Women’s History Month: Guidance, patience, and compassion form Iraq War Veteran’s professional approach

By T. T. ParishMarch 11, 2024

Women’s History Month: Guidance, patience, and compassion form Iraq War Veteran’s professional approach
Sharon Hanaway is a long way from Boston, in life experience if not geographic distance. The New England native and Veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve now serves as property book officer with the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity at Fort Detrick, Md. Hanaway served as a Military Police officer during the early stages of the Iraq War in 2003 to 2004, as part of her 14-year career with the 94th Military Police Company in Londonderry, New Hampshire. She joined USAMMDA in December 2022 as an Army civilian. (U.S. Army Photo by Cameron E. Parks) (Photo Credit: Cameron Parks) VIEW ORIGINAL

Women have a rich history in the U.S. military, since before the nation’s founding. During Women’s History Month, we are highlighting women across the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity (USAMMDA) and the contributions they make each day to the Army’s medical development and sustainment missions.

Boston native Sharon Hanaway is a Soldier – and while she no longer wears camouflage or laces up a pair of boots, the lessons of 14 years of Army Reserve service have remained with her and shaped her approach to service as an Army civilian with the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

“Even though my military experience is in law enforcement, my passion is science,” said Hanaway, the USAMMDA property book officer since December 2022. “The irony of inadvertently falling into logistics with an education in science is uncanny. I couldn’t have found a more perfect career than in medical research and development to support the folks who do the magic to provide our troops with the best medical technology.”

Hanaway joined her husband at Fort Detrick in 2007 while he was the noncommissioned officer in charge of Barquist Army Health Clinic on post. She spent several years as a security guard at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases before pursuing a career in logistics. Today, Hanaway credits her time as a military policewoman for guiding how she approaches her duties and giving her an understanding of why military medical development is important to enabling Warfighter readiness.

“As a former member of the Armed Services and being on the battlefield, I know the importance of having the best medical technology available for servicemembers,” said Hanaway. “Without the tools that are being developed, lives can be lost. What we do here at USAMMDA is incredibly crucial for supporting the Warfighters. To be able to support the command and the employees who work on the development projects is rewarding and most fulfilling. It gives me a sense of pride to be a part of the team.”

Hanaway is part of a select group of Women Soldiers from across the United States who served during the initial stages of the Iraq War. Her Army Reserve company at the time, 94th Military Police Company in Londonderry, New Hampshire, was called to active duty in late 2002 in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, and based for pre-deployment at Fort Drum, New York, and Fort Polk, Louisiana.

While on active duty, Hanaway and her fellow Soldiers assisted in recovery efforts after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in early February 2003 before joining U.S. forces working to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq after major combat operations ended, arriving in April on Easter Sunday of that year.

“All four [94th MP Company] platoons moved frequently while in Iraq, from Ramadi to Al Asad to Al-Fallujah and many more,” recalls Hanaway. “Our primary functions were [as] convoy escorts, patrolling the main and alternate supply routes to ensure the roads were clear and safe for the troops. The MP motto is to ‘Assist, Protect, Defend,’ not only for our nation, but our fellow Soldiers as well. We were extended three times and returned home in August of 2004.”

After her Army career ended, Hanaway pursued science, her passion, and earned an associate degree in biology with a Biotechnology Technician Certificate from Bunker Hill Community College and a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Excelsior University.

With Hanaway’s breadth of experience – as a woman Soldier, wife, civilian, student, and public servant – she has noticed the inherent differences between how women approach work duties relative to their male counterparts. The notion that “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” partly shapes how Hanaway views collaborative efforts, with both women and men contributing different yet equal perspectives to ensure a team’s success. Her approach is that of a servant-leader, focusing on teamwork while relying on personal and professional fulfilment as a driving force.

“Women and men think and communicate in different ways. Putting both perspectives into the melting pot yields a combined solution to a problem,” said Hanaway. “Female leaders add to that diversity of thought by bringing different experiences to the table.

“As a female leader, there comes a level of strength and pride, and I remind myself to put [forth] the qualities of guidance, patience, and compassion. The female leaders who were at the forefront of equality remind me that I can accomplish anything possible with perseverance and hard work.”