By Mr. Bryan Gatchell (IMCOM)March 28, 2014
ANSBACH, Germany (March 28, 2014) -- March is Women's History Month, and to celebrate the achievement of women in the military, U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach held an observance March 27, 2014.
The event, held at the Von Steuben Community Center at Bismarck Kaserne, featured members of Ansbach High School's Junior ROTC dressed in costume portraying famous women in the history of the American military as well as remarks by Col. Christopher M. Benson, USAG Ansbach and Franconia Military Community commander, and a speech by special guest Lt. Col. Michelle Bienias, USAG Bamberg commander.
"These role models, along with countless others, demonstrate the importance of writing women back into history," said Benson during his opening remarks of the women portrayed during the ceremony. "Their lives and their work inspire girls and women to achieve their full potential, and encourage boys and men to respect the diversity and depth of women's experiences and accomplishments."
Bienias, in her speech, recounted specific examples of women breaking barriers in the military, including the recent examples of Adm. Michelle Howard, vice chief of naval operations, who recently attained the highest rank of any woman in the history of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. military; Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, who became the first woman to serve as a four-star general in the U.S. Army and the first woman to lead a major U.S. Army command; Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, who has spent 10 years in command with five back-to-back commands; and more.
"We must not ignore the fact that only approximately 5 percent of general officers in the Army are women, just 8 percent are command sergeants major, and just 13 percent of Army personnel are female," said Bienias. "We can expect to see this percentage increase in the future as combat jobs are opened to women."
Bienias also highlighted some of the successes of women in the military, including Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, who received the Silver Star for valor in 2005, making her the first woman since World War II to receive the honor. Bienias also mentioned Sgt. Monica Brown, a medic who moved Soldiers away from fire during combat in Afghanistan in 2007, and Sgt. Sherri Gallagher, the first female to win the Army's Best Warrior competition.
"The next several years promise to be exciting for women in the military as more barriers are removed and women continue to assert themselves as critical members in the defense of our nation and the achievement of our nation's objectives," said Bienias.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Forsythe, equal opportunity adviser for USAG Ansbach, helped organize the event. He believed that one of the best avenues for ensuring that progress continues to be made toward gender equality in the military is to remember the lessons of the past.
"Without our history, all is lost, and we're bound to repeat our same mistakes," said Forsythe. "It's really important for our progression to continue to teach our history."
As a coda to her speech, Bienias quoted Dunwoody from 2008 when she became the first four-star general in U.S. military history:
"'I have never considered myself anything but a Soldier,'" Bienias quoted Dunwoody. "'I recognize that with this selection, some will view me as a trailblazer, but it's important that we remember the generations of women, whose dedication, commitment and quality of service helped open the doors of opportunity for us today. There are so many talented women in our Army today … you would be impressed.'"