NATICK, Mass. -- The achievements and the voices of women were expressed in full force during a Women's History Month observance hosted by the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, Office of the Director, on March 20. The event, which was held in Hunter Auditorium, was open to the Natick Soldier Systems Center workforce.

Maj. Gen. Tammy S. Smith, Headquarters, Department of the Army, Deputy G-1, Pentagon, was the esteemed guest speaker at the event. The event also included a performance by the Boston Skyline Chorus, an all-women a cappella group known for their singing talent and infectious enthusiasm. The program also featured a slideshow/musical montage that included quotes from some of the women of Natick's workforce, who recounted what it is like, as women, to work at Natick and what Women's History Month means to them.

Douglas A. Tamilio, director of NSRDEC, introduced Smith, noting her significant accomplishments and emphasizing that she had commanded at all levels, touching many Soldiers throughout her career.

During her talk, Smith pointed out that the first piece of Army equipment that was specifically designed for women was a bicycle, which weighed the same as the men's bike, but was made to accommodate women wearing skirts. The bike was designed for members of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, or WAAC, which was created as an auxiliary unit that would later become the active-duty Women's Army Corps, or WAC.

The Major General said that as far as she knew the World War II bicycle and 2012's women's body armor, outer tactical vest, are the only two items made specifically for women. NSRDEC played a key role in developing the OTV.

Smith said that we have to recognize physical differences and work to improve equipment "to optimize performance and that is what you do here."

The Army has made great progress in reducing its structural exclusion, a term that refers to exclusion through law, policy, as well as rules and regulations. The Army has also made great progress in reducing cultural exclusion, a term that refers to the cultural expectations of what women can do, or should be allowed to do, rather than laws, rules, or policies.

Smith said that the members of the Women's Army Corps "started to put cracks in that glass ceiling," and that we all benefit from their actions today.

The Major General's Army career started almost by accident. She was a member of the Future Farmers of America and one day she was reading the organization's magazine. The magazine included a coupon that you could fill out and request information on how the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, or ROTC, can help pay for college. She then applied for, and was awarded, an ROTC scholarship.

"That coupon was not meant for me," said Smith. "I was reading a boy's magazine. It was just random that I happened to see that particular coupon because I was involved in an organization that was mostly for boys, even though they included young women."

Smith eventually became the Eighth's Army first female Deputy Commanding General - Sustainment. The Eighth Army is the commanding formation of all United States Army forces in South Korea.

She said that for the Army to go from an organization where women rode bicycles while wearing skirts to an organization where a woman could become a deputy commander of the Eight Army underscores how the Army is becoming more and more inclusive.

"We are making tremendous progress and I'm so proud to have been able to see it," said Smith.

The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.