By Kevin Fleming, ASC Public AffairsMarch 18, 2016
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- Command Sgt. Maj. Myris C. Callwood, command sergeant major, Rock Island Garrison, spoke to about 130 Rock Island Arsenal personnel during the annual Women's History Month observance ceremony, here, March 15.
The theme of the event was: "Working to form a more perfect union honoring women in public service and government." Heather Tahja, human relations specialist, G-1 (Human Resources), Joint Munitions Command, provided the opening remarks for the event.
"The purpose of Women's History Month is to increase consciousness and knowledge of women's history," she said. "To take one month of the year to remember the contributions of notable and ordinary women in hopes that the day will soon come when it is impossible to teach, or learn, history, without remembering their contributions."
Command sergeant major is the highest enlisted position in a unit. As the senior enlisted Soldier in her unit, Callwood advises Col. Elmer Speights, commander, RIA Garrison, and coordinates day-to-day operations with garrison directors.
Callwood began her speech discussing the importance of recognizing women in government service.
"Today, women have a stronger voice than ever when it comes to political matters," she said.
Callwood said women have recently made great strides in the military, emphasizing the female Soldiers who graduated from the Army Ranger School in 2015.
She also talked about the accomplishments of several female leaders, including: Brig. Gen. Diana Holland, the first female commandant of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy; Maj. Gen, Lisa Sing, the first woman to serve as the adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard; and Lt. Gen. Nadja West, the highest-ranking woman to have graduated from West Point and the new Army surgeon general.
Callwood told the story of Sgt. Leigh Hester, a Kentucky Army National Guard Soldier who earned the Silver Star for her actions on March 20, 2005, during an insurgent attack near Baghdad, Iraq.
"In Afghanistan and Iraq, our female warriors contributed to the fight by walking patrol as medics, military police officers and intelligence analysts; serving on female engagement teams that meet Afghan women to gain understanding, and leading resupply convoys along some of the most dangerous roads in the world," she said.
"We can all nod in agreement that a roadside bomb does not care about gender, and these wars know no front line."
Callwood also talked about her story, saying she is not much different from other enlisted Soldiers. She said she has been successful in her career because of the support she received from her peers and leadership, coupled with a lot of competitive hard work.
When she was a sergeant first class during her first rotation as a drill sergeant, Callwood said she faced some gender discrimination.
"While I was a drill sergeant, I personally learned some male Soldiers -- both those in training and your battle buddies -- did not appreciate taking orders from a female," she said.
However, after a powerful self-assessment and with the reinforcement of her sergeant major, Callwood said she was able to address the situation effectively.
Callwood said her story centered on her learning how to be a leader.
"Overall, these experiences came with life-long lessons learned that helped shape me as a Soldier and a leader," she said.
She closed her speech with a call for parents to support their daughters, and for everyone to support the special women in their lives.
"Support her, and then watch as she writes her story," she said. "All we need is opportunity."
The event was sponsored by the U.S. Army Sustainment Command Equal Opportunity Office.
Melanie Johnson, executive director, U.S. Army Contracting Command-Rock Island, provided closing remarks. Johnson is one of only a few female senior executive service members on the island.
Sgt. 1st Class Octavia Robinson-Wilson, RIA Health Clinic non-commissioned officer, recited "Phenomenal Women," a poem by Maya Angelou following the opening remarks.