March is Women’s History Month.
It is a month when we celebrate the contributions and strides women have made throughout the yesteryears to the present in America.
“I think it is important that they set aside a month to recognize women, due to the different struggles that women have gone through over the years, and just kind of bringing that to the forefront of how much things have changed,” Maj. Zambia Seymore, 1st Cavalry Division Equal Opportunity Program manager, said. “And I think it’s good that it’s celebrated, to bring to people’s attention the contributions and things of that nature, that women have done over the years.”
This year’s motto for the observance is “We Can Do It … and She Did,” commemorating the 75th anniversary of World War II.
Woman played a large role in the major armed conflict, from the homefront to the theater itself.
Females played a major role during WWII. Hundreds of thousands of women supported the war effort on the homefront, by working in factories, offices and military installations, holding jobs traditionally reserved for men in peacetime. By 1945, one out of every four women worked outside of the home.
Over 300,000 worked in the aircraft industry, supporting the effort, which amounted to 65% of the industry’s total workforce.
Also, during that time, women were finally able to serve in uniform in the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, Navy Women’s Reserve, the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, the Women Airforce Service Pilots, the Army Nurse Corps and the Navy Nurse Corps.
Among the major women contributors during the armed conflict of WWII were:
Gladys Theus, known as one of the fastest and most efficient welders while producing equipment for the war.
Maggie Gee, a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot who trained and qualified male pilots, and staged mock dogfights for training bomber gunners.
Jane Kendeigh, a Navy flight nurse and the first Navy flight nurse on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, Japan.
“It’s important to recognize women in history because of the contribution that we provide to our nation. And not only the nation, but the world, throughout. I mean, without us, there is no one else,” retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jackeline Fountain, a city councilwoman with the City of Harker Heights and former U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Hood command sergeant major, said. “We’re the ones that are the salt of the earth. And so, it’s really important for us to be able to recognize them. And it’s not just in March of the year it’s always. You always want to recognize them, make them feel like they are a part of our humanity.”
Although Fountain she did not serve in the Army during WWII, she was a major military female contributor in her own right.
Since WWII, the Army has made changes in policy with regard to women who serve. More and more opportunities have opened to women. Fountain was one of the first with regard to transformation. She was the first Chemical Corps command sergeant major in the Army, among many other firsts for the branch of service.
“As the first female in the Chemical Corps, it was really important because, once again, we went through a transition period. And the Chief of Staff of the Army, back in 1976, says we want to integrate the military into the current row, at the time, when I was in the military. So I didn’t know that I was the first among a lot of things,” she said. “I was with the first 100 female paratroopers, first sergeant of mechanized smoke. So, as I evolved and the goal was, since we didn’t have a female command sergeant major, that was my goal. It was to work in the positions that I needed to work so that we could change and have that female command sergeant major in the Chemical Corps.”
Fountain said there have been other firsts and more open doors for women in the Army in recent decades, and their commitment and dedication, working alongside their male counterparts has paid dividends.
“We work hard. We don’t do it for the recognition, we do it to make humanity better and to pave the way for others,” she said. “In my case, I was the first female to be a sergeant major in the Chemical Corps. Since then, we have had a regimental sergeant major, and not only that, but she’s gone on to be in a two-star billet. So, somebody has to do it, open that door, and show that we are proficient and efficient in our tasks, and that we’re able to serve in those roles and position.”
Since Fountain’s retirement from the Army, changes in policy now allow women to fill combat billets, previously only open to males. This even includes women having the opportunity to attend Ranger School.
Sgt. 1st Class Despina Fields, a senior human resource noncommissioned officer with the 1st Cav. Div. G-1, said women are blazing the trails in the armed forces and that she’s excited about the opportunities women have and how things have evolved with regard to equality in the military.
“I mean, there’s so many female pioneers and we’re still having several women firsts,” she said. “First in command of this, first in command of that, first taking infantry, first ... and so many opportunities that women have never had. So, the pioneer age is not over. And just because you have women to your left and your right, it doesn’t mean that we’re doing the same jobs that the women have been allowed to do for 50 years. So, the pioneering isn’t over and if we don’t recognize that and appreciate that, then we don’t empower each other as women. And men can empower women and women can do it and vice versa.”
Fountain said that while women may bring a slightly different mindset to Soldiering, they are just as strong willed as their male counterparts.
“So, you bring a different perspective and a lot of leaderships,” Fountain said. “We just bring that nurturing, caring but hard. I think sometimes we’re harder than the guys because we were like, ‘no I’m not. We’re not having that.’ So, it makes it really interesting to be in a leadership role and build that team. And we have a really good sense of seeing talent and what everybody’s talents are.”
While more and more opportunities have opened up to women since WWII, Fountain said women play a much more greater role for society as a whole and it is important to appreciate their contributions in society as a whole.
“It’s important to recognize women in history because of the contribution that we provide to our nation. And not only the nation, but the world, throughout,” she said.
“I mean, without us, there is no one else. There are no babies there, so we’re the ones that are the salt of the earth. And so, it’s really important for us to be able to recognize them. And it’s not just in March of the year, it’s always. You always want to recognize them, make them feel like they are a part of our humanity.”
The Fort Hood Women’s History Month observance, originally scheduled for today, has been cancelled.