March 9, 2011

Forum celebrates role of women in the U.S. armed forces

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

FORT LEE, Va. — The Virginia National Guard Equal Opportunity Office welcomed Soldiers of the Virginia Army National Guard to the U.S. Army Women's Museum at Fort Lee to celebrate Women's History Month March 23 by sitting down with Brig. Gen. Janice Igou, director of interagency operations for the Virginia National Guard, for a forum discussing their individual experiences in the U.S. armed forces. The group of Soldiers, mostly female, shared their experiences with one another and discussed what being a woman in the Army meant to them, and how being a Citizen-Soldier has affected their lives.


Brig. Gen. Janice Igou, director of interagency affairs, shares her experiences in the Army with participants in the Virginia National Guard's Women's Forum at Fort Lee March 23. The Annual Women's Forum is one way the Virginia Guard Equal Opportunity highlights Women's History Month. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

The forum began with a brief introduction of Igou and a speech where she discussed the history of women serving in the Army and the brief history of women serving in the Virginia National Guard. Before his introduction of Igou, John Listman, Virginia National Guard historian, noted that women have only been serving in the Virginia Guard since 1965. Igou opened up the forum by discussing her career in the Army and sharing her experiences.

“The history of women in the military is just 63 years young,” said Igou, Virginia’s first female general officer. “That is when women were formally recognized through the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act.  Those who went before us had to struggle just to be allowed to serve, and have paved the way for us with many, many accomplishments.  The responsibility now rests with me and you to maintain high standards and to perform our jobs well.  We owe this to our country and to all who will come after us.”

She openly discussed the changes she has seen in the Army throughout her time as an officer and stressed the importance of being prepared for when opportunity presents itself.


Spc. Lori Adkins, Virginia equal opportunity specialist, tours the U.S. Army Women's museum March 23 at Fort Lee following the Virginia Guard's Annual Women's Forum. The Soldiers in attendance were given a guided tour by museum staff. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

“You have to look to the next level and get yourself qualified,” she said. “You can’t wait for the opportunity and then say, ‘Let me run to school,’ or ‘Let me go take a physical fitness test because I didn’t do so well on the last one.’

“You have to have everything ready to go- military and civilian education, health and fitness, a complete and updated personnel record, and a current photo so when the opportunity comes along, you can say, ‘Yes, I’m qualified, I can do that,’ and you are ready to go to the next level.”

Igou then turned the floor over the other Soldiers in attendance to share their experiences in the Army and discuss unique experiences they have encountered while serving as traditional Guard Soldiers, as well as their time mobilized on federal active service throughout the Global War on Terror.

According to Capt. Amelia Coppage, Virginia National Guard State Equal employment manager, the event was well received by all that attended and she noted the importance of holding such events hosted by the Virginia Guard.

“The women's forum is a very important event; it allows women to share their experiences in the military which inspire others," said Coppage.  “The more we have women share their stories, other women can see that anything is achievable if they persevere and do their best."

Following the forum, the Soldiers were given a tour of the museum and had a chance to learn more about the role of women in the Army. The museum houses artifacts and archival material pertaining to the service of women of the U.S. Army from the Revolutionary War to the present. The museum collects, preserves, manages, interprets and exhibits the artifacts to provide training and educational outreach.

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