FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- On March 29, U.S. Army South celebrated the many accomplishments and advancements that women have made through the years by hosting an event that featured retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Toreaser A. Steele as the guest speaker.Steele, a pioneer in her own right, served as vice commander for the Army and Air Force Exchange Services in Dallas from July 2002 until April 2005, at which time Steele took over as the commander for AAFES Headquarters until her retirement in September 2005.
This year's theme, "Women's Education - Women's Empowerment" focuses on the struggle fought by so many tenacious women over the years and across cultural lines.
"This year's theme allows us the special opportunity to celebrate women just like you," said Steele. It brings to the forefront the contribution each of you has made and continues to make in protecting, shaping, nurturing, legislating and positioning this nation to compete globally."
The Army often honors women who have contributed to lowering the glass ceiling for others serving in uniform. In a ceremony at the Pentagon held Nov. 14, 2008, Gen. Ann Elizabeth Dunwoody became the first woman in U.S. history, to wear the rank of a four-star general. Dunwoody, the commander of U.S. Army Materiel Command, was also one of the 82nd Airborne Division's first female battalion commanders, as well as the first woman to serve as the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics.
The Army Chief of Staff announced on March 9, that Brig. Gen. Laura J. Richardson will become the Army's first female to serve as a deputy commanding general of a division. Richardson will assume the position of deputy commanding general for support in the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood later this year. Richardson is currently serving as the commanding general of the Operational Test Command at Fort Hood.
Richardson's historical assignment comes not long after the Department of Defense's announcement Feb. 9, that six military occupational specialties and some battalion-level positions in combat units will soon be opened to women.
In addition, the U.S. Army has women serving in more than two dozen senior positions as commanders or deputy commanders of major organizations such as the Army Medical Command and the Army Human Resources Command. Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho is serving in the dual role as the Army Surgeon General and Commanding General of the Army Medical Command. Maj. Gen. Gina S. Farrisee assumed command of AHRC in October 2010 and she oversees personnel assignments, promotions and awards for Army Soldiers.Today there are only 29 women among the 390 U.S. Army general officers.The history of improving opportunities for women in the U.S. Army goes back many years. However, it was education of women in America that helped to open the doors for their opportunities and this year's theme honors that fact.
After the American Revolution, some people felt the idea of education as a safeguard for democracy gave young girls the opportunity to gain a basic education. These young girls would one day go on to raise future (male) minds and leaders.
Early 19th century colonizer, Brigham Young once said, "You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation."
In 1978, the celebration of women's contribution to history, culture, and society as a whole began in the school district of Sonoma, Calif. as a week -- long event. A few years later in 1980, as the idea caught on within the other school districts, communities and organizations, President Jimmy Carter issued the first proclamation declaring the week of March 8, as National Women's History Week. Seven years later, the National Women's History Project successfully petitioned Congress to expand the event to the entire month of March.
"Learning about women's accomplishments has a positive effect on everyone." said Master Sgt. James Cork, equal opportunity representative for Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion (HHBN), and U.S. Army South. "In doing so, girls and women become empowered to broaden their ideas about what they can accomplish in their own lives while boys and men develop an increased respect for women and their impact on culture and society."
The White House issued a 50-year progress report last year on the status of women in the United States. It found that younger women are now more likely than their male counterparts to hold a college degree and that the number of men and women in the labor force has nearly equalized.
"Education is definitely the key that unlocks the door to many opportunities," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Yolondria Dixon-Carter, HHBN human resources technician. "We must continue to empower ourselves and not be defined or limited by race, gender, religion or occupation."
Capt. Sharron Stewart, company commander, Operations Company, HHBN, U.S. Army South, also attended the Army South Women's History event, surmised the significance of 2012 and the achievements of women in the Army.
"Women are serving at all levels in our Army and with strong leaders like Gen. Dunwoody and Brig. Gen. Richardson, our future is brighter for all Soldiers," said Stewart.