By Adrienne AndersonAugust 28, 2013
FORT BENNING, Ga., (Aug. 28, 2013) -- Fort Benning's only female general officer was the featured speaker at the installation's Women's Equality Day observance Monday at the Benning Club here.
Brig. Gen. Michaelene Kloster, commander of the 98th Training Division, explained how the annual observance commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted women full voting rights.
She described how the 1920 amendment is a testament to the courage and tenacity of the women who challenged our nation to live up to its founding principles, equality for all Americans of both genders.
She linked the tenacity of the women who fought so hard to win the right to vote to the formula for success for women, and all Soldiers, today: "don't stop" when it comes to achieving your goals, said Kloster. "It may be hard. And, you may be trying to do something that doesn't suit you -- go ahead and try something else (if need be), but don't stop trying," she said. "Don't stop taking charge of that opportunity you have, because you might get to a certain age … and that opportunity may pass you. So when an opportunity knocks, don't stop -- take it."
The women's suffrage movement began in 1848. It took more than 70 years to reach the goal, but the women in the movement didn't stop.
Kloster said in her time in the Army, people in general, including her peers and superiors have treated her as just another Soldier and that being a woman hasn't closed any doors.
"I really don't see a difference, other than the uniforms," she said about her years of experience in the military. "I am treated the same as I was as a lieutenant. I've been encouraged to continue to take the tough jobs. I've been encouraged to be a mentor."
Women have been fighting in the ongoing war alongside men for 13 years, she said. And it has shown women's value and worth in the military. Many women have also lost their lives fighting.
"I think male Soldiers have no problem with a woman who meets the standard and performs as a member of the team," Kloster said, adding that it is when a member of the team, no matter the gender, is unable to perform to standard that there is a problem.
When introducing Kloster, Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning commanding general, spoke about the strides women have made in service of their country and how current issues surrounding sexual assault and harassment undermine those advancements and the Army in general.
"Sexual harassment and sexual assault undermines our professionalism and our duties and responsibilities -- not only to ourselves, but it undermines our professional reputation with the American people," he said. "And, we have to recognize this issue as a threat to our combat effectiveness as well."
Teams are bound together through trust and respect, he said. That bond is vital to protecting the cohesiveness and combat effectiveness of teams. "We have to make sure that we create … a culture across our Army, and within every organization, that is absolutely intolerant of any behavior that can lead to sexual harassment and assault," said McMaster.
"It wasn't that long ago when women were disenfranchised," he said, "so today, we have to make sure we protect the gains that women have made and not be complacent. As we recognize the tremendous contributions women have made to our Army, we must ensure that we continue to lead the way in integrating women into all of our units as full members of our teams."