By Capt. Olivia Cobiskey, First Army Division EastMarch 26, 2013
CAMP ATTERBURY JOINT MANUEVER TRAINING CENTER -- In the 27 years Lt. Col. Kerry E. Norman has been in uniform, more career fields and educational opportunities have become available to women. Recently, as part of a Women's History Month commemoration, Norman took an opportunity to share some of those opportunities as well as words of encouragement with the boys and girls of Central Middle School in Columbus, Ind.
"After WWII there was only one female colonel in the military," said Norman, commander of the 1-411th Logistic Support Battalion, 205th Infantry Brigade, at Fort Knox, Ky. That one female colonel, Mary Agnes Hallaren, became the director of the Women's Army Corps in 1946. On June 12, 1948, with the enactment of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act, Hallaren became the first woman to receive a commission in the regular Army. Women in the Medical Corps had been incorporated the year before in the Army-Navy Nurse Act of 1947.
"Now," said Norman, "we have general officers who are females."
Building on the national theme for this year's observance, "Women Inspiring Innovation through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics," leaders in the 205th Infantry Brigade, asked the middle school students to write an essay about a woman who inspired them.
The essays were then judged by leaders in the 205th and winners were selected. Norman spoke to the children before the winners were announced.
"I never thought I'd do the things I've done," Norman, a military police officer, told the boys and girls crowding the auditorium. "Study hard; the world is yours. You are your own contractor; you build your own life."
The middle school children were enthralled and asked lots of questions about her career, basic training, how women wear their hair in uniform, and if she'd been discriminated against because she was a woman.
"Yes," Norman said honestly, "but things have changed dramatically."
She highlighted how the Department of Defense recently announced they were reviewing and lifting the combat exclusion for servicewomen.
"The war changed things dramatically," she said.
It was a message heard loud and clear by Adeline Hamilton, the 8th grader whose essay "In a Hero's Words," won the competition. Hamilton's essay highlighted her grandmother, who supported Hamilton through her mother's struggle with addiction, homelessness, and her parents' custody battle.
"The woman that has made the biggest impact on my life is my grandma," Hamilton wrote. "My grandma is a smart, caring woman. Whether she is telling me to pick up my messy room before she busts my bottom or saying that she loves me; she is always there for me to talk to no matter what. I am ashamed to say sometimes I don't take those opportunities, but when I do she always makes me feel better. I don't know where I would be without her. She has helped me through a number of difficult situations."
Hamilton's essay was both personal and powerful, said Command Sgt. Maj. David Pitt. Pitt is the driving force behind the monthly essay contest with the local schools. He said he learned to appreciate community outreach programs about 12 years ago, when he was inducted into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club. Wanting to grow that same community outreach in his current unit, he started the essay contest that provides winners a trophy and the winning class a pizza party. His ultimate goal also includes developing a relationship between the local community and the Soldiers serving at Camp Atterbury.
"Young people are often tempted to look for role models among movie stars or athletes," Pitt said. "Fame doesn't teach morals or core values -- that's done at home. The foundation of who you become starts at home. It's important to recognize that."