February is Black History Month, a time to recognize the extraordinary contributions of Black Americans to the U.S. Army and the Nation. Today, roughly 90,000 Black Americans serve on Active Duty in the U.S. Army, with an additional 39,000 who serve in the Army Reserves and 52,000 in the Army National Guard.
At the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity at Fort Detrick, Maryland, Black Americans – Active-Duty Soldiers, Veterans, Army civilians and contractors – contribute each day to the mission of developing and delivering medical devices, technologies and treatments for America's Warfighters.
A prime example: Williamena Dahn, who is not your average doctor. While many post-9/11-era Veterans were cruising the mall, drinking frozen coffee and listening to NSYNC as teenagers before joining the military, Dahn, currently a Senior Financial Analyst with the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, was simply trying to survive – literally.
During the First Liberian Civil War – which killed an estimated 200,000 men, women and children – Dahn escaped the violence and danger, immigrating to the United States in 1997. She landed in Stone Mountain, Georgia, hoping to live the American Dream.
For Dahn, who completed her Doctorate in Psychology from California Southern University in 2021, that dream included nearly 21 years of service as a U.S. Army Accounting Specialist, Finance and Accounting Specialist, and Financial Management Specialist – she retired in 2021 before joining USAMMDA’s Warfighter Brain Health Project Management Office in May of the same year.
“I've always wanted to be a nurse, because nurses and doctors were important careers growing up in Liberia,” said Dahn. “I was going to join the Army as a medic and thank God I didn't because blood, needles and I do not mix very well.”
Dahn, raising two children as a single mom, is clearly passionate about education – before earning her doctorate, she received Associate of Arts and Bachelor of Science from the University of Maryland-University College and Master of Science in Forensic Psychology from Walden University. During her career, Dahn was stationed across the United States and the world – she deployed to Kosovo in 2001, to Mosul, Iraq in 2003, Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan in 2007-2008, and Kabul in 2014-2015.
During her career in the Army, Dahn focused on two things: taking care of Soldiers and mission accomplishment, she said, leading with respect and instilling discipline through compassion and care. “Ensuring that Soldiers were taken care of led to mission accomplishment. One thing I always stressed in my noncommissioned officers and Soldiers was respect and discipline.”
Today, Dahn reflects on her life and career, beginning in Monrovia to now on the cusp of applying to serve as an Associate Psychologist, and looks toward the future as a licensed, practicing psychologist.
“I help foster teamwork by being available to the PMO, no matter the task or mission. Whether it's working late to process an emergency or jumping on a call because my expertise is needed, I always make time to ensure the team succeeds,” said Dahn. “It's going to be difficult when I have to leave the unit because I've met so many great people.”
For more information about the incredible contributions African Americans have made – and continue to make – to the U.S. Army, visit https://www.army.mil/blackamericans/.
Note: Story updated from a previous version, released Nov. 10, 2022.