BOLESŁAWIEC, Poland - Women have played a vital role in the U.S. Army since its creation more than 248 years ago. According to a U.S. Army article "Women's Equality Day: A Small Step for Womankind", beginning at the American Revolution, women quickly took over as laundresses, cooks, nurses and even spies.
Fast forward nearly 200 years, Congress passed a day of celebration to honor and acknowledge the unequivocal contributions of women throughout not only the armed forces, but society.
August 26 is “Women’s Equality Day” to commemorate Congress’ 1920 decision to implement the 19th Amendment, which prohibited the United States its citizens the right to vote on the basis of sex. Today, women across the U.S Armed Forces continue to leave a lasting impression of success, duty and perseverance.
Sgt. 1st Class Maria Devers, intelligence and security section, 4th Infantry Division, explains what it means to serve in the Army.
“To serve has been an honor,” Devers said. “I have uncles who have served honorably and I am the first woman in my family to serve in the armed forces proudly.”
Devers, geospatial intelligence noncommissioned officer in charge, is responsible for a team consisting of five NCOs, one embedded National Geospatial Agency civilian and eight Soldiers from intelligence and engineering disciplines. Devers also advises the command, staff, and division personnel on geospatial products and capabilities.
Devers says the Army is more united along gender lines than ever before. She says mentorship is important while also educating newer Soldiers about gender equality. Devers stresses the importance of having someone to look up to.
“I use my experiences and challenges throughout my career to mentor women,” Devers said. “These women become great leaders in leadership positions where they are respected, their insights are valued, and their ability to influence other women empowers them to face challenges and excel in the armed forces.”
Sgt. Maj. Jose Cancel, G2 sergeant major, 4th Inf. Div., says Devers’ impact on the mission is critical and drives success.
“Sgt. 1st Class Devers positively impacts the G2 and greater 4th Infantry Division team through her strong leadership skills, care for Soldiers, and her technical/tactical confidence,” Cancel said. “She has a keen attention to detail and desire to challenge not only herself but her team in how they accomplish all their tasks.”
Cancel went on to say mission requirements are important, however, taking care of Soldiers is one of the core duties for a leader.
Sgt. Santino Lawrence, G2, 4th Inf. Div., is a part of Devers team. Lawrence says Devers’ impact the last three months as the GEOINT NCOIC has made a difference.
“Sgt. 1st Class Devers is a terrific leader. Whenever she has something to say on a subject, or putting out guidance, everyone listens and takes in everything she says,” Lawrence said. “Her ability to lead and still respect her soldiers is very impressive and I hope to portray those same traits.”
Lawrence also says Devers leads by example in terms of physical fitness, timeliness and exemplifying what it means to be a Soldier.
In the present time, Devers’ most prominent goal is leadership development. Devers is looking to be exposed to diverse leaders to become a finer, well-rounded leader who can relate to and inspire Soldiers in a diverse culture upholding the nation's values.
While on rotation, Devers has continued to push not only herself, but fellow Soldiers as well. Cancel says Devers has played an integral role in the real world GEOINT support during the on-going European rotation.
Looking back, Devers says she would tell her younger self to seek mentorship or connect with a current or former female Soldier who can provide insights, advice, and support as the younger Devers navigates the military.
In terms of advice for women looking to join the Army, Devers has a simple message.
“Having clear objectives will help you make informed decisions about your path,” Devers said. “Lastly, stay true to yourself. Embrace your individuality and bring your unique perspective to the team. Be dedicated to serving your country.”