By Staff Sgt. Tomora ClarkMarch 18, 2016
This article is the first in a two-part series illustrating the roles women have in the military: Part 1 focuses on Lt. Col Lynn Ray, the first commander of the newly stood-up Regimental Engineer Squadron.
FORT HOOD, Texas - A role model is often described as someone who radiates confidence, is highly successful and sets the example for others to emulate.
Many role models are credited with breaking through barriers, often known as glass ceilings, to accomplish their personal goals and dreams.
In the Army, a positive role model can have a significant impact on life choices and one's career.
Regimental Engineer Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Lynn Ray, is described by her peers and subordinates as a role model. With 28 years of service, Ray has faced several obstacles in her military career, but she never let those obstacles stop her from obtaining her goals.
"Of course there are things that I can always work on and improve, but that only makes me want to strive to work harder," said Ray, the first in her position of the newly stood-up squadron. "With any obstacle, I've just barreled through them and overcome; as long as you are always striving for self-improvement, never look at an obstacle as a stopping point."
Ray said she instills those same beliefs in all of her Soldiers. Her presence helps female Soldiers understand the importance of having a positive role model.
"As a female lieutenant, I feel very lucky to have a female squadron commander; I look up to her for not only guidance but also as my role model," said 1st Lt. Ruthie Rosenberger, assistant supply officer for the Pioneer Squadron. "She is the consummate professional, always positive and she's very personable, and I know if I work hard like lieutenant colonel Ray, that's a position I can obtain as well, regardless of my gender."
Rosenberger said she knows she can always talk to Ray at any time for advice about her career and many times throughout her nine months in the squadron.
Achieving her current position is one of her greatest accomplishments and proudest moments, she said.
"Honestly, I still feel the same way as the day when I was notified I would command a new unit - proud. When we activated the unit in June 2015 and unfurled the unit's colors, we were writing page one of history," beamed the Philadelphia native. "I command the first Troopers, the first troop commanders, the first troop first sergeants, the first staff officers, and I'm honored I have this opportunity."
Even in a male-dominated regiment, Ray said she doesn't feel disadvantaged in any way.
"As a female commander of combat units, I don't think there are any differences from my male counterparts," said Ray. "Yes, some situations can be challenging as a commander, but that comes with the territory."
Ray continued, "In order to feel disadvantaged, you have to believe you have your own shortcomings, so I never believed I have shortcomings; I would never use being a woman as a crutch of why I couldn't get somewhere or do something."
Lt. Col. Robert Jenkins, Field Artillery Squadron "Steel," 3rd CR commander, spoke highly of Ray as a leader and commander.
"I've known lieutenant colonel Lynn Ray for nine months, and she is the consummate professional," said Jenkins. "Whether serving in the U.S. Senate as a liaison officer or breaching an obstacle in a [National Training Center] decisive action rotation, Lynn personifies the type of warrior the Army looks for to command our sons and daughters."
Ray also offers her experiences to the "army" of women under her command in similar circumstances, she said.
"I think I offer understanding and empathy, because I've been the only, the first or even the isolated individual because of my gender; I've been in their shoes, so I feel like I can help them navigate similar situations," said Ray. "Even when they begin to doubt their work abilities, I feel that I have the tools necessary to help guide them in the right direction."
The Army's recent change to full-gender integration opens more than 200,000 job positions to women in combat military occupational specialties.
Pioneer squadron received its first group of female combat engineers in February, a career field that Ray is very familiar with as an engineer officer, she said.
"They, too, will hold a title that no one else can say as the first female combat engineers of any unit," said Ray. "I'm proud to have some of the first female combat engineers within [Pioneer] and 3d CR."
Upon the arrival of the first female engineers to 3d CR, Ray gave them all the same advice she would give to any new Soldiers arriving to the unit.
"This is clearly not a sprint. However, the fact you're the only, the first, or the minority in terms of gender, don't see that as a negative. Instead, try looking at the situation as a positive by challenging yourself to exceed your own expectations," said Ray. "It's fine to be afraid and to have some fear, as long as it doesn't control or govern your performance."
Jenkins said, "I can think of no better leader to mentor our newly arrived female combat engineers, nor of a better example of a leader they can emulate in their career."
As for her future in the Army, Ray said, "I'll stay in for as long as the Army will have me, because there's so much more that I want to do, so many young leaders who I want to have impact on and make a difference in their lives."