The all-female command team of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment,(from left to right) Capt. Lesley Jackson, company commander; 1st Sgt. Vernisa Pope; and 1st Lt. Briana Underwood, executive officer, pose before the unit’s headquarters. The 193rd Infantry Brigade hosted a Women’s History Month observance, March 24. 

HERSTORY: Lightning Brigade celebrates women's history month

Story, photos by Emily Hileman, Fort Jackson Public Affairs

The celebration honored the accomplishments of women throughout the nation’s history.

The 193rd Infantry Brigade celebrated all women and concluded Women’s History Month with celebration at the NCO Club on Fort Jackson, March 24.

The celebration was held to honor women of all backgrounds, origins, challenges, and triumphs, but specifically those serving in the Armed Forces.

Prior to the Women’s Armed Servic

es Integration Act of 1948, women volunteered for military duty during World War I and World War II, serving primarily in clerical roles. At the conclusion of each war, the women were relieved of their duties.

President Harry S. Truman signed the act into law by on June 12, 1948. The Women’s Armed Services Integration Act enabled women to serve as permanent, regular members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and the newly-formed Air Force.

“However, women weren’t fully integrated into every aspect of the military,” said 1st Sgt. Vernisa Pope. “Women were first allowed in the Drill Sergeant Program only in 1972, when six noncommissioned officers from the Women’s Army Corps, known as WAC, were enrolled in the program right here at Fort Jackson.”

Just a few years later in 1978, the first Women’s History Week was established in Santa Rosa, California when the Education Task Force of Sonoma Country Commission on the Status of Women planned a “Women’s History Week” to be celebrated during the week of March 8. This was planned to correspond with International Women’s Day. As word spread and the event grew, the entire month of March became known as Women’s History Month.

“Women’s History Month is important because no matter how far we’ve come we still have miles to go,” she said. “It shows us that despite adversity, gender bias and misogyny – women continue to blaze the trail of change and growth.”

Lt. Col. Lynette Jones, the president of the Fort Jackson Female Mentoring and Morale Program and Deputy Chief of Staff, Army Reserve called on all the women in the room to ”hold your head up.”

“Don’t be ashamed of who you are and don’t let anyone make you feel less than what you are,” Jones said. “We may not be the same as men, but we can be the women that God made us to be.”

Sgt. Maj. Melissa Solomon, deputy commandant of the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy said, “It’s important that females have a male mentor too.”

She continued to describe how males and females can benefit from co-ed partnerships in the military by giving advice and helping each other to become comfortable so that all Soldiers can receive proper guidance and development.

Following the speakers, the event turned into an open forum-style discussion. Some audience members sought advice, some gave advice, but all listened while others spoke of their challenges and received advice from those in the room.

“Being a mother in the military presents itself with unique challenges,” Sgt. Maj. Johanna Vaughn offered to another Soldier struggling with parenthood. “Yes, at the end of the day we’re tired. We go to bed late and wake up super early, but it pays off.”

Sgts. Maj. Johanna and Chuck Vaughn, a dual militarycouple, advise a junior NCO on parenting and maintaining a work/life balance while being a drill sergeant at the Women’s History Month observance, March 24.
When asked what advice she has for females in the military Vaughn said, “We all have a voice. We all play a part in this service, and we are all equal. Don’t forget that.”

(Editor’s note: For more information regarding Fort Jackson’s Female Mentorship and Morale Program or to be added to the email list, contact Lt. Col. Lynette Jones at The next meeting will be at the NCO Club April 28 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)