A Women’s History Month observance was held at Fort Hood’s Phantom Warrior Center on Thursday.

March has been designation Women’s History Month since 1987, and this year’s theme was honoring women who fight all forms of discrimination to honor and celebrate women who have played a vital role in shaping America’s history and its future through their tireless commitment to ending discrimination against women.

A presidential proclamation designating March 2018 as Women’s History Month was read during the ceremony, followed by discussion of several women throughout this country’s history that made significant contributions to end discrimination against women. Women like Sandra Day O’Conner, the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, to Kathy Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon and Susan B. Anthony, an abolitionist and women’s rights activist who played a key role in the women’s suffrage movement.

So it was only fitting that Brig. Gen. Susan Escallier, assistant judge advocate for Military Law and Operations, who also ran in the Boston Marathon, was this year’s guest speaker.

Escallier was commissioned in 1988 and earned her Juris Doctor from Ohio State University. She holds a master’s degree in military law and a master’s degree in resource strategy.

“I am very mindful of the fact that I am here where I am because of those who have gone before me,” Escallier said. “I am very grateful for women who served in the Women’s Army Corps (and) I am mindful of the fact that women hadn’t had the right to vote in this country for 100 years.”

Escallier said while it’s important to remember the contributions of those early “trailblazers,” it was equally important for others to follow in their footsteps.

“We gain strength through our diversity and inclusion,” Escallier said. “I don’t think of myself as a female officer — I’m a soldier and I’m a judge advocate.”

Escallier talked about compartmentalizing, dividing people into categories by gender rather than on their competency and leadership attributes, and the importance of not just celebrating and remembering the different monthly observances during their respective months but throughout the entire year.

“We celebrate the Fourth of July every year, but we don’t put our patriotism on the shelf for 364 days then dust it off the next year,” Escallier said. “Treat women’s history, and the other histories, the same way.”

Nearly five years ago the Army implemented a “Soldier 2020” initiative to open all the remaining combat arms career fields to qualified female soldiers by developing gender-neutral standards.

In 2014, Maj. Chrissy Cook became the first female M2 Bradley commander to earn the “Top Gun” distinction while serving with the 1st Cavalry Division. By 2017, women began graduating from the infantry school at Fort Benning, Georgia, and today there are 272 females with a combat occupation assigned to Fort Hood.

According to an Army release, as of December 2017, the Army had assessed and integrated more than 600 female soldiers into infantry, armor and fire support specialist professions. For the first time in history, the Army has fully integrated women into all military positions. Women have served the United States Army since the Revolutionary War. Today, more than 174,000 women serve in the total force.

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