In recognition of Women's History Month observance throughout our nation, the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity hosted a special gathering to honor the contributions of our world's women, past and present. Military and civilian personnel, as well as state and local officials, were among those in attendance at the event, which was held in the main auditorium, Fort Detrick, Maryland, March 20.

Originally conceived as "Women's History Week" in March 1982, the national observance grew to include the entire month of March beginning in 1987. Over the next seven years, Congress passed resolutions to continue the month-long celebration; since 1995, every U.S. president has issued an annual proclamation designating the month of March as Women's History Month. The theme of this year's tribute is "Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence."

Army Lt. Col. Tyra D. Fruge, USAMMDA deputy commander, served as the master of ceremonies for the event. Following the National Anthem and Invocation, Fruge introduced Maj. Gen. Barbara R. Holcomb, commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and Fort Detrick, who provided the opening remarks and served as key speaker for the celebration. As the first woman to serve as commander of the USAMRMC, Holcomb herself is considered a pioneer by many throughout the U.S. Army and beyond.

"As we celebrate Women's History Month, we recognize the triumphs, the inspiration, the determination -- and the persistence of so many women who have helped make the military a world-class fighting force, and those outside of the military who help make it a better world," said Holcomb. "Today's observance is an opportunity to look back at some notable achievements of women in the military and provide you with inspiration for your own journey.

"Because of the paths forged by those who came before us, women in the Armed Forces have more opportunities than ever before," she continued. "Today, nearly 18 percent of the Army is female, with more than 175,000 women serving."

As part of her speech, Holcomb showed a segment of a documentary relating the history of the "Hello Girls," which was a group of special women recruited to serve as telephone switchboard operators along the Western front during World War I. Bilingual in French and English, these women were among the first Americans sent over to support the war effort in 1917. Despite their brave service, these ladies did not receive veteran status or benefits upon their return after the war. However, after nearly six decades of petitioning by various advocates, including the women themselves, the surviving "Hello Girls" finally received veteran status per legislation signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1977.

"Always remember to lead from where you are," said Holcomb. "Regardless of your position, go forward with the right attitude and the right mindset, knowing that your leadership abilities will make a difference."

Following Holcomb's remarks, Fruge narrated a presentation on the history of Women's History Month, which highlighted numerous key female figures who helped to promote peace and non-violence, civil rights, racial equality, education, and women's rights throughout the years. Air Force Lt. Col. Monika Lunn then read the 2019 Presidential Proclamation on Women's History Month, signed by President Donald Trump.

Within this year's proclamation, the president states, "During Women's History Month, we celebrate the countless women whose courage and resolve have contributed to the character and success of our nation and the entire world. … We express our gratitude for all American women who continue to strengthen our families, communities, and workforce. Our future is brighter because of their contributions."

Wrapping up the morning's events, USAMMDA commander Col. Ryan Bailey thanked the guests, participants and attendees for their contribution in helping to celebrate all women, past, present and future, who courageously help to shape our world.

"Yes, there are certainly many 'visionary women' we can recognize, each and every day -- not only during the month of March -- who are powerful beacons of peace and nonviolence," said Bailey. "They help to keep our society moving forward in the right direction, which helps to keep our families together.

"Without question," he continued, "all of these women are inspiring for both men and women alike, and for our younger generation as well. They have played a large role in helping our nation to grow over the past century, and we owe them so very much."

As the program drew to a close, many audience members appeared to be moved by the engaging presentation.

"These women, and all women throughout the world, deserve our highest praise, our deepest respect, and our most sincere gratitude each and every day, not only during March," said Bailey. Their 'vision' helps to clarify our 'vision,' which leads to greater success as we work together towards a common goal -- be it in our family life, our daily work, or our service to our country."

For additional information on Women's History Month, go to https://womenshistorymonth.gov/.

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With a mission to create, develop, deliver and sustain medical capabilities for Service Members throughout the world, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command was under the umbrella of the U.S. Army Medical Command until October 2018, at which time the USAMRMC began reporting directly to the U.S. Army Materiel Command.