Shelton Shares Views on Military Women
By Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 28, 1998 "We simply could not do our mission today without the military women who volunteered to serve their country," said Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton.
The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff spoke about his views on women in the military at the Defense Advisory Committee for Women in the Services conference April 24.
Shelton said "the big issue" is ensuring women are allowed to serve with the same level of dedication and professionalism given men.
"Today's increased desire on the part of women to serve our country in an enhanced capacity is directly related to societal changes that brought about shifts in the role of women across a wide range of professions," Shelton said. "These changes have made us a better nation, and they'll make us a better force."
The question we need to ask, Shelton said, is not why these changes are happening but what are we doing to allow women to reach their full potential and prepare for the challenges ahead.
"This isn't a task that I or the joint chiefs can tackle alone," he added. "Each of you play an equally important role."
There are two areas to ensure the well being and combat effectiveness of the armed forces, Shelton explained. They are professional development and creating an atmosphere of respect and trust.
"Over the course of my career, I've developed my capabilities and approach to leadership by watching effective commanders, by interacting with leaders of all ranks and by being offered challenging opportunities," Shelton said. "If we want women to succeed at higher levels of command, then we've got to let them earn their spurs early in their careers and challenge them at every opportunity."
The services must continue to emphasize the professional development of women and select women for more visible leadership roles. Fully integrating women into operations such as Bosnia are all positive steps in creating the respect each service member deserves, he said.
"You can't put a price on this type of experience," Shelton said. "Operational expertise is the foundation of professional development."
Shelton said recent incidents may have damaged the military's value system, but he maintains his confidence in the services. "I remain very optimistic about the future and women in our armed forces," Shelton said. "I think the services are moving out smartly on the right track, and I'm encouraged by what I see."