FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Fort Leonard Wood celebrates National Women’s History Month virtually at noon March 11 through a video conference call where participants can share photos and stories of their heroines and what impact they had on them, their communities and the nation.

The event will be held virtually to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and it is free and open to all Fort Leonard Wood service members and Department of the Army civilians.

For Lt. Col. Mary Smith, command inspector general, her namesake is her inspiration. Mary Alice Schuerman, Smith’s grandmother, joined the U.S. Navy in 1944 through the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services program.

“She volunteered at the age of 21 to join the WAVES as a cook, and throughout her time in service, became one of the first women to earn the rating of ship’s cook and serve as an instructor at the Seaman Cooks’ and Bakers School,” Smith said. “(She) was my No. 1 supporter to join the Army ROTC program at the University of Idaho and earn my commission as a second lieutenant in the Army. I would not be the leader or the person I am today without having her as my grandmother.”

Fort Leonard Wood to celebrate Women's History Month
Mary Alice Schuerman, grandmother of Lt. Col. Mary Smith, command inspector general, joined the U.S. Navy during World War II through the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services. She became one of the first women to earn the rating of ship's cook. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

Schuerman attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., following the end of World War II, becoming part of its first-ever co-ed class, Smith added.

Col. Mandi Bohrer, director of the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence’s Fielded Force Integration Directorate, said she sees heroism in the contributions of female service members — who, she said, too often downplay their own accomplishments.

“So far this month, I’ve asked several active and retired female service members to tell me of a challenge or accomplishment — or if they had a ‘first female to’ experience,” Bohrer said. “Several responded that they didn’t do anything special — that they served and did their job. They didn’t recognize the significance when it happened or they didn’t feel it was a brag-worthy event. However, each of those women had done something very special. I want to celebrate those stories, and I want to share them so that they may inspire others.”

Col. Niave Knell, U.S. Army Military Police School commandant, helped organize the event. She said the observance is the first meeting of many for the installation’s new Female Mentoring and Morale Program.

“Although it’s a female mentoring program, I definitely appreciate any male participation,” Knell said. “They can learn something, if they want to, about ... the issues that women will get together and discuss, or some of the obstacles they might face.”

Knell and Smith agreed that leaders of all rank, gender, race and background can help celebrate women’s history by engaging their teams about recognition and female role models.

“We can celebrate Women’s History Month with our teams by ... taking the time to recognize our heroines, talking to our Soldiers about their moms or other positive female role models they have had in their life and simply saying ‘thank you’ to the females past and present who serve within our ranks,” Smith said.

Knell said she hopes everyone who participates in the Women’s History Month celebration considers attending the program’s future events, too.

“I hope they take away a lot of pride in what women have contributed to this nation,” Knell said. “That might be someone’s mom who was fantastic in a number of obstacles she faced in raising her children and she inspired her community. Or it might be someone on the scale of Harriet Tubman who was responsible for helping people escape slavery. On any level, there are plenty of inspirational women.”

To receive a link to the celebration, or to become involved with the Female Mentoring and Morale Program, email Knell, who serves as its advisor, at niave.f.knell.mil@mail.mil.