FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - Army Cyber Command noncommissioned officers from Fort Meade and Fort Belvoir, Va., joined for professional development Sept. 30 at the U.S. Army Women's Museum at Fort Lee, Va.
The museum honors women's contributions to the Army from the Revolutionary War to the present, telling their stories with interactive exhibits and videos throughout the gallery.
Master Sgt. Kristen Anderson, the Army Cyber project officer, arranged for the museum staff to provide a presentation and walking tour of the only museum in the world dedicated to Army women.
"This is an opportunity to understand and appreciate the contributions that women have made to the Army, and also the sacrifices and challenges," Anderson said. "As an institution of change, the Army has provided important opportunities for women to serve in a diverse organization."
Tracy Bradford, museum education specialist, welcomed the Soldiers and talked about the Army women who have been prominent in the signal and intelligence specialties.
She told the story of the "Hello Girls."
"These were some 150 women who were contracted as telephone operators in Europe during World War I," Bradford said. "General John Joseph Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, appealed for bilingual telephone-switchboard operators in newspapers throughout the United States. More than 7,000 women, primarily employed as switchboard operators for Bell Telephone Company, applied for the positions in the U.S. Army Signal Corps."
During a hands-on portion of the tour, Army Cyber Soldiers wore cotton gloves to protect the numerous original artifacts and documents they handled. They examined articles ranging from early model telephone sets and bugles to personal documents.
"I was very impressed to see so many original equipment items," said Sgt. 1st Class Mary Stephens, G-33. "The impact that women made on World Wars I and II was tremendous, allowing for women to undertake duties traditionally performed by men."
During the walking tour, Soldiers learned about the early roles women played from reloading rifles for their husbands to impersonating men, as Cathay Williams did, enlisting under the name William Cathay in 1866. She was the first enlisted African American female, who also served as a Buffalo Soldier.
Sgt. 1st Class James Sobrowski, G-23, said he learned about the role of women in the Army in its formative years.
"The discussion about how women integrated into the Army was very informative," he said. "Women have always been a part of the Army as I have known it."
The exhibits traveled through time, and concluded with a life-size scene of Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester of the 617th Military Police Company, Kentucky Army National Guard.
Hester was the first woman to be awarded the Silver Star for direct combat.