FORT HOOD, Texas — Rustling fabric could be heard throughout the auditorium, as the audience of servicemembers filled their seats. Eight highlighted speakers sat at the front of the stage in preparation for the panel to begin.
The morning of October 26, during III Armored Corps and Fort Hood’s Human Capital Week, Fort Hood held a Women in Leadership Panel. The panelists represented a wide range of leadership from the rank of lieutenant general to sergeant first class, as well as esteemed civilian leaders in the community.
The overarching intent of the event was for subject matter experts to share what they’ve learned over the years through their individual leadership journeys.
Lt. General Maria Gervais, Deputy Commanding General of US Army Training and Doctrine Command, witnessed the Army’s evolution during her 35 years in service. Having enlisted when roles were not all open to women, even she never thought she would be sitting in a panel like this one day.
“When you look at this panel right now, in 1987, you would not see a female artillery battery commander. You would not see an armor lieutenant,” Gervais said, gesturing towards fellow panelists Capt. Ashley Zeitovogel, battery commander, and 2nd Lt. Juliana Galvan, respectfully.
After showcasing the evolving diversity within the Army’s military occupational specialties, Gervais shared one of her goals for the force.
“I think it’s important to recognize that we want our Army to represent what America looks like,” she said. “They have to be able to see themselves in our Army and see that they have the opportunity to succeed and progress.”
For one of the panelists, the Battery Commander, Capt. Ashley Zeitovogel with 3d Cavalry regiment, ‘harmony’ has been a keyword in her journey as a successful female Army officer.
“I am not a big fan of the saying ‘balance work and life,’ because I don’t think it can ever truly be balanced,” she said. “Instead, we have to learn how to harmonize.”
While reminiscing on years past, one woman on the panel is reliving part of her career. Six years ago, as a young Army specialist, Amanda Guerra began her Army career at Company A, 57th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 11th Signal Brigade. Today, she returned to the same unit, this time as the First Sergeant.
“You really have to understand that those first impressions are important; you can never redo that,” said now Sgt. 1st Class Amanda Guerra. “No matter how you move up through the ranks, Soldiers will always see that initial specialist.”
With the panel concluding, its mediator, Rosemary Williams, encouraged the crowd to take Guerra’s advice by building more of those first-time connections now. Following an applause for the eight panelists, the Soldiers in attendance began to do just that by joining the speakers on stage to carry on additional conversation.
As the event ended, audience members such as Sgt. Destiny Ead, 1st Calvary Division Headquarters, shared their appreciation for panels like these which showcase the barriers female Soldiers have overcome.
“As a young NCO, having these types of panels motivates me,” Ead said. “I think this event touched a lot of us by showing we are not alone, and this isn’t a one-woman fight.”
What began as an opportunity for junior leaders to soak in words of wisdom from a variety of leaders, ended with open dialogue from privates to lieutenant generals.