Fort Leonard Wood observes Women's History Month
March 29, 2012
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- The 1st Engineer Brigade hosted the Fort Leonard Wood's National Women's History Month observance and luncheon at the Pershing Community Center March 21.
The theme of the event was "Women's Education, Women's Empowerment."
Col. Allan Webster, 1st Engineer Brigade commander, opened the event by praising women who overcame educational obstacles and changed American history.
"For centuries, women were discouraged, not allowed, … and at times, forcibly removed from educational opportunities. It took an act of Congress -- specifically in 1972 … to force the end of gender discrimination," Webster said.
"The perseverance, drive and impacts made by women throughout history and across our country have helped to shape what is our nation today," he added.
Guest speaker Becky Haas, the chief of the Installation and Emergency Operations Center on Fort Leonard Wood, serves as an example of perseverance and drive.
She told her story to the audience, beginning with her unplanned pregnancy at age 15, and choice to give her child up for adoption.
She recalled being ostracized when she returned to ninth grade after having her baby.
"Needless to say, education wasn't my highest priority," she said. "And so, after a six-month stint with the carnival -- yes, it's true … I went back to school and made straight As."
However, the challenges were not over yet. As a 21-year-old college student, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, and decided to quit school to have a family.
She married a service member, had a family, and began working as a government employee, using her military spouse employment benefits. At one point, she ended up teaching a leadership course to 100 Fort Leonard Wood leaders, despite being told that she couldn't, as a GS-7.
Then, she was faced with another obstacle.
"During that time, my marriage would end, and so too, my opportunity to compete for a job I had done faithfully for four years," she said.
So, she went to her boss' supervisor and asked how she could continue to work. He directed her to the nonappropriated fund system.
Through volunteering, learning new skills and communicating with her chain of command, she began to climb the career ladder once again, becoming the operations/security officer and eventually the installation and EOC chief for Fort Leonard Wood.
"One very important point: quitting, or giving up, has never occurred to me," she said. "My educational career has been a combination of experiences, formal classes, correspondence courses, distance learning and mentoring to achieve my goals and my organization's needs. We are never too old to start reaching, learning and growing."