When Chief Warrant Officer-5 Jeanne Pace enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps in 1972, women were required to carry purses, enroll in makeup classes taught by major cosmetics companies and maintain a feminine appearance.

Four decades later, women’s roles within the Army have changed.

“It’s important to celebrate that heritage from (women) having to hide their identity until now, where they can flourish in any job,” said Sgt. 1st Class Chris Rogers, equal opportunity adviser for the 36th Engineer Brigade, during a Women’s History Month observance Wednesday at the Community Events Center.

The brigade, and III Corps and Fort Hood hosted the event, which had a theme of “Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.”

The Army has progressed in the last four decades from women having to disguise themselves during the Civil War to currently being allowed to perform combat roles, Rogers said. “It’s pretty phenomenal.”

Brig. Gen. Laura Richardson, deputy commander of the 1st Cavalry Division and the Army’s first female to serve in that role, said she hopes women today continue to influence future generations of women, especially to join the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“The STEM workforce is crucial to America’s innovative capacity and global competitiveness, yet women who make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce and half of the college-educated workforce are vastly under-represented,” Richardson said. “We need to focus our girls and our women more toward STEM.”

Pace touched on the mathematics and science involved in music, but spent most of her speech focusing on the “sillier things” and teared up when talking about her love of soldiers.

Although she doesn’t enjoy public speaking, the commander of the 1st Cavalry Division Band is the longest-serving female in the Army and realizes the responsibilities associated with that title.

“As much as I say I don’t really like (public speaking), I’m still very honored that anyone thinks it’s important enough to hear from me,” Pace said.

Contact Sarah Rafique at srafique@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7549. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

I'm the education reporter at the Killeen Daily Herald. Follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SarahRafique

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