Gates Notes Contributions of Military Women
(March 23, 2010)
WASHINGTON, March 18, 2010 – The nation depends upon women,
both military and civilian, at all levels of the Defense
Department, from the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan to
the upper echelons of military command, Defense Secretary
Robert M. Gates said here today.|
Gates traced the evolving role of women in the Defense
Department, from the Revolutionary War through today, during
remarks at the Pentagon's Women's History Month observance.
“For over 230 years, American women have served with
distinction on the battlefield,” he said, “even when they
have had to do so in secret.”
Gates cited the example of Deborah Sampson, who disguised
herself as a man to enlist in the Revolutionary War and was
wounded twice during battles with British forces. After the
war, Sampson was given a $4 annual pension, he said, noting
that “a dollar went further in those days.”
In World War II, more than 300,000 women volunteered for
service, and about 1,000 Women Airforce Service Pilots,
known as WASPs, flew more than 60 million miles in nearly
every type of aircraft and role, he said. These women,
however, were denied benefits until 1977.
Earlier this month, WASPs were awarded the Congressional
Gold Medal for their wartime service, a “belated recognition
of the debt that we owe these and many other patriotic
women,” Gates said.
Moving to the present, Gates noted the importance of women
to the nation's current conflicts.
“Since 9/11, women have served everywhere and are critical
to our war effort,” he said.
Gates described the heroism of Army Spc. Monica Lin Brown.
In 2007, Brown was serving as a medic in Afghanistan's
Paktia province when her convoy was ambushed by insurgents.
She braved mortar and small-arms fire to aid soldiers
wounded by a homemade bomb. Brown is credited with saving
the lives of five soldiers, he said, and was awarded the
Silver Star for her selfless actions.
Gates also noted the contributions of women at the highest
levels of military command.
“They are quietly leading large, diverse institutions with
honor, integrity and skill,” he said. Gates said he had the
privilege of promoting the U.S. military's first female
four-star general, Army Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, two years ago.
“General Dunwoody now leads the 66,000 men and women of Army
Materiel Command, providing critical supplies and support to
our military forces around the world,” he said.
Gates praised the nation's civilian leaders as well. He
noted that Michele Flournoy serves as undersecretary of
defense for policy, and that Christine Fox is director of
the Pentagon's cost assessment and program evaluation
“All of these women, and many here in this audience, have
volunteered to serve our nation during times of great peril
both past and present,” the secretary said. “Their example
teaches us to persevere in the face of adversity and also to
realize that all Americans willing to serve can make
Following the secretary's remarks, Air Force Lt. Col. Nicole
M.E. Malachowski, the first female pilot in the Air Force
Thunderbirds, expressed her admiration for her predecessors
in military aviation. She credits WASPs as the inspiration
for her own career.
“These World War II vanguards moved everybody forward,
unknowingly shaping the environment that I would inherit and
generations of other women military aviators,” she said.
“Countless military women like me are part of this vanguard,
advancing, changing and shaping our environment,” she
continued. “We are the greatest military in the world
because we combine our unique gifts, women and men alike.”
She thanked her predecessors for teaching modern military
women the valuable lesson that “women can love their country
too and that many of us choose to show it by wearing our
By Elaine Wilson|
American Forces Press Service
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