunteer nurses.

In 2002, Michele S. Jones was the first woman in the United States Army Reserve to reach the position of Command Sgt. Major of the U.S. Army Reserve.

Ann Elizabeth Dunwoody was the first woman in United States military and uniformed service history to achieve a four-star officer rank, receiving her fourth star on November 14, 2008.

Today, Women make up 18 percent of the Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve, and 36 percent of the Army’s civilian workforce.

We recognize the women who serve across the world with the 84th TC in support of preparing, mentoring, and leading many aspiring female Soldiers within the organization.

“Today I am proud to be a part of the most powerful military in the world. A force that believes in improving and investing in women’s potential,” said Sgt. 1st Class Sheree Dillon, the supply and logistics noncommissioned officer in charge with the 84th Training Command.

Women like Dillon have paved the way for many young women seeking to push the boundaries even further.

“It is incumbent on the leaders to enforce and maintain equality among men and women. We have made strides in the right direction,” said Dillon. “When I joined 15 years ago, I was not afforded the option to select from every military occupational specialty. However, I am proud to say that I now have those options if I meet the requirements.”

The biggest thing in common for these women is their commitment to the success of their organizations.

Leaders like Brig. Gen. Patricia Wallace, who was the first appointed African American female commander in 2020 for the 91st Training Division, a unit with a 103-year history, speaks about young women following their dreams in the military.

“My advice is the same for men and women in the Army Reserve. Know your craft, be consistently engaged and present.” said Wallace. “Inspire trust, clarify purpose, align systems and unleash talent. Always pay it forward and respond honestly to all that seek advice and/or assistance.”

During her years in the military, her dedication and motivation has inspired many women to excel within the 84th TC and Army Reserve.

“If you are hesitant because of something that you have heard or are unclear on, have a conversation with individuals who have served or are serving,” said Wallace. “Don’t let generalizations, stereotypes or myths keep you from taking advantage of the many opportunities that the Army Reserve has to offer.”

With the 84th TC’s ongoing commitment to building a more diverse and inclusive force, women continue to achieve greater seniority and leadership positions within the organization.

“Being a woman comes with unique challenges, but it is not a barrier to success,” said Col. Sandra Martin, the 84th TC Chief of Staff. “If any Soldier works hard to gain the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to advance in the Army, they can and they will.”

Martin has served for 22 years and has faced many of the common challenges that women in uniform share.

“I joined the Army 22 years ago and I was told numerous times that women were incapable of performing certain jobs or MOS's,” said Martin. “The last 6 years I have observed many firsts for women; women in combat arms, female rangers, the first female Chief of Army Reserve, first female Secretary of the Army and the first female Vice President of the United States.”

These women are breaking glass ceilings and proving that they are as capable as anyone.

“I’m proud to serve in the Army and expect to see more barriers broken in the future,” added Martin.

The women of today continue to dedicate, adapt, and commit through selfless service by breaking barriers in the many challenging roles that have opened to them, from excelling in combat arms and demanding physical training requirements, to commanding leadership roles.

One such leader, 1st Sgt. Kasey Zehnder, the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment senior NCO, has been leading Soldiers from the front for 28 years.

“When I joined the Army in 1993, the field was dominated by men. I always had to prove myself and never gave up,” said Zehnder. “I always heard, ‘you will never make it in our Army’. Not only did I make it, but I surpassed my male peers with distinction.”

Women’s Equality Day can be celebrated by remembering the uniformed women in our history who have fought for equality.

“For the females in our formation, understand that you are your own limit. You can never tell women they cannot achieve greatness,” said Zehnder. “Believe in yourself and never allow adversity deter you from living up to your potential and beyond.”