JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — Being a Signal Corps officer in the 46th Aviation Support Battalion allows me to see how Army aviation units operate from a support and signal perspective, while having the opportunity to see our organization’s leaders exemplifying what it means to selflessly and dutifully serve. One of the great aspects of our Army is that anyone has the opportunity to serve, but that hasn’t always been the case.
This month I am celebrating the women who pursued or continue to pursue their vocational aspirations in the military, but I am particularly inspired by the first female Soldiers of the U.S. Army Signal Corps: The Hello Girls. The Hello Girls consisted of 223 women that served as telephone and switchboard operators during World War I for the American Expeditionary Forces.
These women provided and maintained communications around the clock in forward operating areas for the First, Second, and Third Army headquarters. Their commitment to their duty of keeping the flow of information moving was highlighted by their refusal to abandon their positions, even when the buildings they worked in had caught on fire. The women evacuated only when threatened with courts martial, and then returned to duty in the still-smoking building an hour later so that the front lines could effectively communicate with their higher headquarters. Grace Banker, the chief operator, received a Distinguished Service Cross for her actions.
As a junior signal officer, the Hello Girls’ perseverance in the face of social and military adversity are attributes I strive to emulate throughout my career. I take great pride in being an Army communicator in the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade; working not only with my fellow signal Soldiers, but Soldiers from all different career fields, backgrounds and walks of life that make up our unit.
2nd Lt. Annie Beckman is a Signal Officer from Ann Arbor, Mich., assigned to Charlie Company, 46th Aviation Support Battalion, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.