Bagram celebrates Women's History Month
April 1, 2013
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (March 29, 2013) - A soldier often doesn't care where his or her gear came from, just that it works when it matters. Bootlaces? Stay tied on the foot patrol and don't break. M4 rifle? Don't jam. Kevlar body armor? Just stop the bullets and the shrapnel, please.
But the gear came from somewhere. Kevlar, for instance, was invented by Stephanie Kwolek, a DuPont scientist, in 1971. This substance has a variety of uses, from radial tires to body armor, and Kwolek and Kevlar have saved more than one soldier's life during the course of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Women such as Kwolek were honored at a special Women's History Month observance at Bagram Air Field, Friday, March 29.
The events at the banquet included speeches from U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Tonika Scott-Morris and Lt. Col. Anneliese Steele, as well as entertainment from the Air Assault Band, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), which played such rousing numbers as "Isn't she lovely," and "Celebration."
Steele, chief of knowledge management, 101st Abn. Div., received her commission as a second lieutenant after graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1987. She is one of few female field grade officers in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In her keynote address, Steele paid tribute to several mathematicians, scientists and engineers (women such as Kwolek) who served as role models in her own career.
"As I think about the challenges these women overcame, I am convinced - in comparison - that the women of today have made it," she said. "I personally am in debt to these trailblazers."
Scott-Morris, battalion command sergeant major, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 101st Abn. Div., enlisted in the Army in 1987 as a parachute rigger.
The Army currently has only two female riggers who hold the enlisted rank of sergeant major or higher. Scott-Morris is one of them.
"I love being a rigger. It takes a lot out of you, though," she said, smiling. "You just can't be afraid of a challenge."
Scott-Morris said she drew her inspiration for her service from her father's own military career. Her father, a Vietnam War veteran, ended his career as a staff sergeant. This was due to an Army-wide rank-freeze, which made promotion impossible. When Scott-Morris was promoted from staff sergeant to sergeant first class, she said sharing the moment with her dad was the greatest moment in her career.
"I joined the Army to make my father proud of me," she said.
Both Scott-Morris and Steele attributed their success to faith and family as sources of support as well as inspiration.
"A strong faith helps me overcome anything," Steele said. "One of my biggest triumphs is the great support of my husband and two kids."
Both also agreed that having strong role models is necessary for any woman wanting a career in the military, particularly in fields which are predominately male. But strength of character is a must.
"Think that 'I'm going to be the subject matter expert in my job.' Don't sell yourself short," Scott-Morris said. "Keep yourself to a higher standard."