FORT KNOX, Ky. -- U.S. Army Recruiting Command hosted the Fort Knox Women's Equality Observance at Sadowski Center here Aug. 23.
The observance opened like many others, the difference being the majority of presenters were women.
Maj. Patricia Cameron, United States Army Cadet Command, belted a rendition of the National Anthem and the invocation was delivered by Chaplain Maj. Linda Lesane, brigade chaplain, 3rd Recruiting Brigade.
Tanya Brown and Shawnien Moore sang "How He Loves Us" and then the host for the ceremony USAREC Commanding General Maj. Gen. Frank Muth introduced his command sergeant major and the event's guest speaker, Command Sgt. Maj. Tabitha Gavia.
Muth provided some heartfelt words about Gavia, touching on the fact that she embodies the current model of the command with compassion, passion, standards and discipline. She has helped transform the command and inspired recruiters. Not only that, she has earned her place in the command's history.
"She's been breaking ceilings since 1988, and she broke them when she became this command sergeant major as the first African American, female, non 79R in the United States Army Recruiting Command," Muth said. "That's who she is. And I'm honored and blessed to stand in formation with Command Sgt. Maj. Tabitha Gavia every day."
Gavia provided a few opening remarks before changing up the traditional observance format into a more interactive experience.
"To honor these women and the women trailblazers that have come before us, we're going to do something just a little bit different from normal for observances," Gavia said. "We're going to stray from the traditional. We will use the first few moments of our time together to share a bit of ourselves and discuss a bit of our nation's history. So I ask that you turn to the person sitting next to you or near you and use the questions on the back of your program to begin a dialogue about women's equality."
Gavia encouraged the crowd to strike up a dialogue ensuring that everyone had someone to speak with. The room filled with the buzz of voices. After a few minutes, Gavia called the group back together to share what they discussed. She asked the crowd to share their answers, calling on people one by one.
Marcus Dixon, human resources specialist for Headquarters, Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Recruiting Command, shared his observation for why we celebrate Women's Equality Day.
"We're still fighting to try to get them with equal pay, so the thing that we want to do now is to continue to march forward," Dixon said. "We celebrate this day to let them know that we recognize what they've done, what they're doing, and we don't want… to circle backward, we want to continue to move forward."
Gavia asked a few more questions and then continued on with her remarks.
"We can clearly see the results of the fight for equality in every part of our society as women sit on our nation's highest court, run for the highest political office, and serve as leaders in our boardrooms, laboratories, schools, community and of course the Armed forces," she said. "We can also see how far we have to go."
Gavia went on to detail the inequalities that still exist for women in our country and how we need to continue working to move forward. She talked of the strides women have made in the Army and the differences between when she started serving to now, but that frustrations continue to exist as the Army continues working on it.
"If you ask any woman today, we will all tell you the same thing. We don't want to be treated any differently," she said. "We don't want different standards for the Army Combat Fitness Test. We don't want different standards for Sapper. We don't want different standards for Ranger… We don't want different standards. We want equal treatment. We want the same opportunities as our brothers-in-arms."
Gavia emphasized that the reason a young woman considers joining the Army is because of the examples provided to her and that the Army should provide not just one, but many dynamic examples. The people in the Army today are the reason young men and women join.
In closing, she reminded the team that observances like these are needed to know and understand the Army's history.
"I will leave you with this, ladies and gentlemen, we are a better nation, a better military, and better organization and a better community when we embrace the strengths and diversity of all our people, both men and women," Gavia said. "It is with critical importance that we recognize and embrace our history as well as honor those who come before us. Again thank you for learning with us today, compassion, passion, standards and discipline and if you wear anything in Army green, put 'em in boots!"
The observance closed out with Maj. Ashanti Milow, secretary of general staff, U.S. Army Recruiting Command, reading Maya Angelou's poem "Equality."