NIANTIC, Conn. –
NIANTIC, Conn. – Soldiers from across the Connecticut Army National Guard participated in a Women’s History panel at Camp Nett, Niantic, Connecticut, March 13, 2022.
Women have proudly worn the uniform and served in the United States Military since the founding of the country during the Revolutionary War. However, prior to the Women's Armed Services Integration Act of 1948, women would only be allowed to serve in support roles such as seamstresses and nurses, and usually only in temporary capacities. It wasn’t until July 8th, 1977, that the first combined male and female military occupational class would be had and it wouldn't be until January 1st, 2016 that all military occupations would be available for women.
Despite this, women have served faithfully and courageously, whether it be tending to the wounded in an aid station in France during World War I, as typists, cryptologists and photographers during WWII, or fighting terrorism abroad in the Global War on Terror.
The panel was held to highlight these facts and, as stated on the flyer handed out to promote the event, to tell the story of the “extraordinary work, leadership and experiences of women in the military.” Soldiers of many ranks and backgrounds were featured as part of the panel and shared their experiences on diversity, camaraderie, family life, personal and professional growth and overcoming stigmas and stereotypes. The panel also included presentations by U.S. Army Col. Lesbia Nieves, the 85th Troop Command brigade commander and guest speakers retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Dawn Works-Dennis and retired U.S. Army Maj. Sonja Smilinich.
One of the speakers on the panel, Capt. Robin Felder, assigned to the 6th Recruiting and Retention Battalion, talked about the force multiplier women and diversity brings to the U.S. Army and National Guard. She explained the importance of diversity of thought and how having a force of soldiers with diverse backgrounds is beneficial to solving complex problems.
“We’re a force multiplier, wherever we go, whatever unit we are in, because we are women,” said Felder. “We have the mentality that we have to fight for what we want, it’s just not going to be handed to us.”
This topic resonated with many of the soldiers on the panel including U.S. Army Sgt. Rebecca Washington, a human resources specialist assigned to the 143rd Regional Support Group.
“You come in, you do your work and you multiply the force,” added Washington. You are a benefit, you are of service and that is what we all strive to be.”