For over 200 years, women have served the United States of America, and joining the ranks of the United States armed forces is just one of the major changes the United States would see for years to come. Unlike before, diversity is not just accepted into the Army, but is now welcomed and cherished. Soldiers are trained to be tactically proficient while valuing team members for their unique attributes as a person: a human being under a uniform.
Senior ranking Soldiers participated 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade’s, “Woman’s History Month Panel,” held in recognition of Women’s History Month at one of the 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Troops Battalion classroom, on Fort Drum, NY, March 22. The panel consisted of a diverse group of both men and women from multiple brigades around Fort Drum. The panel members consisted of Maj. Amber Rouson, the 10th MDSB logistics officer in charge, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Elia Reynolds, 10th MDSB senior property accounting technician, Command Sgt. Maj. Freddie Thompson, 10th Mountain Division Artillery’s senior enlisted advisor, Master Sgt. Brittany O’Hair, a DIVARTY signal operations chief ,Col. Brian Ducote, the 1st Brigade Combat Team Brigade commander and panel guest speaker, and Col. Fenicia L. Jackson, 10th MDSB’s commander who hosted the event.
Attendees of the event watched a brief video about women in the military throughout history followed by Ducote’s speech about his experiences working with women in the military.
Unique in candidness, the panel opened the opportunity for attendees to ask questions, some not easily answered, revolving around topics of family and Army life, introspection into one’s character in the Army, “fitting in”, and adjusting to the ever-evolving, diversity, and multiculturalism embodied by today’s Army.
10th MDSB’s, “Women’s History Month Panel,” echoed the theme of women in the military, as well as diversity and changes the Army experienced on the way forward as the U.S. military blends into current-day society.
“I didn’t allow anyone to force me to be anything I’m not,” said Jackson when asked how one finds identity in the Army and what changes are needed to become a better Soldier and leader. “We’ve never arrived. Every day I have to self-assess, -- you have to believe in the changes you want to see made.”
Panel members emphasized the difficulties of family and work-life balance, acknowledging the Army’s efforts to aid servicemembers with family priorities to include the recent changes to the Army's regulations on physical fitness, uniforms, and soldier pregnancy.
“The Army got it right –” said Thompson, “We are starting to show the empathy -- that we get it and we’re trying to do better. But, people also have to speak up.”
Thompson added that the changes we’ve seen in the Army thus far, were made possible by people who made issues known.
Panelists addressed the importance of striving to understand each other to allow our differences to strengthen our fighting forces and not tear us apart. Ducote believes that open, honest, and humble dialog is crucial while addressing conflict.
“It’s not for us to like, it’s for us to enforce,” said Jackson, also commenting on changes in the Army. She further emphasized that when the Army publishes a policy, it must be actioned, despite personal feelings for or against the policy.
“There are four, almost five generations in the Army right now,” said Thompson. “Each one of those generations communicates differently. And you as a leader [as a] Soldier, have an obligation while wearing this uniform to understand how each generation converses and thinks to bring understanding on why we do what we do.”
Thompson and O’Hair both agree that events like these are important because of the opportunity provided for open dialog among Soldiers and command teams. Furthermore, they acknowledge the motivation it provides to those who may not be brave enough to voice questions and concerns on topics sensitive in nature.
“This [event] gives them an outlet, and they can meet new people and talk about frustrations,” said O’Hair.
“With the interaction and conversation, you are able to see how information being put out is reciprocated,” said Thompson. “It also gives people the strength or courage to ask those [difficult] questions. A panel like this lets Soldiers see us [senior ranking Soldiers] up-close and in-person and see that -- we are human, and the interaction becomes contagious.”