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Face of Defense: Music Goes On for Last WAC Still Serving

By Army Sgt. William Begley
11th Public Affairs Detachment

FORT HOOD, Texas, March 28, 2013 – Most people who join the military serve their term and move on. Some stay in uniform for a 20-year career, and few serve for as many as 30 years.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jeanne Y. Pace directs the 1st Cavalry Division Band at a 3rd Corps and Fort Hood retiree celebration on Fort Hood, Texas, March 22, 2013. Pace is the longest-serving woman in the Army and the last active-duty soldier who was part of the Women's Army Corps. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William Begley

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

But Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jeanne Y. Pace has served for 41 years, and she’s still going strong.

Pace, commander and band leader for the 1st Cavalry Division Band, joined the Women’s Army Corps in 1972. She is the longest-serving woman in the Army, and the last active-duty soldier who served in the WAC.

“I believe I still have something to offer, and I still enjoy my job,” she said.

Like many serving today, Pace said, she joined the Army to establish her independence as an adult with the guarantee of clothing, food, shelter and medical benefits while earning her education benefits and trying to figure out what she really wanted to do with her life.

“I had no idea that that three-year enlistment would turn into more than 40 years,” she said. “There is just no way I could have imagined it.”

Pace began her career as a private with the 14th Army (WAC) Band at Fort McClellan, Ga., and after 13 years decided to apply to be a warrant officer. That’s when she was dealt what she perceives to be her only real career setback.

“I failed the first time I tried to become a warrant officer,” she said.

Not one to let failure keep her down, Pace acknowledged the challenge, re-assessed her goals, and applied again. Her persistence paid off, and she pinned on the rank of chief warrant officer 2 in 1985.

Much has changed over her four decades as a soldier, Pace said. Women’s roles in the Army at large have increased dramatically, she said, and the Army now has the opportunity to lead the way in increasing the role of women in combat arms.

“I feel the Army is ahead of society on a lot of things,” Pace said. “But society has to be willing to accept some of the things that the Army trying to do. The whole thing with women in combat -- all of that is something society collectively is going to have to realize and address and already has started recognizing and addressing as the Army moves forward.”

Army Sgt. Maj. Robert Stagg, who works with Pace daily as the band’s senior enlisted leader, said Pace’s long career is unique and has its benefits.

“Because she has been in the Army so long, she has all of this experience that we can draw upon,” he said. “Most commanders haven’t been in the Army for 40 years.”

While being in the Army that long has made Pace a historical figure, Stagg said, she remains humble and grounded.

“She really, genuinely cares about her soldiers,” he said. “She’s willing to go out of her way to care for their families and take care of any problems that they might have. She is still a musician, she still has passion, and she’s here because she loves working with the band.”


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