SHE Serves Too: From West Point to Navy Seal Training

National Women’s History Month is an opportunity to honor and celebrate historic achievements and service of women.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8th as National Women’s History Week. The U.S. Congress followed suit the next year, passing a resolution establishing a national celebration. Six years later, the National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned Congress to expand the event to the entire month of March.

Throughout history, women have broken barriers to serve in the military and defend our nation. However, women were not integrated into the military until 1948, when President Harry Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act.

HONORING TRAILBLAZING WOMEN WHO HAVE PAVED THE WAY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS,” highlights women who have successfully broken down barriers and changed the role of women in not only the military, but the government sector as well.

In 1993, Dr. Sheila E. Widnall became the 18th Secretary of the Air Force (SECAF) and the first female to hold that position. As the SECAF, she was responsible for Air Force readiness to accomplish its missions. She oversaw the recruiting, training and equipping of the 380,000 men and women on active duty, 251,000 members of the Air National Guard and the Air Reserve, and 184,000 civilians of the Total Force. She was responsible for planning, justifying and allocating the Service’s annual budget. Her other responsibilities included logistical support, maintenance, research and development, and welfare of personnel.

Retired Command Master Chief Evelyn “Vonn” Banks enlisted in the Navy in 1984 at the age of 29. During her 30 years of service, she earned an Associates of Arts in General Studies Management from the University of Phoenix. She also graduated from both the Air Force Senior Non-commissioned Officer Academy as well as the Navy Senior Enlisted Academy. Her first Command Master Chief billet was at the Navy Support Facility, Diego Garcia. Following a tour at the Senior Enlisted Academy, she assumed duties as the Command Master Chief for Carrier Air Wing 14 in Lemoore, CA. In 2003, she became the U.S. Navy Recruiting Command’s first female Command Master Chief. Four years later, Banks went on to become the first female Command Master Chief of the U.S. Naval Academy in 2007.

Ms. Tracey L. Pinson became the Director for the Office of Small Business Programs, Secretary of the Army in May 1995. Ms. Pinson advised the Secretary of the Army and the Army Staff on all small business procurement issues, and was responsible for the implementation of the Federal acquisition programs designed to assist small businesses. Ms. Pinson provided management and oversight for the Army’s Mentor-Protégé Program as well as the Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Institutions (HBCU/MI) program, and developed policies and initiatives to enhance HBCU/MI participation in Army funded programs. Until her retirement in June 2014, she was highest-ranking female civilian in the Army’s acquisition career field. She won the Department of the Army Award for Meritorious Civilian Service in 2014. Ms. Pinson died December 14, 2014. The Department of the Army Office of Small Business Programs issued this statement, “The small business community has lost a tremendous advocate; we have lost a dear friend and mentor; the thousands of small businesses that have found success due to her tireless efforts are a testament to her legacy.”

In 2011, for the first time in its 96-year history, a woman, Brig. Gen. Lori Reynolds, took command of the famed Marine Corps training depot at South Carolina’s Parris Island. Parris Island graduates about 20,000 Marines annually and is the only site where female enlisted Marines are trained to enter the Marine Corps. She was also the first female Marine to ever hold a command position in a battle zone. While serving a yearlong tour of duty in Afghanistan, she oversaw five Marine battalions and military company from Bahrain. While there, she improved a base that “fed, housed and equipped more than 10,000 Marines and expanded the base to handle an additional 10,000 Marines and sailors.”

In addition, women continue to challenge gender roles and pave the road for future generations like:

Lt. Col. Christine Mau: In 2011, she was part of the first all-female combat sortie over Afghanistan. In 2015, she became the first female pilot of an F-35 jet.

Capt. Kristen Griest: In 2015, she was one of the first three women to earn the Ranger tab. In 2016, she became the Army’s first female infantry officer.

Sgt. Cristina Fuentes Montenegro: In 2013, she was one of the first three women to earn her USMC infantry qualifications.


The newest trailblazer is Cadet Simone Askew. A Fairfax Virginian woman has become the first African-American woman to lead West Point’s Corps of Cadets, the U.S. Army announced.

Cadet Simone Askew achieved the highest position in the cadet chain of command and assumed her duties on Aug 2017, according to the Army. Army officials said she currently leads 1,502 cadets as the Regimental Commander of Cadet Basic Training II.
As First Captain, the international history major will be responsible for the overall performance of the 4,400-member Corps of Cadets.

“Simone truly exemplifies our values of duty, honor, country. Her selection is a direct result of her hard work, dedication and commitment to the Corps over the last three years,” said Brig. Gen. Steven W. Gilland, commandant of cadets in a written statement. “I know Simone and the rest of our incredibly talented leaders within the Class of 2018 will provide exceptional leadership to the Corps of Cadets in the upcoming academic year.” The Army said Askew graduated from Air Assault School and is an EXCEL Scholar. She was also named the Black Engineer of the Year Award for Military Leadership and a member of the Phi Alpha Theta Honorary National History Society. Askew holds the highest female Recondo score during Combat Field Training II for the class of 2018, according to Army officials.

Our final highlight for this article is a woman will train with other potential officers this summer in hopes of becoming the first female Navy SEALs. The candidates, a midshipman, and another woman have enlisted as the first female candidates seeking to join the Navy’s special operations teams. The latter is training for the Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman program, or SWCC. These women have already made history, but they still face a long road ahead of training and tests before they officially make the cut.

Women weren’t allowed to serve in combat roles, including special operation forces such as the SEALs and SWCC, until January 2016. But there were no female applicants in the 18 months since that historic change until now. The candidates’ identities and training progress are confidential to protect their personal security and “career viability as future special operator,” Lt. Cmdr. Mark Walton, a spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Command, told CNN.

Eight SEAL and seven SWCC classes — all entirely male — have graduated since March 2016, according to a Naval Special Warfare Center briefing last month for the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services. The SWCC candidate will undergo months of Navy training and screening evaluations, Walton said. The SEAL hopeful will be evaluated for three weeks at a SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection process in California as a prerequisite to SEAL training before moving on to a SEAL Officer Selection Panel in September.

Aspiring SEALs and SWCC candidates also go through rigorous Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, or BUD/S. The training comes in physically and mentally challenging stages, beginning with two months of intense physical training in Illinois. Candidates must pass a physical screening test at the end of the first stage or face being kicked out. The next stages include basic conditioning, combat diving and land warfare training. One week during basic conditioning is known as Hell Week — “the ultimate test of a man’s will,” according to the SEALs website.


The training is “designed to weed out the weak,” as the Navy special operations training website warns. It’s an accurate description, considering most candidates don’t make it: Seventy-three percent of aspiring SEALs and 63% of SWCC candidates fail to make the cut, according to the Naval Special Warfare Center briefing in June. There are about 1,000 SEAL candidates who start training every year, Walton said. Usually only about 200 to 250 candidates make it all the way through training.

We wish them great success as they train in 2018. We look forward to lots more women and women in military doing everyday “amazing” things. Our future generation will see less limitations and more horizons to tackle with such great examples.

Mark your calendar for MARCH 15, 2018 for Public Policy Day On Capitol Hill in Washington DC.Public Policy Day gives The Women Veterans ROCK 2020 Delegation a chance to visit with congressional members, senate leaders and hill staffers to learn about: Congress; the public policy making process; and share their experiences and challenges with legislative leaders.  Each year, we hope to bring attention to important issues affecting Women Veterans and Military Families…. Because SHEroes serve alongside HEroes everyday.


Courtesy Of Women Vets Rock for more info

Check out:

Fox News


Share Button