WASHINGTON–In front of a standing-room-only audience Oct. 10, Lt. Gen. Donna W. Martin, Army inspector general, shared her story at a Women’s Foundation Leadership Symposium called “Leading from the Front” during the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting.
Three female Army leaders, who had the honor of being the first females in their respective positions, joined Martin on stage—Lt. Gen. Jody J. Daniels, chief of Army Reserve and commanding general of Army Reserve Command; Command Sgt. Maj. Veronica E. Knapp, command sergeant major of the 101st Airborne Division; and Sgt. Maj. Julie A. M. Guerra, sergeant major, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-2.
Martin, who served as the first female and first African American female commanding general of the U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, from 2018 to 2020, and currently serves as the first female and first African American female inspector general of the Army, credited her success, despite adversity, to three things: “family, faith and friends.”
“My mother taught me that life is not fair, that not everyone is going to be your friend or like you … she taught me that if you work hard and you just believe in yourself you can do anything that you put your mind to.”
This mantra and self-confidence has contributed to Martin’s resiliency, strength and success during her 34 years of Army service, and when asked about additional leader attributes and advice to young Soldiers, she echoed her fellow panelists’ insights on leader qualities that included humility, courage and confidence.
“One leader attribute that has led to my success is empathy…as I matured, I learned to become more empathetic. It takes time, and you have to learn it, but empathy is underrated; you need to understand where people are and meet them there.”
In addition to discussing her Army career, Martin, along with each panel member, remarked on her reason for joining the Army and her decision to continue to serve.
“I needed the Army…I found an ROTC program and it saved me…I found a group of people that helped me stay in college…They had the same goals that I had; we were all like-minded. I needed ROTC and I needed the Army, and I still do now. I just love what I do.”
In addition to these topics, panel members discussed motherhood, evolving roles of women in the Army, and exciting experiences during their careers.
This panel was one of several held during AUSA’s annual conference, which ran from Oct. 10 to 12 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.