By Staff Sgt. Shejal PulivartiMarch 11, 2016
FORT MEADE, Md. - Opening her closet, her clothes are split in two-professional business attire and heels on one side, uniform and combat boots on the other.
"I carry both ID cards at all times. Whether it's during the week or the weekend, I'm still the same person, and I'll treat you, whether you are a civilian or Soldier, with the same respect," said Shyella Lisbon, human resources officer for the 200th Military Police Command.
As a U.S. Army Reserve Soldier, Lisbon is also the personnel sergeant major for the same command, one among many women who serves in dual capacities at the 200th.
As civilians, these women support the core readiness needs of the command. These include things such as individual and collective training, administrative, maintenance, recruiting and more. As Soldiers, they serve in a wide range of military occupational specialties across all ranks, from supply specialist to the command's personnel sergeant major.
The extent of the impact women have in the armed forces has grown over the years. "There are more doors available for women now. It was very challenging when I made sergeant major," Lisbon said, proud of her achievement and the opportunities she is seeing growing in the Army. "I was the first African American female to make sergeant major in the 311th [Theater Signal Command]. Up until then, there was nothing but males. I couldn't believe that I actually made it."
Anysia Gray, who works as the unit administrator for the 200th MP Cmd. and serves as a paralegal noncommissioned officer, also saw the scarcity of women when she initially joined the Army Reserve in 2004.
Gray said that in her first unit, less than 10 percent were women. Those numbers have steadily grown as she advanced in her Army career and moved from unit to unit.
Spc. Amanda Knaus is a supply and logistics specialist for the 200th MP Cmd. while wearing the uniform. During the week, Knaus works as a civilian budget analyst for the finance office. She's a single mother with three children, dedicated to her job and the uniform.
"The military has definitely made me a (better) person. It has given me a lot of skills ... (but ultimately) I'm the same person in uniform and in civilian status-I just look a little different," she said.
For Knaus and other women like her, it's important to stay true to themselves. They support one another to progress individually while improving the Army. That same support they provide the 200th is seen and appreciated by those in command.
On honoring women in public service and government, Wesley D. Huff, command executive officer, 200th MP Cmd., said, "Our female work force in the 200th MP Cmd., both military technicians and Department of the Army civilians, are top notch! From the women of the 200th, we draw pride, comfort, courage, and a long-range vision for the MP Corps, our Army and our Nation."
Karen Goodwin, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for the 200th MP Cmd. and an Army Reserve sergeant first class Equal Opportunity Leader, said, "I have seen a change where women are taking more leadership roles now. It has changed drastically in the recent past, which is great."
Leadership is about mentoring, it's about teaching others, these women have said.
Knaus credits that kind of mentorship in her own personal success. She still remembers a female sergeant major who mentored her at the beginning of her career. "I found her mentoring and her guidance very instrumental in helping me see the differences in being Ms. Knaus and Spc. Knaus," she said.
These women have the opportunity to impact the Army in both capacities.
"Whether they are Soldiers or Civilians, it's important to know what makes them tick. They all need direction and a purpose. I treat my Soldiers and civilians the same, I'm here to empower them," said Lisbon.
If given the opportunity to speak directly to young women, Gray would say, "Be comfortable in who you are and confident in that person."
Each of these women said they have used their own experiences to motivate themselves and achieve their goals.
"While in school for engineering, I had a professor who said, 'Why don't you try cooking or something?' That just tore me down. Now, I don't let anyone tell me, 'You can't.' I press forward and make it a point to finish what I've started," said Goodwin.
For Gray, she looks back to her first deployment in 2004 as a time that shaped her outlook as a woman.
"I'm a huge feminist," said Gray. "A woman should not be held back from anything she wants to do solely because she is a woman. My deployment made me examine things and the world in a different way, and it opened my eyes to a lot of double standards and women being marginalized."
Times have changed since then, even if only a decade later. In her 12 years of uniformed service and three years as a military technician, Gray has seen the Army change its perception of women. "The military is definitely trying to go above and beyond in addressing the equality issues. [The Army is] actively trying to grow the role of women in the military," Gray said.
Gray hopes to leave an impact on the Army, as a Soldier, civilian, and as a woman. "I hope I'm showing them how to lead and to treat people how you want to be treated. I also hope that I'm showing that I'm not a cookie cutter woman, that we are not all the same. That women can be strong, that women can stand up for themselves and others," said Gray.
In spite of their segregated closets, with uniforms and civilian attires hanging on separate sides, these women have been working hard to keep their double lives in balance. In their dual roles in the Army, they have truly proven themselves as twice the citizens.