FORT MEADE, Md. (Army News Service) -- One of the highest-ranking women in the Army took the occasion of Women's Equality Day to salute all women who serve and to emphasize progress that the Army is making toward a culture of diversity and equality.Less than two months ago, Lt. Gen. Gwendolyn Bingham became the Army's second African-American woman to pin on three stars, and the first not in the medical field. As the Army's deputy chief of staff for installation management, she addressed a crowd at Club Meade Aug. 25."We honor all women for their service to this nation -- and no matter what their vocation," Bingham said. She also asked men to stand and thanked them for allowing women to be "good teammates," adding that "we need each other."PROGRESS IN EQUALITY"Through my 35 years of service, I have seen the Army make significant strides as related to equality and being able to allow folks freedom regardless of their gender, their sexual orientation, race, religion or creed," Bingham said.The suffrage movement and passage of the 19th amendment -- giving women the right to vote in August 1920 -- was the beginning of a journey in America toward equal rights for women, Bingham said.When she was an ROTC cadet at the University of Alabama in 1978, Bingham said the Women's Army Corps was discontinued and WACs were transitioned into the same branches as men. Now, this past December, she said the secretary of Defense opened all military occupations to women."I tip my hat off to women who want to be combat arms," she said in an interview after the luncheon.Women in the military today are "paving the way with their dedication and commitment," she said, and they are changing "the landscape for what today's women can contribute to readiness.""What's more, these brave women warriors are not looking for fame, they're not looking for fortune, they're not looking for gratuitous representation," she said during the luncheon speech. "They want to be treated just like their other male counterparts of the same military occupational specialty.""They're looking to be accepted and appreciated as part of the team," she said."Just knowing that your daughters and sons have the opportunity to be able to dare to dream and to dream big and to be anything they want to be, I think that's what equality ... is all about.""Are we where we need to be?" she asked about equality."Surely we have come a long way. But yes, we have many more miles to tread."TRAILBLAZERBingham was the first woman to serve as garrison commander of Fort Lee, Virginia, from 2005 to 2008. On April 22, 2011, she became the first female quartermaster general of the Army. The following year, she became the first woman and African-American commanding general of White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.In 2012, she became the first woman to lead the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Command, now called the TACOM Life Cycle Management Command, headquartered in Warren, Michigan."I am grateful to stand on the shoulders of men and women who came before me," she said, later adding that she has been humbled when considered a role model. It's a great honor and responsibility, she said.The new generation will likely have no problem accepting men and women as equal battle buddies, she said."I believe this new generation called millennials doesn't even think about it," she said. All they think about are the attributes each one brings to the table.WOMEN'S ARMY CORPSOne of the women Bingham recognized at the luncheon was retired Col. Wendy Messick, who now serves as the civilian director of Human Resources for Fort Meade. Messick began her career with the Women's Army Corps and was commonly referred to as a WAC.Messick began her service as an enlisted 71P flight operations coordinator in 1976 and said the transition into the regular Army was "seamless" when the Women's Army Corps was disbanded in 1978.Men and WACs worked together anyway at the airfield and operations center, she said, adding "there was no separation." Even their barracks in Germany were co-ed she said, although some women did stay in what she called a "WAC shack."The big difference with the WACs was basic training, Messick said. "It's just you weren't intermingled in basic training," she said.Classes on hygiene and how to put on makeup were part of basic training, she said. Posture and grooming were stressed, she said, along with physical training, self-defense and how to low crawl.The message to WACs was "you can be rough and tough and maintain your femininity," she said.Messick agrees with Bingham, though, that the Army has made strides toward recognizing women's equality. When asked about women now training to become infantry and armor specialists, she said it's good that women are now officially able to earn the insignia of those branches because women have been fighting in combat for years."They've been there and done a lot of the work," Messick said. "They've been side by side with their brothers."Now they're being recognized, she said, with "equal pay and equal rights."