JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - FORT SAM HOUSTON, TX – This March held particular significance for the United States Army, as it coincides with National Women's History Month. Last month, we paid tribute to the invaluable contributions of women through various means, including commemoration, study, and celebration. This tradition has its roots in a congressional declaration from 1987.
On March 8, the Army reintroduced its iconic slogan, "Be All You Can Be." Reviving the brand, which gained prominence in the 1980s, symbolizes the Army's renewed commitment to offering unparalleled possibilities for those who embrace the challenge of service. In its debut commercial, Army leaders portray service as an opportunity for self-discovery, growth, reinvention, and pushing one's limits – embodying the essence of "Being All You Can Be."
At the intersection of these two noteworthy events stand women like Maj. Cecily Vanderspurt. Vanderspurt's accomplishments, both in and out of uniform, epitomize the significance of service and, specifically, the vital role women who serve have played in the history of the Army.
Vanderspurt is a clinical consultant assigned to the Medical Capability Development Integration Directorate (MED CDID) at Fort Sam Houston.
"Throughout [American] history, women have served their country," said Vanderspurt. "Women have risen to the occasion, " either on the battlefield, like Molly Pitcher, or by supporting the home front, like Rosie the Riveter."
Vanderspurt has capitalized on every opportunity presented to her, even before donning the uniform. Her impressive educational background and work history showcase exceptional depth. Vanderspurt obtained multiple degrees before joining the military, a Bachelor of Science from William & Mary and a Doctorate in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from Harvard.
After Harvard, she dedicated herself to the Peace Corps, compassionately assisting marginalized populations affected by HIV in Uganda. These transformative experiences in Africa motivated Vanderspurt to pursue a Doctor of Medicine from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, ultimately leading her to military service.
"The one thing that I knew I wanted was to never be bored -- That's why I chose Emergency Medicine." Maj. Cecily Vanderspurt
Vanderspurt is the first person in her family to serve in the military. The opportunity to finance her medical education through the Health Professions Scholarship Program, which offers full tuition for an advanced medical degree in exchange for a military service commitment, was a crucial factor in her decision to join the Army. Much to her surprise, the subsequent experiences provided "possibilities, both positive and challenging, that are unparalleled in the civilian world." She notes that these unique challenges have kept her engaged, a crucial consideration for many Americans when selecting a career field.
With a decade of service under her belt, Vanderspurt characterizes her career as a journey of self-discovery and personal growth. Four of those years deployed to various locations worldwide, including Honduras and the Middle East. She recalls those periods as fulfilling yet "challenging at times, particularly due to the extended periods away from home." However, during these deployments, she experienced her most significant life impacts. "Surprisingly, I valued my first deployment to Iraq; we treated genuine emergency patients and participated in fascinating outreach initiatives with outstanding providers and medics." For Vanderspurt, each assignment is what you make of it, with every experience "broadening the perspective from which you view the world."
Today, Vanderspurt perseveres in embracing the possibilities and challenges that come with service. In her current role as a clinical consultant assigned to the MED CDID, she shoulders the unique responsibility of anticipating and addressing future medical challenges. One such example includes her efforts to develop mitigations for battlefield wound infections. Vanderspurt hopes that her dedication as joint team leader will ultimately contribute to the future Army Medical Department's success in fulfilling its motto "to Conserve the Fighting Force."
Col. James J. Jones, Director of MED CDID, recently acknowledged Vanderspurt during a quarterly award ceremony, stating, "Cecily is an exceptionally talented strategic leader who has profoundly influenced the Army Health System's capacity to develop future concepts, conduct experimentation, establish requirements, and integrate new capabilities."