FORT BLISS, Texas - After hearing the f-word spew from her husband's mouth during a discussion about joining the Army, Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Diane Williams finds herself with countless achievements and accolades.

Thirty years later that she shares experiences with female Soldiers looking to navigate the Army ranks.

"My husband 'forbid?' me," said Williams. "The next day I joined the Army."

Soldiers of the 5th Armored Brigade Sisters-in-Arms Chapter gathered at the Family Resiliency Center, Feb. 27, to listen as Williams spoke about her own experiences in the military and to offer advice for the future.

Williams was selected as the speaker for the group due to her heavy involvement in the El Paso community, which is focused on empowering women as professionals, as well as for having such an inspiring story riddled with strife and adversity.

Having answered the call to arms at the age of 20, before the disbandment of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, Williams was separated from the men. In that day and time, a typical morning at her physical training might include how to walk and dress like a proper woman, but that all disappeared soon thereafter.

"If we were going to be an integral part of the military, we had to be integrated," said Williams.

After the disbandment of the Corps in 1978, Williams went on to Fort Lewis, Wash., with a group of six other women, where their arrival marked the first females in the unit. Shortly after her arrival and during a field exercise, the murder of one of the six females would inspire the buddy system that the Army uses today.

"The answer was not to separate the men from the women but instead, the answer was to educate men on how to deal with us because it was a new day, and we weren't going anywhere," said Williams.

Although women had already been allowed in the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School for eight years by 1980, Williams attended at Fort Dix, N.J., where all females were told by the instructors 'when you don't make it, don't worry about it, because we know that not all of you can be a drill sergeants.' After hearing this, Williams made it her mission to graduate, and graduate she did; earning the title of Distinguished Military Graduate, Williams proved her instructors wrong.

Williams blazed trails throughout her career in spite of the many trials along the way, but through hard work and support of leaders, she thrived.

She was selected as the first Aviation Brigade CSM in the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry. Although she initially faced adversity in the unit, she eventually earned the nickname "Mufasa", a reference to the respected yet powerful lion in the Disney movie ?"The Lion King".

"What I find is that I love to teach and that is why I stayed at the Academy (U.S. Sergeants Major Academy). I wanted to have an influence on the senior non-commissioned officers of tomorrow," said Williams.

During her speech, she discussed her story as she traveled up the ranks and the hardships that she had to endure throughout her tenure. She also discussed the relationship between officers and NCO's, and the importance of mentorship. Her inspiring words encouraged a plethora of questions at the end of the event, and she also offered her advice on the current problems facing women in today's military, such as the integration of women into combat roles.

"If you, as a woman, think that you can perform on the same level as a man and get the same results, the answer is no. You have to be two steps above and that is just reality," said Williams.

Issues such as these are a hot topic with the Sisters-in-Arms program, where monthly meetings and events aim to answer questions that develop from these changes.

The program is mostly about mentorship but it's also one of the Army's responses to SHARP and many other issues, said Master Sgt. Eunice Ford, the 5th Armored Brigade's co-leader of the Sisters-in-Arms Program.

"It's supposed to create an environment where women can be more comfortable in coming forward and addressing any of these issues," said Ford.

After hearing Williams' inspirational story, the program is currently discussing ways that it can reach out to the local community, like Williams has, and contribute some of their time to empowering and mentoring the women in the El Paso area.

Page last updated Tue March 18th, 2014 at 00:00