Women’s Equality Day is celebrated August 26, marking the passage of the 19th Amendment which granted women the right to vote, and also represents women’s continued efforts toward full equality.
December 14, 1973, became a milestone in Airborne history when Pvts. Joyce Kutsch and Rita Johnson became the first women paratroopers to graduate from the Basic Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Today, women paratroopers serve as commanders, jumpmasters, lawyers, and engineers, bringing their expertise to vital roles in today's Army.
Maj. Kyle M. Meisner, with 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado, is one of those paratroopers.
Meisner joined the Army in 1996 and graduated from Basic Airborne School in April 1997. She went on to graduate from the 82nd Airborne Division Advanced Airborne School as a jumpmaster in January 2015, and in August 2015, she received the senior parachutist badge. She currently has 50 jumps.
"I was a driver and worked in a warehouse during my first enlistment. You can do both of those things in the civilian world," Meisner said, "but you can't jump out of an airplane, and you can't be part of this family of paratroopers."
Meisner said going to her daughter's Basic Airborne Course (BAC) graduation at Fort Benning August 19 has been a reflective time for her compared to when she went through BAC.
“I wanted to be here because there’s a lot of family heritage between brothers whose little brother join or grandfathers or fathers who joined that you don’t see with female soldiers,” said Meisner. “Hopefully, seeing that will inspire some other female Soldiers or women thinking about enlisting in the Army. ‘To be like, wait a minute, if she did that, then I can do it,’ and that is what I’m hoping for.”
Nineteen-year-old Pvt. Rylee Montague, from Burke, Virginia, graduated from BAC August 19 at Fort Benning, Georgia.
“Knowing that my [mom] already has been here and done that gave me the courage to take to go and follow through with it,” said Montague. “I just hope any other [woman] looking to join the Army also goes Airborne.”
From the first jump, women paratroopers have fought with spirit, determination, and tenacity and captured the nation's respect. Today, women paratroopers stand on equal footing as Soldiers and continue to shape our future.