By Colleen Flaherty
Fort Hood Herald
Judge Martha J. Trudo of the 264th District Court visited Fort Hood's Operational Test Command Friday to close out Women's History Month with thoughts on her life and successes.
The former active-duty Army judge advocate general and retired Army Reserve colonel's resume includes a number of "firsts," including being the first female JAG at Fort Carson, Colo., and at Fort Hood's 1st Cavalry Division. After leaving the active duty Army as a major, she was the first female to open and hold a solo practice in the Killeen area and was the first female district judge in Bell County upon her election in 1994. Continuously reelected since, she is in her fifth term.
Trudo, who was raised in a poor, single-parent home in San Antonio, praised her mother for instilling in her the belief that she could do anything.
Consequently, Trudo said, her life mantra became, "You can be whatever you want to be, just decide what it is you want to be."
Trudo's long career wasn't won without sacrifice, however. She worked hard to support herself throughout school and even hid her early pregnancy in order to join the then-Women's Army Corps. Her early officer evaluations tended to focus more on her value to her husband's Army career, rather than her own, she added.
But adversity only strengthened her resolve.
"If you don't have faith and confidence in yourself, you can be torn down and can't achieve," she said.
By all accounts, Trudo's resolve shows itself on the bench. She shrugged as she addressed her reputation as a particularly formidable judge, eliciting laughter from the crowd.
"I have a reputation for being forthright and direct," she said in her seemingly incongruous soft voice. "I don't mean to be tactless, but I don't know any faster way of getting there than saying what it is."
The Operational Test Command holds regular cultural observances, in part because it is so diverse itself, drawing on the skills and experiences of military personnel and civilians from a variety of backgrounds, said Executive Director Jim Amato.
"We just gain so much from hearing pioneers who came before us," he said, adding that the command also is helping to pioneer Army technology.
"If a soldier feels it, sits in it, touches it or looks in it," he said, "these fabulous soldiers and civilians have tested it to make sure the soldiers, moms, dads, sons and daughters going downrange know it's the best there is."
Women's contributions to the military held particular meaning for Michael Nott, director of the Mission Command Test Directorate, who helped introduce Trudo. The Operational Test Command was in dire need of strong leadership before Brig. Gen. Laura Richardson assumed command of it last year, he said, "leading by example and showing us how to get better."
Richardson recently was tapped to become deputy commander of the 1st Cavalry Division. A move is expected this summer.
Contact Colleen Flaherty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHFortHood.