By Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs =March 15, 2018
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (March 15, 2018) -- Glass ceilings have been shattered and barriers broken by courageous and determined women throughout history. The Fort Drum community celebrated these trailblazers on March 14 during the 2018 Women's History Month Observance.
Capt. Arleene J. Fussalva, guest speaker, said that while there are many well-known women who are heralded for their achievements, her personal heroes are family and friends.
"My first hero is my mom. She's a fighter, and will always be my original Wonder Woman," said Fussalva, U.S. Medical Department Activity Child and Family Behavioral Health Services chief and sexual assault care coordinator.
From an early age, Fussalva looked up to her mother, Marta. Living in the Bronx, Fussalva recalled the time when she was seven and her mother chased a group of muggers who snatched a chain from her neck.
"I'm sure the last thing they were thinking was that my mom, while grabbing her daughter's hand, would go running down the train station after them," Fussalva said.
Fussalva described how her mother, just over five feet tall, grabbed one of the muggers by the shirt and slammed him against the wall, repeatedly, while cursing him in English and Spanish.
"All he kept telling her is, 'Lady, you're crazy,' and she was like, 'You've not seen crazy yet,'" Fussalva said.
The chain was recovered, but Fussalva said that the mugger got away from her mother as she tried to comfort and calm her daughter.
She also admires her older sister Wanda, who, even as a department head, couldn't approach the male executives where she worked because she was a woman. Fussalva said that her sister would pass her meticulously prepared work to her boss, and never received credit for it. Fussalva said that Wanda would later create better opportunities for herself and other women.
"She smashes people's doubts about what women are capable of," Fussalva said.
Fussalva also credited her other sister, Marta, for being larger-than-life, and teaching her that nothing is impossible. She said that Marta was one of the first females to be integrated into co-ed training in an Infantry battalion, and in her post-Army career, she teaches autistic children.
"She has taught me the values of authenticity and humility," Fussalva said. "I've literally followed in her footsteps my whole life. She taught me to be tough."
Fussalva challenged all the attendees to think about the people close to them who have become sources of inspiration, and to thank them. Given the theme of the observance, "Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination," she also asked how they will fight bigotry, intolerance and hate, and create equality for all human beings.
During the observance, Spc. Naomi Sautia-Pomele, a petroleum specialist with 543rd Composite Supply Company, 548th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade, was recognized for being selected as one of five female Army Soldiers to be honored at the White House in celebration of Women's History Month.
Sautia-Pomele is from the U.S. Territory of American Samoa, and she enlisted in 2016 after a 13-year career in banking as a way to continue her father's legacy of selfless service to others. She volunteers regularly with the American Red Cross to help coordinate blood drives, and she also participates monthly in the Feed the Homeless Veterans program. Sautia-Pomele is an active member of the Inspirational Gospel Service on post.
Also during the observance, Staff Sgt. Mary Summerlin, 41st Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, sang the national anthem, and Sgt. 1st Class Lemisha Green, from 33rd Finance Company, recited the poem "Phenomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou.
To learn more about women in the U.S. Army, visit www.army.mil/women.