VILSECK, Germany – March is Women’s History Month: a U.S. Army observance that celebrates the contribution of women within its ranks. The observance dates back to 1987 when the National Women’s History Project petitioned Congress with the result of passing legislation, Public Law 100-9, designating March officially as Women’s History Month.
Serving in every military occupational specialty all of which have adopted gender neutral standards, “More than 181,000 women serve in the Army today,” according to Ryan McCarthy, the Secretary of the Army.
U.S. Army Sgt. Paola Rico, unit supply noncommissioned officer, and Staff Sgt. Andrea McKinney, unit supply noncommissioned officer in charge, assigned to the Regimental Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment, shared their thoughts on what Women’s History Month means to them in Rose Barracks, Germany, March 12, 2020.
Rico reflected on who in women’s history inspires her journey.
“As [a] Mexican, I think the first woman that comes to my mind is Frida Kahlo,” said Rico. “She is known as a very strong and independent woman. She stood out for her own work even [in] the era when she lived.”
Frida Kahlo, a Mexican painter, accomplished international recognition for her work, using vibrant colors influenced by the indigenous cultures of Mexico and periods in art to include Realism, Symbolism and Surrealism.
“She dared to make paintings about taboo subjects related to women, and I think if she did it in an era where women were minimized, we also can stand out now doing any type of job and show that women are strong, too,” Rico concluded.
McKinney looked to her aunt, Willette Boyd, who serves as her source of inspiration.
“She inspires me the most; she’s been in my life since I can remember,” said McKinney. “She’s helped raise me, and just to see the strong woman that she is, she has overcome so many hurdles in her life. She’s always displayed to me that she can overcome anything, any obstacle that’s been placed in her way.”
Rico, newly promoted to the corps of NCOs, hopes to extend her leadership to other women in her ranks.
“I want to inspire the other young female Soldiers to let them know that they can do it, too,” said Rico. “As a new NCO, I will say that means a lot. Because working with a lot of males and being one of the only females in the unit, it means that one female can make a difference and try to overcome her goals along with [the males]. We have to show them that we can be like them.”
“We can do anything we truly put our minds to,” said McKinney, describing what it means to be a female Soldier in the U.S. Army. “To be a female NCO in the United States Army is, in this day and age, monumental because society has placed females in such small boxes.”
As of Jan. 15, 2020, 42 women have earned their Ranger tabs since the school opened to female Soldiers in 2015. Nearly 1,500 female Soldiers make up the infantry, armor and fire-support military occupational specialties, with Brig. Gen. Laura Yeager becoming the first woman to command an Army infantry division.
“We are literally crushing those boxes [like] integrating MOS’s,” continued McKinney. “There are MOS’s that people think females can’t be in, and we’re merging into those MOS’s and breaking records. It’s just showing people that we are a force to be reckoned with, and we can step up to the challenge and also exceed [beyond] the challenge when it’s placed in front of us.”