FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Aug. 26, 2021) – Today as we observe Women’s Equality Day, the Army has come a long way to open the ranks to women, and although there is still work to do, we have a lot of women role models to effect change and continue breaking barriers.
1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery has one too – retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jenny Clement. She was the first and so far the only woman CSM in this battalion, holding the responsibility from 2007-2011. Moreover, she is the only active-duty female CSM in field artillery.
Addressing the significance of Women’s Equality Day, Clement spoke to Soldiers in A/1-19th FA (Class No. 60-21) and B/1-19th FA (Class No. 64-21) about her experiences in the Army as a woman, a leader, and an artillerywoman.
A native of Boston, Clement attempted to enlist when she was 16, but she could not get her parents’ signature to allow her into active duty. Instead, she enlisted in 1981 as a 93F Ballistic Meteorology Crewmember in field artillery.
She completed six tours – to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bosnia. Bosnia was her most memorable. She said it truly showed how fortunate we are as American citizens and to never take our privileges for granted. Despite this acknowledgment, the hard memories exist too: when deployed as a young mother, she saw a little boy with the grenade in his hand.
Clement shared the story of her journey to become a Black Hat Instructor at Air Assault School. She was ultimately denied because the Army needed Soldiers like her at Fort Sill. Basic training had recently become gender integrated. Clement became a first sergeant and had to work daily with drill sergeants, never having been one herself. She said it was hard at times, however, she received tremendous support from her co-workers. She encouraged trainees to perceive each other as battle buddies and always be helpful.
Instead of drill sergeant orders, she was sent to be a recruiter for three years. This was one of her hardest assignments because she disliked talking on the phone and giving speeches. She still doesn’t enjoy phone conversations, but became very proficient with public speaking due to the nature of the job.
When asked about the differences from the Army back in the 1980s, she mentioned in basic training women lived in different bays, but they were always separated in the classroom environment.
She’s proud of two events she participated in. First, she helped a motorist pulled over not far from the Key Gate.
“Something just told me to get out and I did,” said Clement, who found the motorist was a woman going into in labor, and helped to deliver twins.
The second event occurred in 2006 during a deployment to Afghanistan where she worked closely with 13F Fire Support Specialists as a Fire and Effect Coordination Cell sergeant major. It occurred seven years before women were allowed to enlist as a 13F in the Army.
Trainees asked Clement numerous questions about their first units, fears, schools, and dreams. She encouraged them to always be proactive, volunteer for boards and details so they can set themselves apart from their peers, and to pursue higher education. Someone asked her if it was possible to go to Airborne or Air Assault schools if you are afraid of heights.
“Absolutely! My son is airborne and he is afraid of heights. Sometimes you have to do what your fear the most to succeed,” said Clement.
She advised future Soldiers to not be afraid to ask questions, approach their leadership, and to pay attention to all their training and give 100 percent effort.
Concluding her time, Clement talked to women 13-series trainees and said, “When you become a sergeant major, – I want to be there!”