March is the opening season for spring. Spring denotes the closure of winter and March renders fresh ideas of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection and regrowth.
As of March 1987, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 100-9, thereby recognizing March as Women’s History Month. The Army and the surrounding town of Fayetteville take an active role in celebrating Women’s History Month. This celebration is highlighted by well-deserved promotions, prestigious assignments and key roles of leadership and responsibility not previously held by women.
In 1997, the Army promoted the first female three-star general. Retired Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy was a military intelligence officer. Kennedy was appointed as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence.
Over the span of her 31 years of military service and exceptional contribution to military intelligence, Kennedy was inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame.
The Army promoted the first female four-star general, Gen. Ann Elizabeth Dunwoody, in 2008. Dunwoody’s many firsts include: the first woman to command a battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division in 1992, Fort Bragg's first female general officer in 2000 and the first woman to command the Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia in 2004.
Command Sgt. Maj. Sheryl Lyon, a native of Tompkinsville, Kentucky, and an accomplished leader with 28 years of service, served as the first female brigade command sergeant major for the 525th Military Intelligence Brigade from 2011 to 2015.
During her tenure, Lyon deployed to Kosovo and served as the Multinational Battlegroup-East senior enlisted advisor for Kosovo Force 17.
Lyon later served as the Command Sergeant Major for U.S. Army Europe. She currently serves as the senior enlisted advisor for U.S. Army Cyber Command in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
“Being a leader of Soldiers is my most rewarding experience; coaching, teaching and mentoring,” said Lyon. “Being able to observe young Soldiers grow and mature when afforded opportunities that challenged them to be and do their very best,” added Lyon.
Rewards in leadership for anyone come with certain challenges.
“I consider challenges to be opportunities, opportunities to prove myself, one of the biggest challenges is being able to be heard in a roomful of males without having to jump up and down on a desk or sounding shrill,” said Lyon.
As a military leader, particularly a female leader, there is a major contributor who renders strength and encouragement. Lyon says her daughter is her greatest influence.
“Being in the Army challenges you at every level. Being successful at all levels to provide a positive influence on my own daughter was very important to me.” Lyon said. “There were also a number of noncommissioned officers who influenced me along the way positively — those who I wanted to emulate — and negatively — those I did not want to be like. I was fortunate to have noncommissioned officers that were willing to answer questions and promote Soldiers and their abilities. Some of those noncommissioned officers were with the 525th MI Bde. in the beginning of my career."
Lyon remembers the most significant event in her career. This is when the Army opened all branches to female Soldiers.
Lyon can recall from the early years of being told that she could not attend Ranger school. When she asked why, the response was “because you’re a woman.”
Lyon is all about opportunities and there should not be restrictions or limitations placed due to gender.
Editor’s note: This is the first part of a two-part series on Women in Leadership.