Women Build Communities, Instill Hope, Dreams in DoD, Nation
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., Mar. 21, 2006 Annual observances provide a chance to reflect on history that defines "how women were treated and how they struggled, organized and contributed significantly to the positive change in this country," a history-making woman general said here today.
Army Brig. Gen. Belinda Pinckney, principal deputy director of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, tells the audience at the Defense Department's observance of Women's History Month that the annual event isn't about idealizing women. "It's about expanding the vision of what women can do," she said. Photo by Rudi Williams
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Brig. Gen. Belinda Pinckney, principal deputy director of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, is one of two African American women and 11 total women general officers serving in the Army today. She spoke today at the Defense Department's Women's History Month observance at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial here. More than 120 military and civilian women role models working in science, engineering, math and technology disciplines from each of the services and defense agencies were recognized during the ceremony. They came to the observance from across the globe.
Pinckney noted that the nation and women are living the legacy of the women's rights movement. "We need to continue to tell the stories, so that every generation will know and learn from these stories because we as a country are not particularly proud of some of this history," she said. "We do not want to repeat the bad history, and we want to tell the stories of the good history."
Many contributions of women have gone unrecognized, she said. "The stories of their struggles and triumphs remain untold," said Pinckney, who was the first black female to be inducted into the Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame.
It's important to acknowledge the accomplishments of outstanding women, because, Pinckney said, "It's easy to take for granted just how far we've come in the Department of Defense." Women should continue to tell their stories to ensure that every generation will not only know the stories, but also use the stories to grow from the experiences, she said.
Pinckney spoke of the three women wearing three-star general and flag rank in the military today: Vice Adm. Ann Rondeau, director of the Navy staff, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations; Lt. Gen. Terry Gabreski, vice commander of Air Force Materiel Command; and Army Lt. Gen. Ann Dunwoody, deputy chief of staff for logistics.
Pinckney also spoke of trailblazing military women, such as retired Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, the first female to reach that rank in the Army; and Lt. Gen. Carol Mutter, the first female to wear three stars in the Marine Corps.
Today the Army has 11 women generals; the Air Force has 17; the Navy has 11 female admirals; and the Marine Corps has two women generals, Pinckney said.
"Last year, the Air Force had 16 female bomber pilots out of 759, and 43 female fighter pilots out of 3,5000," said Pinckney, who, among other firsts, is the first woman in the history of the Army Finance Corps to be promoted to general and the first woman selected as a general officer in the comptroller field. "The Navy has fewer than 10 female fighter pilots, just a handful, but these numbers represent the opening of doors of opportunity that were closed just 10 years ago."
Pinckney said this means that given an opportunity, women can be just as effective as their counterparts. "It's means that women are flying combat missions over Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, ... sustaining the American spirit," she said. "It further means that women serve proudly, just as men do. Women are just as effective and efficient. Women expect to carry their fair share of the load, and given the opportunity they will.
"I believe that the Department of Defense accomplishes so much because we recognize that our strength lies within our diverse workforce," Pinckney told the audience. "We serve in an environment where the standard for success is not judged by one's gender, but by one's manner of performance. We recognize that ... it doesn't matter what your gender, race or religion is - that we're all God's children, created equal, and we all can make lasting contributions in the service of our nation."
Women's history continues to be written by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was also the first female national security advisor to the president, Pinckney said. "This history also continues to be written by people like you and me, and other women sitting here this morning," she added.
"Women's History Month is not about idealizing women," Pinckney emphasized. "It's about expanding the vision of what women can do. Furthermore, it's about telling the stories of hope and inspiration, courage and tenacity, promise, possibility and purpose."
Women will continue to play a vital role in building communities, instilling hope and dreams within DoD and throughout the nation, the general said. "I consider myself a living beneficiary of the many women serving in the Department of Defense that have gone before me who broke down the barriers of sexism and inequality and proved that women could serve with distinction alongside men in uniform."