FORT HOOD, Texas — From the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote in 1920 to the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963 and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978, women have made great strides toward equality.
In a time marked by considerable change and opportunity for women, the Department of Defense, having recently opened all military occupational specialties to women, provided much to be celebrated during this year's Women's History Month Observance here March 24.
Amid a packed house of more than 700 people, the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division took a journey through history recounting the stories of notable women throughout military history.
"As I look back on my career and think about where I started and where I am today, words cannot express my sincere gratitude and appreciation towards honoring all of the incredible women whose courage and dedication have exemplified the American spirit and determination throughout the darkest times in history," said Command Sgt. Maj. Jill Crosby, 1st Cav. Div. Sustainment Brigade senior enlisted advisor and guest speaker of the event. "It is through their hard work and powerful example that I am able to stand here today."
Crosby highlighted in her remarks women like Margaret Corbin, Deborah Samson and Col. Oveta Culp. A follow-on historical reenactment further exemplified her comments.
Furthering their examples of service to his nation and unwavering leadership, Crosby noted how a friend convinced her to accept her selection to her current assignment as a command sergeant major, as it was a premier opportunity to shape the roles of women in the future and provide women with a role model to look up to.
Crosby's words reached out and touched some of the young Soldiers in attendance.
"Knowing all of the things that she has done makes me know that I can get to her spot and become a leader just like her," said Pfc. Ashley McKenzie, who has been in the Army for six months and works as a supply specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd ABCT.
As the program got underway, Warrant Officer 1 Vanessa Thomas, 3rd ABCT's Food Service Technician, read a history of women in the military from the Revolutionary War to the present.
"The Army has definitely evolved," said Command Sgt. Maj. Ruth Drewitt, the 215th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd ABCT senior enlisted advisor, who has served for 22 years. "I see a lot more equality. We've been talking about it, but I think equality is a process, and I don't think you can do it overnight, so I think the equality will be more apparent. I think the opportunities will be more readily available, and I think women will be more comfortable signing up for those roles or being in those roles because it won't be new."
The Greywolf Brigade has itself recently received some of the first females to enter into MOSs previously closed to females.
"The talent pool has grown and we're extremely excited to see the many ways this change will increase our readiness and strengthen our force overall," said Col. John Woodward, 3rd ABCT commander.
In the end, the prevailing sentiment remained the focused on the challenges women have overcome throughout history.
"I think there are always challenges for a female in the military, and there always will be, but I think a lot of the opportunities that might have been new for me are just commonplace, so I don't think [young female Soldiers] understand what it took to get where we are, and it's up to me to help them appreciate their liberties and their freedoms and their opportunities," Drewitt said. "You always have to understand where you came from in order to understand where you're going and where you need to be in the future. Yes, we still have challenges. Don't let those stop you. You can overcome anything. Somebody is either doing it with you, or they've done it before you. If not, be the first. Do everything you can to be the first and the best at everything."