Panel discusses women's equality in Army on 93rd anniversary of passage of 19th Amendment
August 29, 2013
ANSBACH, Germany (Aug. 29, 2013) -- U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach and 12th Combat Aviation Brigade hosted a panel discussion at the Von Steuben Community Center Aug. 26 on the subject of women's equality. The panel was held in celebration of Women's Equality Day, which commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920, which gave women the right to vote.
"The product of the profound struggle to determine what the 19th Amendment reaffirmed was that America is a place where anything is possible and where every person is created equal and entitled to the full pursuit of happiness," said Col. Christopher M. Benson, USAG Ansbach commander.
The panelists at the event included Jodee Watters, 12th CAB unit victim advocate; Desiree Padilla, Child Development Center assistant director; and Capt. Tirzah Eskew, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 12th CAB, commander. To the group that assembled at the Von Steuben, the panelists recounted their careers with the Army.
Watters joined the military police in the mid-1990s.
"There were not a lot of females in the MP Corps, and I did not realize that I was going into an all-male squad," she said. "But it was those young men that actually molded me and treated me like their equal. They didn't treat me like I was a female Soldier. They motivated me and taught me how to lead from the front."
Padilla, despite qualifying experience, faced difficulties in her career because her native language was not English.
"My perseverance and my desire to grow in the career gave me the push that I needed to excel and go back to college to take English classes and open doors that were closed to me," she said.
Eskew said that during her career she had not personally experienced any issues of gender inequality. She insisted the day should be about human rights in general.
"Women's equality should be renamed to human equality, as it's not a comparison necessarily of women and men and what they've accomplished but the basic right of all human beings to realize our full potential with limits set by themselves and not be society or those around them."
General human equality and human potential were echoed in the panel discussion that followed. Watters and Eskew gave advice to female Soldiers.
"Don't see yourself as the female Soldier, see yourself as a Soldier," said Watters.
"We're all Soldiers, and we're all in the same uniform," said Eskew. "Look at each other, look at everyone [including yourself] as a Soldier, and strive to be the best in what you do every day.
"If somebody doesn't think I can do something, then I go prove that I can, and that's the bottom line," continued Eskew.
"The sky is the limit," said Padilla. "I keep working every day, I keep taking classes: grammar, speaking, I'm not going to stop."
Watters and Eskew felt that their experiences as Soldiers were more indicative of how far the Army has already come in the fields of gender equality. During the panel, Eskew, who went to flight school at Fort Rucker, Ala., told a story about how when she told an older woman in the U.S. that she was a helicopter pilot with the Army, that the woman had been incredibly impressed.
"Many women came before us and opened those doors," said Watters. "I haven't experienced a mere factor of what those women before me have, but I have experienced some things that made me stronger."
"The doors are now open to every field in the military, or at least have started to open," said Eskew, referring to the Army's plan to reevaluate military occupational specialties currently closed to female Soldiers.
"Right now, as women in western society, the opportunities available to us are endless," said Watters. "Although that's not to say we don't run into hurdles and we don't run into people that aren't socially ready to accept us and our endless opportunities, but really it's an internal drive that you have to have."