Six female Silver Star recipients inducted into Women’s Hall of Fame

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Greetings from the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), our Army’s and our soldiers’ professional organization.

I recently had the honor to attend the Army Women’s Foundation (AWF) Sixth Annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Summit on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

"The mission of the Army Women’s Foundation is to celebrate and preserve the achievements of women who serve in the Army and help them prepare for ongoing success whether they continue their careers as soldiers or return to civilian life," Maj. Gen. Dee Ann McWilliams, USA, Ret., president of the Army Women’s Foundation, said.

Every March the Army celebrates Women’s History Month to recognize the contributions women have made to our military service and to honor those who have served.

"It is through the recognition of our heroes we see into the souls of our people and ultimately the Army. People are the strength of our Army and women represent the best of the best," Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., president of the Association of the United States Army, said.

The Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony included the induction of the 14th Women’s Army Corps (WAC) Band, the last all-female military band.

The WAC Band served from 1948 to 1976 where it performed for audiences all across the country and also played for U.S. presidents.

U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jeanney Pace, commander and band master of the 1st Cavalry Division Band, accepted the Hall of Fame Induction Award on behalf of the WAC Band.

Pace is the longest serving female in the Army and the last remaining member of the 14th WAC Band still serving on active duty.

I had the honor to represent the six female soldier-heroes who received this third highest military decoration for valor – the Silver Star.

These soldiers were: 1st Lt. Mary Roberts, 2nd Lt. Elaine Roe, 2nd Lt. Rita Virginia Rourke, 2nd Lt. Ellen Ainsworth (posthumously), Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester and Sgt. Monica L. Brown.

The first four recipients, all Army nurses, saved 42 patients when the Germans bombed the field hospital at Anzio Beach, Italy.

Ainsworth was killed during the attack and was awarded the medal posthumously.

Hester received her decoration for valor as a military police officer and vehicle commander in the 617th Military Police Company, Kentucky National Guard, Richmond, Ky., serving in Iraq in 2005.

Hester became the first female since World War II to receive the Silver Star awarded for her actions during a complex ambush on a supply convoy.

Hester and her squad drove their vehicles between the insurgents and the convoy. She was one of two leaders who dismounted from their armored Humvees and led the counterattack against the ambush.

Twenty-seven insurgents were killed and seven were captured during the fire fight.

Brown, as a private first class, received her decoration for valor as a combat medic serving with an infantry platoon in Afghanistan.

Joining the Army at 17, Brown graduated Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and immediately deployed to Afghanistan.

Serving on a remote combat outpost in the mountainous region of Afghanistan, Brown was on patrol with the infantry when they were ambushed.

For the next three days, there was intense contact where she continuously treated and evacuated the wounded U.S. and Afghan soldiers.

Command Sgt. Maj. Michele Jones, USA, Ret., was the recipient of the Female Firsts Award.

Jones was the first women in the United States Army Reserve to reach the position of command sergeant major.

She was also the first female noncommissioned officer to serve as the command sergeant major of the Army Reserve and, at the time, the highest ranking female noncommissioned officer the three Army components.

Special recognition was given to two Army women serving in Congress today.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., is an Iraq War veteran currently serving the 8th Congressional District in Illinois.

Duckworth received the Purple Heart for her combat injuries as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot serving in the Illinois National Guard where she continues to serve as a lieutenant colonel.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard , D-Hawaii, is an Iraq War veteran currently serving the 2nd Congressional District in Hawaii.

Gabbard received the Meritorious Service Medal during Operation Iraqi Freedom, was the first female Distinguished Honor Graduate at Fort McClellan’s Officer Candidate School, and was the first women to receive an award of appreciation from the Kuwaiti military on her second overseas tour.

Gabbard continues to serve our Army and our nation as a captain in the Hawaii National Guard.

Women have been serving our nation as soldiers since the American Revolution.

Today women make up nearly 15 percent of today’s active duty military and 18 percent of the National Guard and reserve forces.

At the foundation’s luncheon, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Ray Chandler addressed the group of dignitaries gathered in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill.

"No, we’re not lowering the standards," Chandler said in addressing the rhetoric in the media about lowering standards of performance in military occupational specialties previously closed to women.

Chandler noted in his presentation how the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) has been validating physical and mental requirements needed for traditionally male-only career fields.

"The Army is establishing a measurable standard which all soldiers, male as well as female will be required to meet," Chandler said.

Adding, "It’s very possible that some male soldiers who’ve been working in the closed occupational specialties might not make the cut, while some women will."

Once TRADOC finishes the physical assessment baseline testing, the Army will go back to the force and apply those measurable standards to both male and female soldiers.

"This is about finding the best talent, the best qualified. We should all be excited about that," he said.

Chandler added, "What makes our Army are dedicated professionals [men and women] who display competent abilities."

At the luncheon, the AWF presented 29 scholarships to women Army soldiers currently serving, veterans, and their family members.

These scholarships were given to support a variety of educational programs from two- and four-year schools to graduate-level education degrees.

For more information on the AWF check out this webpage and the corresponding links to see all the amazing people serving our Army and our nation. http://armywomensfoundation.org/

Now more than ever America’s Army needs AUSA and AUSA needs your membership support.

Membership is the volume knob to ensure your voice is amplified many times over and heard through the halls of Congress, from sea to shining sea across this country, and throughout every small town and community in-between.

Keep America’s Army strong! Take a stand!


Still Serving, Still Saluting!