Every year, the United States celebrates National Women’s History Month, a celebration that was not made official until 1981 when Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and Maryland Representative Barbara Mikulski co-sponsored a Congressional resolution. Originally, it was only a Women’s History Week and was created to include March 8, International Women’s Day. It expanded to be the entire month in 1987.
Carderock celebrated Women’s History Month on March 3 with the Equal Employment Opportunity office sponsored, “Honoring the Past, Securing the Future,” theme featuring guest speaker Major Gen. Laura Yeager.
Yeager is the first female active duty or National Guard general officer to lead a combat infantry division.
“I’m proof that diversity is working in our armed forces. It’s not just words in my organization. I have been mentored and supported for many years, and it is the reason I am in the position I am today,” Yeager said.
She is a two-star general who flew combat operations with the California National Guard in 2011, led California’s 40th Combat Aviation Brigade and became the top officer on June 29, 2019. Yeager has served since 1995 and earned her first star in 2016. Earning this star made her only the fourth female general officer in California National Guard history to do so.
In 2013, the Secretary of Defense lifted the restrictions on women serving in combat roles.
“This is what led the way for me to be able to serve in the role the way I am now,” Yeager said.
In 2015, two women graduated from Ranger School for the first time. There are now 63 women serving as either generals or admirals across the armed forces according to figures by the Service Women’s Action Network.
The new Marine Corps Commandant Lt. Gen. David Berger told Congress in April 2019 that male and female Marine Corps recruits could be training together sometime this year, ending the service’s standing rules of segregating recruits into separate training units in boot camp.
Before starting a trivia portion on women trailblazers, Yeager said, “Hopefully we’ll get to a point where there are no more firsts. Unfortunately, somebody always has to be first, and these women lead the way for people like me. There’s a saying that goes, ‘You have to see it, to be it’ and now there’s a whole generation who can see that they can do it.”
Some of the women trailblazers she mentioned were Marie Curie, Sally Ride, Clara Barton, Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks.
“The former governor of Texas, Ann Richards, once said ‘Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did, but moving backwards and in heels,’ and I think that’s true, but I would like to say that we are now doing everything that men do, and we’re doing it in combat boots moving forward,” Yeager said.