FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- March has been nationally recognized as Women's History Month since 1987. It is a time to honor women past and present for their contributions to our society and our Army.
The Army Reserve has an exceptionally high number of opportunities for women to serve in increased leadership positions and this is illustrated through the Army Reserve leadership around the country. Of the four Regional Support Commands, three of them are commanded by women, and the 81st Regional Support Command uniquely is led by a female commanding general, Maj. Gen. Janet Cobb and deputy commander, Brig. Gen. Mary-Kate Leahy.
"The plethora of female role models at the highest ranks across the Army Reserve is pretty phenomenal," said Leahy. "I think the Army as an organization is so much further ahead of the rest of society when it comes to having a promotion system based recognizing and rewarding competence and not tied to gender, race or ethnicity."
In 1978 the Women's Army Corps was disbanded and women were integrated into the U.S. Army for the first time. There may be an impression that there were no leaders for young female Solders to look to for mentorship in those early days of integration, however when Maj. Gen. Cobb joined the WAC in 1974 there was a female veteran and mentor that was instrumental to her choice in serving in the Army Reserve over other services.
"I enlisted in 1974 which was kind of unusual at the time," said Cobb. "Col. Day Fullbright was my high school government teacher; she was a WAC during WWII, and the first female colonel in the Army Reserve. The Army Reserve was looking to enlist young women, and she served as a mentor early on and explained the Army Reserve to me."
Since then, women have risen to all levels of leadership including the recent inclusion of women in combat duty positions. Both leaders acknowledge an increase in female mentors as they have progressed in their careers.
"It was some years later when I was a field grade officer before I really met a senior female who served as a mentor," said Maj. Gen. Cobb. "As a battalion commander I worked for then Major General, Ann Dunwoody -- outstanding officer great mentor. She was all about not telling me what to do as a woman, but what to do as a senior leader."
"I had a few female mentors," said Brig. Gen. Leahy. "Really more in the second half of my time in the Army. When I look across my whole Army experience, on active duty, as a TPU Reserve Soldier and in the AGR program, I have had a lot more female role models during my time in the Army Reserve component."
Though both leaders are proud to serve with each other in these positions, they point out that leadership has no gender, and the road to climbing up the ranks as a female involves the same values and skill as climbing the ranks as a male -- their advice for any young leader is the same.
"Your reputation is everything -- we all try to do what's right come what may," said Cobb. "Be a servant leader, put your men and women above yourself, put their welfare and the mission above yourself and treat people fairly and equal. We all have to meet the Army standard."
"Do the very best you can in every assignment the Army gives you," said Leahy. "Be the leader you wish you had, and hold yourself to a high standard. Seek out and be a role model to others."
The 81st Regional Support Command has a rich history as an organization dating back to World War I. The unit's current command leadership team is just marking another milestone in the Wildcat history as the unit's first female command team, but the legacy they hope to leave behind reaches beyond gender lines.
"We're all here and we're all serving, and I don't think any of us think about ourselves as 'women' leaders until it's pointed out," said Cobb. "I would like to leave the legacy that I am a team builder. I hope people will say; she was able to build a team, she was wise enough to hire people that were smarter than her and that there was great camaraderie in those teams."
There is no denying that women are leaving their mark at all levels of leadership in the 81st team, and that is something Brig. Gen. Leahy is proud of.
"It's pretty neat that we're both here," said Leahy. "But I see great female leaders across the command, and hopefully it sends a very positive message that the opportunities that await them are really limitless."