WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Who knew that extraordinary achievements could come from small and humble beginnings? Across the Army components, exceptional Army women were honored and celebrated at the U.S. Army Women's Foundation Summit and Hall of Fame Induction ceremony here on March 8, 2017.
Of those highlighted, the Honorable Coral Wong Pietsch and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Phyllis Wilson represented the Army Reserve at the AWF Summit and Hall of Fame Induction.
"Evolving Opportunities for Army Women: Equip-Empower-Engage" was this year's theme for the 9th Annual USAWF Summit and Hall of Fame Induction on Capitol Hill. To continue the mission of honoring the history of Army women, the 2017 Hall of Fame Induction ceremony recognized female Soldiers who have distinguished themselves in their extraordinary service to America.
Retired Brig. Gen. Pietsch was commissioned in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps and served six years on active duty. After active duty, she continued her service in the Army Reserve and became the first woman to be promoted to brigadier general in the JAG Corps. She also broke the glass ceiling in being the first Asian woman to be promoted to brigadier general in the Army Reserve.
"I took the oath to be a newly commissioned officer in a small kitchen in Kensington, Maryland, where my father-in-law, a colonel, administered the oath to me," said Pietsch. "My husband was a lieutenant at the time, and he was my witness at my commissioning."
Pietsch shared memories of how her military career took root and where the military led her. "Who would've thought that from such humble beginnings in that tiny kitchen that I would be standing here today with the Army Women's Foundation honoring me? Since that day, I have never looked back," she said. "The Army has given me such incredible opportunities that I never would have dreamed of. I've travelled all around the world. I can now say 'thank you, hello, good bye, and how much is it' in German, Arabic, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Thai..." said Pietsch, adding jokingly, "and even in Australian."
Pietsch said that the pinnacle of her career was in June 2012 when President Barack Obama appointed her to the federal bench. She currently serves as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
2017 Hall of Fame inductee Wilson was the first woman to serve as the command chief warrant officer of the United States Army Reserve Command. In 1981, she enlisted in the Army as a private and became a Military Intelligence German Linguist Voice Intercept Operator. During more than 35 years of Active and Reserve service, she has served at all echelons from tactical to strategic.
"Chief Wilson is the epitome of what a chief warrant should be," said retired Lt. Col. Isabelle Slifer. "She's a great role model for men and women in the military. She has it all together. She actually makes you feel better by knowing her. That's how amazing she is."
Slifer brings 30 years of Army Reserve service to her job as the Army Reserve Ambassador for the commonwealth of Virginia. Slifer, who also serves on the AWF Board of Directors, said that she nominated Wilson because "she deserves it more than anybody else I know."
Wilson said she felt a tremendous honor in being selected for the AWF Hall of Fame. "I was just blown away. I couldn't believe it," she said.
Of the three Army components, Slifer said the Army Reserve comprises the highest number of female Soldiers. As a retired Army Reserve Soldier, the day held special meaning for Slifer. "The Army Reserve has the largest percentage of women," she said. "This induction today was a wonderful opportunity to showcase the amazing contributions we women have made to our nation."
Retired Brig. Gen. Anne MacDonald, former chief of staff at the U.S. Army Reserve Command, also feels it's beneficial for the younger generation to see what they can aspire to. "This affects, of course, these inductees and their families, but there's an even bigger picture here," said MacDonald, president of the AWF. "Celebrating women's achievements has a great impact on our public. Those in the civilian sector, as well as military, have a model of what real leadership looks like. These women here serve as exemplary role models for all of us to look up to."
As the vice president of the AWF, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Cindy Pritchett said "not all achievements and contributions make the news, but they are just as important to our heritage and deserve to be acknowledged, celebrated and remembered for the generations of military women who will follow us."
Deputy Chief of the Army Reserve Maj. Gen. Michael R. Smith talked about the significance of the day's events. "In the last 12 to 18 months we've seen the biggest changes with opportunities being opened to women," he said. "We have the first female Army ranger. Women are entering infantry positions, where before those doors were closed to them. I believe that in today's Army, there's nothing holding women back from being all they can be. I think this is awesome."