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United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

July 18, 2014

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: Women's History Month 2014

The Defense Department supports the continuing education and empowerment of military women as they risk their lives to protect our nation. This American Forces Press Service special report takes a closer look at the contributions of women in the U.S. armed forces as they continue to lead our nation's defense into the future.

Top Stories

Native American Navy Veteran Paved Way for Women Sailors

The head woman dancer at a recent Native American Veterans Association pow wow is a retired sailor who helped blaze the path for women in the Navy. Story

Howard Becomes Navy's First Female Four-star

Michelle Janine Howard became the first woman to attain the rank of four-star admiral in the Navy's 238-year history during a ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Story

Mother, Daughter Citizen Soldiers Succeed Together

Amber Silvermane and her mom, Michelle Silvermane, are serving together in the Maine Army National Guard, though at first, Amber never thought a mom could do something like that. Story

Work Continues to Open Military Occupations

Efforts continue for the services and U.S. Special Operations Command to meet a Jan. 1, 2016, deadline by which all military positions and occupations will be open to women, a senior Pentagon official said at the Officer Women Leadership Symposium in Arlington, Va. Story

Sexual Assault Prevention Advocate Speaks Out

Photo: Army Spc. Natasha Schuette, a sexual assault prevention specialist, speaks about her experiences as a victim of sexual assault and encourages all victims -- male and female -- to talk to someone about their assault. She spoke at a Women's History Month event at the Pentagon, March 31, 2014.

Army Spc. Natasha Schuette wants victims of sexual abuse in the military to know they are not alone and that help is available. Story

Army Women Honored for Courage, Character

The Defense Department honored three women yesterday for their exceptional character, courage, and commitment to Army values. Story

Sesame Street Friends Help Military Children Move

Children in military families move six to nine times between kindergarten and high school, and a Sesame Street-themed mobile app launched in December can help them cope with leaving a familiar place for the unknown. Story

Resilience Calls for Nurturing, Officials Say

Learning to be resilient requires practice, two high-level Defense Department officials said at the "Building Resilience in Women Leaders Summit," a daylong event as part of Womens History Month, sponsored by the Defense Suicide Prevention Office. Story

Generals Honor Women of Character and Courage

The rich history of women in the military paved the way for today's servicewomen, two general officers said at a Capitol Hill Women's History Month event in Washington, D.C. Story

Joint Staff Surgeon Marks Women's History

Photo: Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Nadja Y. West, the Joint Staff Surgeon at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., applauds the Live Oak Ridge Middle School Varsity Female Choir of Killeen, Texas for their rendition of the national anthem during the Fort Hood and III Corps Women's History Month celebration on Fort Hood, Texas, Mar. 19. West was the event's guest speaker.

The Pentagon's Joint Staff Surgeon helped celebrate women's history month by highlighting women she described as front-runners to the evolution of America's society and military. Story

Female Marine Symposium Held Aboard New River

Photo: The Third Annual Vivian A. Holmes Female Marine Symposium took place aboard Marine Corps Air Station New River, Feb. 25.

Marines from Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and MCAS Cherry Point attended the third annual Vivian A. Holmes Female Marine Symposium at the MCAS New River Chapel. Story

More News Stories

Profiles in Leadership

Navy Adm. Michelle J. Howard

Profile Photo: Vice Adm. Howard

The United States Navy promoted Michelle Janine Howard to the rank of four-star admiral July 1, 2014, making her the first woman to attain the rank of four-star admiral in the Navy's 238-year history. Profile | Story

Retired Army Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody

Profile Photo: Army Gen. Ann Dunwoody

Until her retirement in August 2012, Dunwoody was the commanding general of the Army Materiel Command, the culmination of more than 30 years of service in which she served at every command level. Profile

Air Force Lt. Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger

Profile Photo: Air Force Lt. Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger

Air Force Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger, the Air Force's first female four-star, serves as Commander, Air Force Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Profile

Army Maj. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho

Profile Photo: Army Maj. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho

Army Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, the first nurse and first woman appointed, became the Army's 43rd surgeon general in a ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. Profile

Army Maj. Gen. Marcia M. Anderson

Profile Photo: Navy Capt. Mildred H. McAfee

Army Maj. Gen. Marcia M. Anderson is the current deputy chief of the Army Reserve. She has commanded at the Company level through General Officer. Profile

More Profiles

Scholorships & Grants

Commentary & Blogs

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Women's History Month Timeline

  • The American Revolution: 1775-1783

    1775 - 1783

    Women commonly served traditional roles within the U.S. Army such as cooks, laundresses, nurses and seamstresses. Many military garrisons counted on these roles to makes service members' lives tolerable. However, even during the American Revolution some women chose to for-go traditional roles by serving in combat alongside their husbands or disguised as men, while other courageous women took on roles as spies.

  • Representation of the U.S. Frigate United States, Stephen Decatur Esqr. Commander, Capturing His Britannic Majesty's Frigate Macedonian


    Mary Marshall and Mary Allen serve as nurses aboard Commodore Stephen Decatur's ship, the United States.

  • Dr. Mary Edwards Walker wearing her Medal of Honor

    1861 - 1865

    Dr. Mary Edwards Walker volunteers to care for wounded service members in the Union Army and is later appointed the first female surgeon. In 1865, she received the Medal of Honor for her work and was the first woman to receive the award.

  • An army nurse Ernestine Koranda instructs Army medics on the proper method of giving an injection, Queensland, Australia, 1942.


    Congress officially establishes the Army Nurse Corps on February 2, 1901, under the Army Reorganization Act.

  • Group photograph of the first twenty Navy Nurses, appointed in 1908.


    The Navy Nurse Corps was established by Congress in 1908, but at that time no provision was made for rank or rating comparable to the Navy's male personnel. While they have never held actual rank, the Navy nurses have since been accorded privileges similar to those of officers. Under a congressional enactment approved by President Roosevelt on July 3, 1942, members of the Navy Nurse Corps were granted relative rank.

  • A 1917 recruitment poster for women to join the United States Navy.


    The Navy allows women to enlist and serve stateside during World War I. Most of the 11,000 female yeoman who enlisted worked in Washington, D.C., as draftsmen, interpreters, couriers and translators. Later in World War I, the Navy enlisted 24 African-American women who worked in the Navy Department building.

  • 1918

    Opha Mae Johnson becomes the first woman accepted for duty when she enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in Washington, D.C.

  • 1942

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorizes the creation of the Army, Navy and Coast Guard women's auxiliary/reserves. The Army's female auxiliary members become known as the WAACs; their Navy counterparts become known as the WAVEs.

  • 1943

    The WAACs transition into the Women's Army Corps, giving the more than 76,000 women who had enlisted as WAACs full military status. WAACs director, Col. Oveta Culp Hobby, continued in her post as the WAACs transitioned to WACs. The U.S. Marine Corps creates a Women's Reserve.

  • 1948

    The Women's Armed Services Integration Act grants women permanent regular and reserve status in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and the newly created Air Force. In addition, Executive Order 9981 ends racial segregation in the armed services.

  • 1953

    Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Barbara Olive Barnwell becomes the first female Marine to be awarded the Navy and Marine Corps medal for heroism for saving a fellow Marine from drowning in the Atlantic Ocean in 1952.

  • 1967

    Marine Corps Master Sgt. Barbara Jean Dulinsky becomes the first female Marine to serve in a combat zone in Vietnam. She was assigned to U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam combat operations center in Saigon.

  • Lieutenant Junior Grade Barbara Ann Rainey


    Navy Lt. j.g. Barbara Ann (Allen) Rainey earns her wings as the first female Naval aviator.

  • President Gerald R. Ford


    President Gerald R. Ford signs Public Law 94-106 on Oct. 7, 1975, permitting women to enroll in U.S. military academies beginning in the fall of 1976.

  • 119 female cadets, a few of them seen here with their male counterparts, became the first women to join the Corps of Cadets.


    Women enter U.S. military academies as students for the first time; 119 women entered West Point, 81 entered the US Naval Academy, and 157 enrolled at the US Air Force Academy. Women also enrolled in the Coast Guard Academy and the Merchant Marine Academy.

  • Janna Lambine became the first female designated as a Coast Guard aviator.


    The U.S. Coast Guard assigns its first co-gender crews when 24 women are assigned to serve aboard the CGCs Gallatin and CGCs Morgenthau. Each ship receives 12 women -- two officers and 10 enlisted personnel -- as members of the crew.

  • 1978

    Marine Corps Col. Margaret A. Brewer becomes a brigadier general - the first female general in the Corps' history. Navy nurse Joan C. Bynum becomes the first African-American woman to be promoted to the rank of captain.

  • One of the first female cadets receives a diploma from the U.S. Militry Academy during the graduation ceremony May 28, 1980, at West Point, N.Y.


    The first coed classes graduate from the U.S. service academies.

  • Navy Lt. Comm. Darlene Iskra


    Navy Lt. Comm. Darlene Iskra becomes the first woman to command a commissioned naval ship when she assumes command of the USS Opportune in Naples, Italy.

  • Lt. Gen. Susan Helms


    On Jan. 13, 1993, then-Air Force Maj. Susan Helms, a member of the Space Shuttle Endeavor crew, became the first U.S. military woman in space. Now a lieutenant general commanding the 14th Air Force, Helms logged a total of 5,064 hours in space, including a spacewalk of 8 hours and 56 minutes in 2001 - a world record for longest spacewalk duration.

  • Defense Secretary Les Aspin


    Defense Secretary Les Aspin announces the new policy regarding women in combat that rescinds the 1988 "risk rule" and replaces it with a less restrictive ground combat policy. As a result of this policy, 80% of all military positions can now be filled by either men or women.

  • Col. Gilda A. Jackson


    Gilda Jackson becomes the first African-American woman to achieve the rank of colonel within the Marine Corps and the first woman to command the Naval Aviation Depot at Cherry Point, N.C.

  • Lt. Gen. Carol Mutter


    Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Carol Mutter becomes the first female three-star officer in the U.S. Armed Forces when she assumes the position of Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Reserve Affairs at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C.

  • Marine Corps Capt. Vernice Armour


    Marine Corps Capt. Vernice Armour becomes the first female African-American pilot in the Marine Corps, and later becomes the first woman in Defense Department history to fly combat missions in Iraq.

  • Left: Lt. j.g. Jeanine McIntish-Menze. Right: Maj. Nicole Malachowski.


    Left: Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Jeanine McIntish-Menze becomes the first female African-American U.S. Coast Guard pilot.

    Right: Air Force Maj. Nicole Malachowski becomes the first female pilot to join the Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron.

  • Brigadier General Angela Salinas restates her oath during her promotion ceremony August 2, 2006 aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.


    After enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1974, Angela Salinas works her way through the ranks to make history by becoming the first female Hispanic brigadier general in the corps.

  • Army Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody


    In November 2008, Army Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody became the first female four-star general in the U.S. armed forces.

  • Lt. Felicia Thomas


    The first all-female U.S. Marine Corps team conducts its first mission in Southern Afghanistan. Lt. Felicia Thomas becomes the first female African-Amercian commander of a U.S. Coast Guard cutter when she assumes command of the CGC Pea Island.

  • 2010

    Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announces that for the first time, women can be assigned to submarines. Lt. j. g. La'Shonda Holmes becomes the first female African-American helicopter pilot in the Coast Guard. Navy Rear Adm. Nora Tyson becomes the first female commander of a carrier strike group.

  • 2011

    U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz assumes command of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy as the school's first female superintendant. As she assumes her new role, Stosz becomes the first woman to lead any U.S. military academy.

  • 2012

    Connie R. Almueti recently became the first woman to be inducted into the Civil Affairs Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Special Warfare Command and School at Fort Bragg, N.C.

  • 2013

    On Jan. 24, 2013, then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta lifted the barriers that have prevented military women from serving in direct combat roles.

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