U.S. Africa Command celebrated Women's History Month with a panel discussion of the role women play in the command as well as the contributions and accomplishments of women in American society.

"I'm proud to be in the most equal opportunity defense force in the world," said Lieutenant Colonel Stephanie Jung, deputy branch chief for psychological operations with the command's Operations and Logistics directorate. "We have the ability to make it even better."

Women make up about 15 percent of all U.S. military personnel and serve in nearly all professional specialties. Throughout history, women served in or alongside the U.S. military, often in medical or clerical duties. In the 1970s, when the draft ended and an all-volunteer force was created, women were fully integrated into all branches of the armed forces.

"Women have come along way in the last 20 years in military service," said Master Sergeant Donna Davies, U.S. AFRICOM's paralegal manager. "My son told me he other day when his daughter grows up, she is going to be a fighter pilot."

U.S. Africa Command is celebrating March as women's history month, but also is recognizing the contribution women are making to the new command, which in October 2008 assumed responsibility for U.S. military activities in Africa, said Navy Commander Denise Shorey, deputy director of public affairs and the narrator for the event.

At the end of the ceremony Brigadier General Fredrick Martin asked the panel members what they wouild like to tell everyone ten years from now.

"No longer needing to have the need to have women's history events," responded Gabrielle Taylor, special assistant to the director of Operations and Logistics.

Women in U.S. Africa Command bring experiences from many walks of life, with diverse backgrounds across the U.S. government, including military and civilian members, officers, enlisted women and diplomats.

The guest speakers included:

Ambassador Mary C. Yates, deputy to the commander for civil-military activities, who formerly served as U.S. ambassador to Ghana and Burundi.

Lieutenant Colonel Laura Varhola, with the East Africa Branch of the Engagement Division of the Strategy, Plans and Programs Directorate. Varhola is a former defense attache to the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania.

Maha Witherington, deputy chief of protocol, who previously served as the Army congressional coordinator in the Legislative Liaison Office in the Pentagon.

Maria Tamburri, chief of strategic communication in the Outreach Directorate, who previously served as senior adviser for public diplomacy and public affairs at the Department of State's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Master Sergeant Donna L. Davies, command paralegal manager for the Office of Legal Counsel, whose studies include graduation from the Air Force's Senior NCO Academy and the Accident Investigation Board Legal Advisor Course at Maxwell Air Force Base.

Major Stephanie Jung, deputy branch chief of psychological operations for the Operations and Logistics Directorate, formerly a company commander for the 6th PSYOP Battalion at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Yeoman Second Class Jessie Tvrdy, Yeoman to the Commander, who previously served at U.S. European Command and with the Navy's Strike Fighter Squadron 94 in Lemoore, California.

Gabriele Tyler, an Army Senior Fellow on short-term executive assignment as special assistant to the director of Operations and Logistics. She is currently in residence at the College of Naval Warfare and previously worked at the headquarters of the Department of the Army in Washington, D.C.

Diane Putman, chief of the Humanitarian Assistance Branch, Security Cooperation Programs Division, Strategy, Plans and Programs Directorate. She formerly served as director of the Office of Economic Opportunities at USAID/Jordan; prior to that she spent 11 years in East Africa.