Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Nadja Y. West, who is no stranger to having several “firsts” throughout her military career, humbly regaled attentive listeners with stories of how women persevered through hardships, ridicule, and challenges to pave the way for future generations of leaders.
“I wanted to talk about today’s national theme: celebrating women of character, courage and commitment,” she said. “How tiny that is, but how appropriate that we stir a significant historical change in our military.”
The list of firsts include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was the first female African-American to hold that position in office, Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, who was the first female four-star general in the U.S. military, and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Angela R. Lowe, the first female Field Artillery Targeting Technician in Army history.
“There needs to be more exposure and more mentoring to other young Soldiers to follow in our footsteps,” Lowe said.
Many times, West reminded the audience of how women have been front-runners to the evolution of America’s society and military.
She expounded on the major historical moves that women made in the past to the present, and said, “They were pioneers that took upon themselves the charge of leadership, even though they did not realize it at the time.”
One of the most pivotal moves in women’s history was establishing the Women’s Army Corps/Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAC/WAAC) during 1942.
West continued to speak about the first six women graduates of the Drill Sergeant Academy during 1972, and how — in 1975 — President Ford signed Public Law 94-106, opening West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force Academy to women. Approximately 327 women became the first to attend these officer-producing service academies.
To close the program after West’s motivational speech, the Live Oak Ridge Middle School Varsity Female Choir of Killeen, Texas further roused the crowd by singing “Roar” by recording artist Katy Perry.
After almost 50 years, women continue to rise to the challenges of society in academia, the military, and government. Women serving in the armed forces have risen from 2 percent to 14.6 percent during that time, which means the nation’s forces have swelled with more than 200,000 mothers, daughters, sisters and wives, all serving their country proudly.
“As we honor the many women who have shaped our history, let us also celebrate those who make progress in our time. Let us remember that when women succeed, America succeeds,” recited Lowe, from the 2014 Presidential Proclamation for Women’s History Month.
First Army Division West’s 166th Aviation Brigade, along with the 36th Engineer Brigade, hosted the Women’s History Month celebration.
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