Maj. Gen. Gina Farrisee
Maj. Gen. Gina S. Farrisee, director Military Personnel Management, is presented with a certificate and a memento after delivering the keyonte speech at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Va., Aug. 26.

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Aug. 27, 2010) -- U.S. Army leadership gathered at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Va., Aug. 26, to celebrate Women's Equality Day on the 90th anniversary that women gained the right to vote.

The leadership discussed keys to a successful military career, the challenges women have faced in the military, and changes the Army has made over the years in support of women in the service.

Maj. Gen. Gina S. Farrisee, director Military Personnel Management for the deputy chief of staff of the Army, delivered a keynote speech that paid tribute to the brave and courageous actions of women in the service.

"From the Revolutionary War to the present Global War on Terror women have served a vital role in our Army," Farrisee said. "Women have continually proven that the narrow stereotype of limiting their choice of occupation is wrong."

Women today are senior noncommissioned officers, helicopter pilots, general officers and medics, and they serve in the senior executive service. They make up 14 percent of the active Army and operate in over 93 percent of the occupations in the service.

One hundred and twenty-two thousand women have deployed since 2001, and over 16,000 are currently in theater. Nearly 700 have been casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 63 have paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country. These women are heroes, Farrisee said.

"The heart of a warrior is not limited to one gender," she added.

Female Soldiers have experienced trials and tribulations during their career, however. It wasn't until the mid-1970's that women were allowed to stay in the service while pregnant, and that their dependents were offered the same benefits as those of their male counterparts.

The Army has progressed from the days when female Soldiers were overlooked for deployment opportunities and their leadership skills were automatically questioned. The current challenges for female Soldiers mirror those of male Soldiers, said Col. Deborah Cusimano, deputy director Human Resources Policy Directorate.

"Family time, I think, is being sacrificed," Cusimano added.

Some women believe they must still prove themselves just to fit in, said Command Sgt. Maj. Maria V. Martinez, Army Diversity Office. "I advise them to be yourself because great leaders will make sure you are valued and an integral part of the team."

Women are still prohibited from serving in units whose routine mission is to engage in direct combat, but that doesn't affect the unit, the morale, or the mission. Support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan can also be dangerous, said Lt. Col. Pauline Haughton, Human Resources Readiness Division.

"The operational environment that we're serving in today is 360 degrees," Haughton added. "There's really no line. It's a team effort."

The Army culture has changed from when combat command experience was required to be promoted to the highest level, and female Soldiers point to the promotion of Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, commander Army Materiel Command, as proof.

"That was a huge milestone in 2008," Cusimano said. "The fact that General Dunwoody is now wearing four stars is for all services -- especially the Army -- critical."

Females in the Army think of themselves as Soldiers. They don't attach gender to the title because their mission is the same as males.

"When we take the oath of enlistment it's to defend the constitution of the United States of America so we're very cognizant of the fact that when the Army needs us we're going to be there no matter what," Martinez said.

Women in the Army are being recognized more and more for what they're doing. In the past couple of years there have been six or seven women breaking ground as the "first" in something, and that takes women a long way, Haughton said.

Page last updated Fri August 27th, 2010 at 14:13