July 14 , 2010

Women's Forum highlights careers of Virginia Guard female Soldiers and Airmen

By Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT LEE, Va.—Soldiers and Airmen of the Virginia National Guard were invited by the Virginia Guard Equal Opportunity Office to come together at the Women’s Museum at Fort Lee July 7 to discuss their experiences as females serving honorably in the armed forces during the Virginia Guard’s Inaugural Women’s Forum.

 

The Virginia Guard's Inaugural Women's Forum included historical displays about women serving in the Virginia National Guard. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The approximately 30 Soldiers and Airmen (including six men) were given a brief lesson by Fort Pickett Historian John Listman on how women serving in the Virginia Guard have only been able to serve for a short period of time when compared to how long the Virginia Guard has been in service, since 1607.

Listman pointed out that women have only been permitted to serve in the Guard since 1956 and that Virginia did not have any females in the Guard until 1965 when two women who were nurses in their civilian careers came on board with the newly transformed 192d Tactical Fighter Group’s tactical hospital.

Listman also noted that it would be another seven years until the Virginia Army National Guard would gain its first female enlistees.

“It was not until 1973 that the Virginia National Army Guard got its first women. She was a clerk-typist in the 21st/20th Public Affairs Detachment, and since then, we have grown,” he said. “We got our first female officer when candidate Anna Davis graduated from the state OCS in 1976.”

The Attendees were also given an opportunity to listen to the tale of the Virginia Guard’s first female colonel, Catherine Hundley, before they sat down and talked about their experiences and the trials and tribulations they have faced throughout their careers.

Hundley spoke of her time spent in the Virginia Guard and how she rose through the ranks when the Guard and the Army were predominantly run by males, and females were fewer and further between. She also reminded them how important forums like this are to current and future Guardsmen and women.

“I'm honored to be here and provide some reflections about my experiences in the Virginia Army National Guard as well as my professional career as an Army Nurse Corps officer,” said Hundley. ‘Very, very few people today completely understand the personal sacrifices and difficulties required of both men and women in uniform. It is helpful to share some reflections and offer to junior personnel some observations.”

After the guest speakers completed their remarks the Soldiers, Airmen and civilians gathered around and shared their thoughts and feelings on women serving in the armed forces, their experiences and why they chose to serve their nation and the commonwealth.

Also in attendance at the inaugural event was Brig. Gen. Wayne Wright, who at the time was acting as the interim adjutant general of Virginia, Sgt. Monica Beltran, the first female in the Virginia Guard to receive the Bronze Star for Valor, and Brig. Gen. Robert Tucker, chairman of the equal opportunity advisory council.

The Virginia Guard Equal Opportunity office plans to host a second Women’s Forum at the Women’s museum sometime in the Spring of 2011.

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