Since the late 1970s, starting with the inaugural Women’s History Week in Santa Rosa, California, America has taken time to recognize the contributions of women in our Nation’s history, as well as progress in women’s rights over the past 100 years. The initial week-long celebration became a federally recognized event in 1980, with a proclamation by President Jimmy Carter.
Women’s History Week was celebrated annually until Congress expanded it to the entire month of March starting in 1987.
Over the past several decades, women’s roles throughout the American military have expanded greatly, including a broadening presence in combat jobs such as infantry or aviation.
In December 2015, Acting Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning, at the behest of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, directed all Military Occupational Specialties be opened to women.
Women’s roles have also expanded greatly in the Army Inspector General (IG) System, occupying many key positions in the U.S. Army Inspector General Agency and IG offices around the world.
“When you are given an opportunity, take charge and be in charge,” said Rhonda Phillips, an IG with the U.S. Army Reserve Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as she reflected on her advice to young women.
“Never forget where you come from and always share the knowledge to bring someone else along on the journey,” she said.
Phillips, an Army retiree and a 2019 recipient of the Army Inspector General Civilian of the Year Award, described Women’s History Month as “…a time when people can see what women have accomplished in making the world a better place.”
As America and the Army celebrate Women’s History Month, several members of the Army IG system took time to share their thoughts on why they serve, and the progress made by women over the past century.
Maj. Marni Prenell, an IG with the Assistance Division at the U.S. Army Inspector General Agency (USAIGA), decided on military service as a teenager. “I was a senior in High School when 9/11 happened. As a patriot, I took the attack personally and felt it was my duty to defend our nation,” she said.
Prenell’s career took her through college and commissioning through the Army’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps as an information systems engineer. She eventually elected to become an IG. “I wanted to be an IG to get a better view of what our Soldiers, Civilians, and Family members are experiencing while serving, and to help be the eyes and ears for the commander,” Prenell said.
Through her experiences and her military career, she has lived by her mantra of “Always believe in yourself. Always stand up for what you believe in. Always make your voice be heard. Never let anyone speak for you.”
Sgt. 1st Class Jaudon Boyd, an assistant IG at the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, recalls when women’s roles in the military were limited to non-combat roles. “Seeing how women have evolved in the Army is an amazing journey that I am proud to witness and be a part of,” Boyd said.
Boyd hadn’t planned on a military career, but a chance meeting with an Army recruiter changed her life. Within two weeks, she was on her way to basic training. “My family was totally caught off guard and were not notified of my decision until I signed on the dotted line,” she said.
Boyd’s advice to young women is to set a goal and stick to it: “Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do. Sometimes reaching your goals will be hard, but anything worth getting isn’t easy.
Laura N. Jankovich, the Director of Army Inspections at the U.S. Army Inspector General Agency (USAIGA), recalled being raised by her grandmother in Mississippi. “Before I knew the IG motto, ‘Droit et Avant’ (be right, then go forward), it was my grandmother who not only spoke, but demonstrated right from wrong in every situation,” she said.
Jankovich came to the agency after several auditing positions throughout the Department of Defense. She wanted a new challenge as well as the opportunity to work closely with military personnel. “The audit agencies are civilian agencies and I truly missed working side by side with the military,” she said.
“For me, Women’s History Month provides an opportunity to highlight women who have seized the moment to be the first, to show anything is possible, and to demonstrate the courage it took to take their steps,” Jankovich said.
“To me, Women’s History Month means empowerment,” said Master Sgt. Brandye Clark, an IG non-commissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) with the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg. “Not only is this observance essential to the continued cultivation of our country’s growth; it provides a dedicated time to acknowledge the contribution of and show appreciation towards the achievements of women in all fields.”
Clark didn’t plan on becoming an IG, but her branch manager suggested it. “That was one of the best pieces of advice I’ve taken throughout my career. I enjoy what I’m doing—finding resolutions,” she said.
She’s learned a lot from her tenure as an IG. “I believe the most important aspect of being an IG is patience. Many times when we encounter people, regardless of affiliation, they are at their wit’s end and want their problems resolved now…being patient means encompassing the seven Army Values to assist people when they need it most.”
Clark’s advice to young women is, “Challenge yourself in all situations so when an obstacle is encountered, you can conquer it with no hesitation.”
Sgt. 1st Class Dana Mister, an IG NCOIC with the 1st Theater Sustainment Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky, sees Women’s History Month as a time to celebrate women’s achievements in recent decades. “Once upon a time women had no rights and we are making progress with women being appointed in positions that they once were not allowed to serve in.”
She was motivated to become an IG to help her fellow Soldiers. “being able to help Soldiers find the right answers to their issues gives you a sense of accomplishment. It makes your job worth waking up for each morning.”
Mister’s philosophy of being an IG is to the point: “Be the standard bearer; if you’re not following the standard, how can you expect others to do so?”
Liv Marvin, an assistant IG with the Army Financial Management Command in Indianapolis, is a German-American who spent time as a Soldier before embarking on her Civilian IG career. “I became a U.S. Citizen in 2012 and wanted to give back to the country that I now call home and love so much,” Marvin said. She was a financial management technician during her years in uniform.
“We’ve come a long way in recognizing the contributions by women to past and current events, but we still have ways to go,” Marvin said.
Marvin enjoys the challenges of being an IG and finding solutions to problems. “I want to be the person that soldiers and other IGs feel comfortable contacting for assistance, because they trust that I will do my best to find resolution.”
She counsels young women to not let others place barriers to what they can do. “The sky is the limit. You can do anything you put your mind to. If it feels right, go for it,” Marvin said.
The IG System is the eyes, ears, voice, and conscience of the Army. Female Soldiers and Army Civilians of all backgrounds, races, skillsets, and origins reflect the diversity found throughout the Army and contribute to the Army’s overall readiness and resiliency.