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Perry Calls DACOWITS "An Agent of Change"

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 2, 1996 – "Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past are certain to miss the future." -- John F. Kennedy

Defense Secretary William J. Perry used this quote from President Kennedy to set the stage for a talk to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services recently.


"Since the end of the Cold War, change has been the law of life in the Defense Department. We've been using lessons of the past to manage change so we don't miss our future," Perry said.


Perry talked about changes that happen to us and changes we make happen, particularly since the end of the Cold War. The committee advises Perry on matters affecting women in the military.


The historic transformation of the role of women in the armed forces is an example of managing change and seizing opportunities, he said. "Equality of opportunity is the right thing to do --the smart thing to do," he added.


With defense spending down by 40 percent and heavy personnel cuts, DoD can't afford to waste the talents of a single individual," Perry said. "That's why the services are opening up almost every career field to women, including many fields traditionally associated with combat. Women are also taking on coveted command roles that are the ticket to advancement.


"Like the end of the Cold War, the defense drawdown is the type of change that happens to us. But better utilizing the talents of every individual is change that we can make happen. It's an opportunity that we seized, and we're stronger for it."


During a visit to the USS Eisenhower last year, Perry met the first women to serve aboard an aircraft carrier. "One of them was a senior enlisted noncommissioned officer only a year or so away from retirement," he recalled. "I asked her why she had volunteered for her first and probably only deployment aboard a combat ship. She said she wanted to be able to tell her grandchildren that she had been a real sailor."


He said any woman in America today has a chance to be a real sailor, and next year more spaces will be available for them on combatant ships than on noncombatant ships.


Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Carol Mutter is a role model for all military women aspiring to advance in the armed services, Perry said.


"When she joined the military almost three decades ago as a second lieutenant, she probably estimated that lieutenant colonel would be as far as she could go," Perry said. "Today, she's been nominated to be a lieutenant general. This says a lot about her as a person, but it also says a lot about every woman serving in our armed forces.


"You've shown all of us that there's not only plenty of room for women in our military, but there's plenty of room for women at the top of the military," Perry told Mutter.


Military women are supported by many different quarters, but DACOWITS has always led the way, he noted. "DACOWITS has been a key to opening new avenues and new careers for women in the military," Perry said. "You've not only been my eyes and ears as they relate to everything from child care to readiness, you have also been truly 'agents of change.' You have helped us bring forth leaders who can manage change and seize the opportunities that change presents."

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