By Mr. Gustavo Bahena (Irwin)March 6, 2014
FORT IRWIN, Calif. -- The National Training Center and Fort Irwin celebrated Women's History Month with a standing-room only ceremony, March 5.
Women all over the country and the Army are being recognized during the observance, whose theme is "Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment." This year's proclamation by President Barack Obama states that throughout our nation's history, American women have led movements in social and economic justice, made groundbreaking scientific discoveries, enriched culture with stunning works of art and literature, and charted bold directions in our foreign policy. They have served our country with valor, from the battlefields of the Revolutionary War to the deserts of Iraq and mountains of Afghanistan.
At this high desert military installation, Operations Group and the Equal Opportunity/Equal Employment Opportunity office sponsored the event -- which packed the venue, Sandy Basin Community Center. Guest speaker Col. Cheryl Taylor-Whitehead, commander of United States Army Medical Department Activity, here, thanked all the women in uniform at the ceremony for "all you have done, what you're currently doing, and what you will do in the time to come." She asked Spc. Marissa Joyner and Staff Sgt. Holly Burke to stand and be recognized as the Soldier of the Year and Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year (fiscal year 2013) for MEDDAC.
Burke, operations NCO-in-charge at Weed Army Community Hospital, here, said the competition (held in December) was challenging, but she felt compelled to participate and be an example for junior Soldiers. The contest allowed her to experience being tested and to charge forward.
"Attitude makes a difference," Burke said. "If you want to compete, and you want to be there and do the best that you can -- it's all about your attitude. Have that positive attitude and the dedication."
With almost 10 years of service, Burke acknowledged there may be challenges for young women progressing in their military careers, but that should not deter them from succeeding.
"Don't let obstacles stop you -- it only makes you better," Burke said. "Be resilient and be able to bounce back."
Joyner, NCOIC for obstetrics and gynecology at WACH, unable to compete the previous year, was determined to participate in the challenge that tests Soldiers in land navigation, weapons qualification, Army history and regulations, physical fitness and combatives -- the Army's hand-to-hand fighting technique. Looking forward to the opportunity, she prepared in advance. I wanted it, she said.
"I'm very competitive," Joyner said. "I trained a couple of months before going, because I knew I was going to go. Everything's a challenge [for me], because I'm always so competitive."
During the combatives phase -- which included grappling with a male Soldier, who wrestled competitevly in high school -- Joyner admitted she was apprehensive, but ready for the physical battle. In that match, though not the winner, she was able to brawl longer than some of the other male competitors.
"It was definitely a big challenge for me," Joyner expressed. "I was nervous and shaking, but I fought as far as I could. It was exciting. It was an adrenaline rush."
With a huge smile, Joyner (who once completed 101 pushups during a MEDDAC competition) stood as the ceremony audience applauded her and Burke's achievement. Joyner declared she is humble by nature, but she stated that the ceremony honoring women was inspirational.
"To see all these women do these great things, to know that everybody is taking part in the community -- it's a great feeling," Joyner said.
In concluding her remarks, Taylor-Whitehead appreciated past women, who have carved their names in history and paved the way for others.
"There is no doubt women have created a legacy that expands the frontiers of possibilities of generations to come," she said.