“One of the qualities that makes America’s armed forces the best in the world is that we draw on the talents and skills of all our people both men and women,” said Capt. Shaye Haver, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
Haver, master of ceremony for the Women’s History Month Observance, and Capt. Kristen Griest were the first women to graduate from the notoriously demanding U.S. Army Ranger School in August 2015.
Over the last three years all combat and service roles in the Army have been opened to women, and in January six women were, for the first time, awarded the Expert Infantryman Badge, here at Fort Bragg.
But, this is not where women’s service to our country began, Haver explained.
“Women have been serving in combat roles for decades. More than 10,000 women have earned the Combat Action Badge during combat operations, and others have earned awards of valor, to include the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and Bronze Star,” she said.
Haver illustrated this point by mentioning three standout Soldiers from the recent past.
Now Lt. Col., then Capt. Kellie McCoy led 11 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division in battle and to safety when their convoy encountered an ambush between Fallujah and Ramadi in 2003. McCoy received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor for her actions.
Capt. Lindsay Gordon from the 101st Airborne Division maneuvered her Apache into harm’s way drawing fire away from 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment helicopters extracting Rangers from an objective on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan to protect both ground and aerial forces in December 2015. Gordon received the Distinguished Flying Cross for her actions.
Then Pfc., now Spc. Monica Lin Brown, while on deployment with the 82nd Abn. Div. in Paktika Province, Afghanistan pulled her fellow Soldiers to safety when their convoy hit an improvised explosive device, despite an onslaught of small arms fire. Brown was awarded the Silver Star for he actions in Afghanistan in 2007. She is the second woman since World War II to be awarded the Silver Star.
Designed to honor all military women the “Women in War: Perseverance and Sacrifice” Women’s History Month event, held at the Noncommisioned Officer Academy, Tuesday, featured a performance by Kate Campbell Stevenson, a Broadway actress. Stevenson sang and performed sharing with the audience the stories of two female pioneers—Eleanor Roosevelt, former first lady, politician, activist and diplomat and Bessie Coleman, not only the first woman to become a pilot, but also the first African-American pilot.
After the one-woman show, Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Command, addressed the audience.
The women portrayed by Stephenson, noted Richardson, had to endure struggles and failure to meet their goals; it would not have been an easy path.
“The point of all of that is that you have got to keep after it and you have got to keep going,” she told attendees.
Richardson, one of the highest-ranking female officers in the Army, was, in her youth, a competitive athlete and earned her private pilot’s license by 16.
She kept after it.
Richardson clocked 250 flight hours in a single-engine plane by the time she graduated college. When she joined the Army, this experience helped her get into the Aviation Branch, but it did not help her into her dream job.
Richardson wanted to pilot attack helicopters, but 31 years ago, as a woman, this was not one of her options. Instead, she learned to fly Blackhawks. She has, in her career, flown over 400 combat flight hours over Iraq.
“There is a common thread through all of this … through the stories of all of these women and all of our veterans,” Richardson said. “There is a willingness to serve our country a persistence to fight for the chance to serve equally, as well as to serve as role models and self-sacrifice and determination that ensures our country not only survives, but also thrives.”
Instead of observance, Richardson alluded to a future of equality.
“In the future maybe we won’t have these observances anymore because everything will be very equal,” she said.