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Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks at a Celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act

Well, let me thank Vice Admiral Joyner for the very kind introduction, and good morning everyone. Secretary Austin, thank you in particular for the time that you're taking out of your busy schedule to join this important occasion.

And I want to also acknowledge, as my colleagues have done, Ms. Rambow, Ms. Marks, Ms. Robinson, Ms. Risotto. Welcome to the Pentagon, and thank you for your service. 

Let me also acknowledge Admiral Franchetti and the many service leadership members that are here today, Secretary of the Army Wormuth as well, and Congresswoman Nancy Mace.

Thank you for joining us.

What an absolute pleasure it has been to listen to both Admiral Joyner and Major Haver. Your words are inspiring. Your careers are inspiring.

Since Major Haver graduated from Ranger School, 116 more women have successfully soared through the glass ceiling that she helped shatter. And today, six female students are currently in training.

And Admiral Joyner, you are nothing short of inspirational as well, the first woman to command a U.S. Navy strike fighter squadron and the first female commander of a carrier air wing. It's no wonder your call sign is Clutch.


Even so, it's still too early to opine upon either of your legacies, as your careers continue.

This anniversary serves as a timely opportunity to celebrate the tremendous talent, tenacity and expertise that women have long contributed to DOD's mission, since the nation's first war.

Unlike then, today women are able to serve in the military regardless of their race or identity or their station in life. They can serve in combat roles; they can become Army Rangers, fighter pilots and four-star generals. And the list goes on.

Women in uniform continue to make history every day, taking on roles and responsibilities that were not before possible, or attainable. Progress like the progress we're celebrating today is not inevitable. In fact, it is often met with skepticism and outright resistance.

For decades, critics have openly argued that our differences could be our downfall. They question, with women in the ranks, can the U.S. military maintain the connection, camaraderie and community that are among its hallmarks and greatest strengths?

I don't think anyone today would seriously question the dominance of today's U.S. military, the finest fighting force that the world has ever seen. The full integration of women into our armed forces has only made our military stronger and our nation safer and more secure.

And, in addition to that, it moved the entire nation closer to the promise of full equality, reinforced the power of unity around our shared values and underscored that we, as a nation, are more effective when we draw on the talents of qualified Americans willing to serve.

I come from a military family—men and women who have proudly served this nation. In fact, back in 1975, my father served as the action officer for the admittance of women to the Naval Academy. So, you're welcome, Clutch.


Back in 1976, 81 women trailblazers entered the Naval Academy for the first time. Fifty-five women graduated from that class. When Secretary Austin delivered commencement remarks to this year's graduating Naval Academy class, there were 267 women graduated.

So we should be proud of the progress that the department has made to maintain a U.S. military that reflects the nation that it is called to defend. It is historic, and we rightfully celebrate it. Yet as we do, we acknowledge that our work is not done. It is our responsibility to break down even more barriers for all of us and for the generations to come.

I for one am very proud to help lead a department that continues to expand opportunities to women, one that is committed to advancing gender equity and equality and one that acknowledges that the service and sacrifice of all those who serve this nation are to be honored.

So I thank each and every one of you for coming to celebrate this occasion with us today.

And it is now my honor to introduce our keynote speaker, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.


There’s more.

Secretary Austin, throughout your very brief 41 year career serving in the U.S. Army, Secretary Austin distinguished himself as a brave warfighter, sharp strategist, and empathetic leader. 

Over the past two years as our 28th Secretary of Defense, he has doubled down on that legacy; he has deepened our partnerships and alliances throughout the world, tackled tough security challenges, and ensured that DoD is prepared to defend the nation now and far into the future. 

Mr. Secretary, the floor is yours.