March 15, 2002, 10:17 EST

Women honored for their contributions

(Left to right) Master Sergeant Lucy Washington, Major General Claude Williams, Colonel Annette Deener spoke today to those gathered at the Fort Pickett Conference Center on the contributions women have made to the United States military. (Photo courtesy Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office)

BLACKSTONE, Va. - March is Women's History Month and time was taken today to honor the contributions women have made to the defense of America. People gathered at the Fort Pickett Conference Center the morning of Mar. 14 to celebrate the achievements women have made in the military and hear how the culture has changed.

The theme of Women's History Month is American Military Women - Sustaining the American Spirit. It was noted that Deborah Samson masqueraded as a male during the Revolutionary War so she could join the fight against oppression of the American Colonies. By the early 1990s of the 540,000 military members deployed for Desert Shield / Storm 7% were women. Today women make up 15% of the 1.4 million members of America's Armed Forces. There are 33 women general officers serving in the Armed Forces today.

Maj. Gen. Claude Williams, the Adjutant General of the Virginia National Guard, addressed those gathered at the Conference Center. He stated that Gov. Warner and he are committed to "providing a level playing field" for all members of the Virginia National Guard. Williams is committed to assuring the Virginia National Guard provides an environment that allows its members to rise to their full potential. He noted that women now serve in every rank in the Virginia National Guard from Private E-1 through Colonel O-6 and that these soldiers and airmen contribute to the accomplishment of the mission of "TEAM VIRGINIA."

Master Sgt. Lucy Washington of the Virginia Air National Guard spoke to the crowd about how women must not consider themselves to be second class, but rather they are equal partners with their male counterparts. Through inspirational music and sharing Sergeant Washington described how women have accomplished so many objectives, though there are many objectives still to be reached.

Col. Annette Deener, Human Resource Officer for the Maryland Army National Guard spoke about the efforts and accomplishments of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS). The theme of Colonel Deener's talk was "You Have Come a Long Way Soldier." She attributed much of the change for women in military service to DACOWITS. She said the DACOWITS was established in 1951 by then Secretary of Defense George C. Marshall. She observed that since DACOWITS was established women have been assimilated into military service and significant strides have been made to assure women are on an equal footing with their male counterparts.

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