ROCK ISLAND, Ill. – JoEtta Fisher, executive director for ammunition and deputy to the commander at the Joint Munitions Command, spoke to the 596th Transportation Brigade on the essential contributions of women in U.S. history and leadership at the brigade’s virtual Women’s History Month observance March 26.
Fisher discussed with the assembled Soldiers and Army Civilians how women have made vital contributions to the American people, often in the face of discrimination and undue hardship.
“Our history is replete with examples of the unfailing bravery and grit of women in America, particularly in times of crisis and emergency,” Fisher said. “Women served our nation during World War II, led organizing and litigation efforts during the Civil Rights movement and represented the United States on the global stage in the fight for human rights, peace and security. Far too often, their heroic efforts and their stories have gone untold.”
Fisher’s highlights included Harriet Tubman. Though best known for guiding enslaved people to freedom on the Underground Railroad, Tubman also served as a scout and a spy for the Union Army and was the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the Civil War.
She also recognized Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, a Union Army surgeon once imprisoned as a spy and the only woman to ever receive the Medal of Honor, the highest military honor.
“Dr. Walker knew well the importance of women in the military,” Fisher said. “Walker once stated, ‘Let the generations know that women in uniform also guaranteed their freedom.’”
Women’s invaluable sacrifices and contributions carry on through America’s current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, a military police officer, became the first female Soldier awarded the Silver Star since World War II when she saved countless American lives when her convoy was attacked near Baghdad.
Medic Spc. Monica Brown also received the Silver Star after running through gunfire to provide medical care to wounded Soldiers after her convoy was ambushed in Afghanistan, even throwing herself over her compatriots to shield them from further harm.
“These are the common threads that run through American history,” Fisher said. “These women put the needs of their country above their own. It is this self-sacrifice and determination that ensures our country not only survives, but thrives.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Kerstin Montoya of the 596th Transportation Brigade, who organized the event, stressed the significance of recognizing the contributions of women throughout history.
“We celebrate Women’s History Month to remind ourselves of the accomplishments of women throughout the years for our culture and society,” Montoya said. “Women were essential to the founding of this nation and are essential on the path forward to the future.”
Fisher also shared valuable experience and lessons learned during her Army Civilian career where she started as a clerk before eventually serving as JMC’s senior Civilian employee.
Her top message: the importance of mentors and role models.
“My first mentor was an inventory manager and everyone went to him to get their questions answered,” Fisher said. “I wanted to be just like him, someone who helped others find the answers.”
Her successive assignments included various inventory and logistics management assignments associated with munitions readiness, and those as the Director of Supply Planning for JMC and the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Munitions and Logistics Readiness Center. Eventually, Fisher rose to the Senior Executive Service and obtained the civilian rank equivalent to a one-star general.
Fisher emphasized the impact her leaders and teammates had on her career, saying that all along the way mentors pushed her to do more. She then provided some mentorship of her own to her audience.
“If you’re interested in the logistics field, my advice to you is to choose a type of organization whose mission is important to you,” Fisher said. “If you possess a keen attention to detail, sound decision-making abilities, can follow through quickly and can visualize how your role and other moving parts work together, a career in logistics may be a good fit. I also suggest you to seek a mentor to guide and encourage you in both long-run career moves and day-to-day processes.”
596th Transportation Brigade Commander, Col. Will Arnold, closed out the session thanking Fisher, Montoya and Margaret Giller, the installation safety manager at Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point, who discussed the struggles her grandmother faced. Arnold said these women are leaders everyone in the Army profession can look to for excellence.
“These leaders have made a career of serving our nation, setting the trail for others to follow,” Arnold said. “Ms. Fisher is someone that both women and men in our organization could look up to and see how to get on the same career path, should they choose to. I appreciate her sharing the advice she gave about the logistics industry.”
Female Soldiers and Army Civilians are critical members of the Army Team. Almost 40% of Army Civilians are women, and female Soldiers are eligible for all military career paths. To date, more than 1,400 female Soldiers have been trained into infantry, armor and field artillery occupations.