Women in the Military – In recent years, there have been numerous firsts for women in the military. Women are shattering barriers and inspiring others through their dedication to serving our country and their commitment to mission readiness. Demonstrating that grit and perseverance combined with a passion for service and adherence to excellence are the cornerstones of success for women in the military, we celebrate them as they continue to reach new heights.
First Woman Leads SOUTHCOM: Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson
Photo Caption and Credit: Gen. Laura J. Richardson (Courtesy of U.S. Southern Command)
Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson is a four-star general in the U.S. Army and commander of U.S. Southern Command where she oversees U.S. military operations across Central and South America and the Caribbean. Prior to leading SOUTHCOM, she was the commanding general of U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
During her Senate confirmation hearing Richardson said, “We must hasten to pick up the pieces left by the pandemic and transform our relationships to meet 21st-century security challenges. Put simply, winning together with our allies and partners matters.” Richardson continued, “We will draw upon the strength in our neighborhood from partners who share our values of freedom, democracy, respect for human rights, the rule of law and gender equality.”
According to SOUTHCOM, “Over her career, General Richardson has commanded from the Company to Theater Army level as a notable women in the military . She commanded an Assault Helicopter Battalion in combat in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), deploying her unit from Fort Campbell, Ky. to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She has also served in numerous staff assignments at a myriad of locations, including Military Aide to the Vice President at the White House in Washington, D.C., the Army’s Legislative Liaison to Congress at the U.S. Capitol and at the Pentagon as an Army Campaign Planner.”
First Female State Command Chief for Minnesota Air National Guard
Photo Caption and Credit: Master Sergeant Lisa Erikson (MN Air National Guard)
Master Sergeant Lisa Erikson is the most senior enlisted member of the Minnesota Air National Guard. As the State Command Chief, she plays a vital role in the development and readiness of the force. Since October 2021, she has been responsible for leading and managing roughly 2,000 Airmen located at two separate wings and one headquarters across Minnesota.
“My priorities are to build relationships to improve the resiliency of the force so we may provide this state and nation a ready force,” said Erikson. “I will also provide opportunities for development and growth” for women in the military.
According to the Minnesota Air National Guard, “Erikson brings tremendous diversity of experience having held six very different duty positions throughout her 32 years of service. She began her career as a Jet Engine Mechanic on the C-141 cargo aircraft. She succeeded in this traditionally male career field in a time when there were only five to six percent females in the U.S. Air Force. She transitioned into administrative roles include training manager, personnel systems manager and 148th Recruiting Office Supervisor. She served as the Senior Noncommissioned-Officer-In-Charge of the 148th Medical Group for 10 years. In this role, she deployed to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, supporting Operation Enduring Freedom as part of the Wing’s aviation deployment.”
Utah National Guard Promoted First Brigadier General
Photo Caption and Credit: Brig. Gen. Charlene Dalto (Courtesy of Utah National Guard)
In May 2021, Col. Charlene Dalto became the first female to be promoted to brigadier general in the Utah Army National Guard, assuming the role of commander of the Utah National Guard Land Component Command.
She served the first 20 years of her military career as an enlisted Soldier, attaining the second-highest rank as a master sergeant. Dalto then commissioned as a first lieutenant working with the U.S. Army Nurse Corps for 18 years as an officer.
Dalto shared, “Throughout my military career, I have been privileged to know many great Soldiers and be mentored by outstanding leaders. I pledge to continue that tradition for the Soldiers under my command. Together, we will dedicate ourselves to the great tradition of the Utah Army National Guard for excellence in serving the citizens of Utah and our great nation.”
First Latina Earns Expert Infantryman Badge
Photo Caption and Credit: 1st Lt. Maria Eggers (Spc. Johnathan Touhey/U.S. Army)
Army 1st Lt. Maria Eggers earned the expert infantryman badge in April 2021when she completed the five-day test that gauges the ability to execute a variety of critical infantry skills and a Soldier’s physical fitness. The test evaluates skill mastery in various environments and under stress. While all combat roles opened to women in 2016, fewer than 100 women serving in the U.S. Army have received the expert infantryman badge.
Eggers was raised in a military family with both of her parents serving, which inspired her to join the military. She is currently serving at Fort Hood as a platoon leader.
When asked about her experience and upon learning that she was the first Latina to earn the award in the regiment, Eggers said, “I was shocked by how few females have had the opportunity or who have tried. I definitely think it is amazing that we have females that are in this profession and that we’re succeeding. There is a lot of good talk that happens whenever somebody is successful. It just shows that we can do it, and that females are strong, and we can handle this job too.”
Soldiers begin the five-day test by running four miles in 40 minutes then demonstrating their weapons skills. On day two they wear their combat gear while completing day and night land navigation courses. On the third and fourth days, the Soldiers are evaluated on their ability to care for injured personnel. On day five, they complete the ruck, a 12-mile foot march completed in three hours while wearing full body armor. The test is both a challenge, both physically and mentally.
First Female General Strengthens West Virginia Army National Guard
Photo Caption and Credit: Then Col. Michaelle M. Munger (Courtesy of West Virginia National Guard)
Col. Michaelle M. Munger was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in December 2021, making her the first female general officer for the West Virginia Army National Guard. Munger has served in every component of the U.S. Army — active duty, U.S. Army Reserves and the Army National Guard throughout her 27-year career.
“Having a female voice at the table is critical in strengthening our National Guard,” Munger said. “What we bring to the mission is unique not because we are females, but because of our ability to approach the mission in perhaps a different perspective and viewpoint. Additionally, by being at the table, we can display our competency and capabilities, and to dispel stereotypes to help younger Soldiers not face the same gender-related limitations and hurdles we might have faced in our own careers. Every Soldier needs to be heard and judged based not on their sex, but by their ideas and vision.”
Munger serves as Special Assistant to the Adjutant General of West Virginia where she assists with special projects, mentorship, inclusion and diversity initiatives and leadership development within the WVNG.
“My own method to success has been perseverance and self-reflection,” she said. “And I try to instill in every Soldier I work with to be the 4 Ps: Productive, Present, Prompt, Professional. I am super-excited for the talented, smart, bright, energetic younger crop of women now entering the military and the opportunities and doors that are continually opening to them. They inspire me, and hopefully, I inspire them too. But I want to be a role model for all Soldiers, not just females, that doing the right thing, growing where you are planted and making the effort will allow you to succeed.”
Alabama Air National Guard Named First Female General
Photo Caption and Credit: Tara D. McKennie (then-Air Force Col.) (Courtesy of Alabama National Guard)
Brigadier General Tara D. McKennie, the Assistant Adjutant General-Air and Air Component Commander, Joint Force Headquarters, Montgomery, Ala., commands all units of the Alabama Air National Guard, and serves as the key advisor to the Adjutant General of Alabama on all matters relating to the air mission. She is the first Black female general officer in either component of the Alabama National Guard.
McKennie enlisted in the Air Force in 1989 as an airman basic, serving six years on active duty before commissioning as a second lieutenant through the Army’s Officer Candidate School in 1999.
McKennie’s entire professional career has been in health care operations focusing on optimization theory, implementation of management processes and developing and leading people. In addition to her military service, McKennie is currently Vice President of Culture and Leadership Development for a national physician practice, supporting and leading operations for 5000+ employees.
MCRD San Diego Celebrates First Female Boot Camp Graduates
Photo Caption & Credit: Female Marines from Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, congratulate each other after graduating from boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, Calif. For the first time in MCRD San Diego’s history, male and female platoons completed their 13-week training concurrently in a gender-integrated company. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
In May 2021, dozens of women graduated from boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego, marking a first for the Marine Corps. This milestone event is part of the Marine Corps’ efforts to expand training opportunities for female Marines. Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, was the camp’s first ever co-ed company. In 2019, Congress ordered the Marine Corps to make both boot camps, Parris Island, S.C., and San Diego co-ed. In the past, women could only train and become enlisted Marines at Parris Island, training apart from the men in their battalion. With the passage of the 2019 law, Parris Island was required to integrate women into training alongside men within five years and San Diego was given eight years. San Diego adopted the change six years sooner than required.
Fifty-three women completed the grueling Crucible, a three-day training exercise, and earned the name Marine while also making history. According to military.com, “The platoon of female recruits won the final drill competition last month; they also had the highest Physical and Combat Fitness Test scores in their company. And their rifle range scores were higher than the average female platoon at Parris Island.”