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Introduction Despite her small stature, Brigadier General (Retired) Wilma Vaught commands any room she enters, regardless of the size of the audience. Perhaps her confidence and vigor come from the long lists of "firsts" she has achieved in her illustrious twenty-eight year career in the United States Air Force. Just to name a few: in 1966, she was the first woman to deploy with a Strategic Air Command bombardment wing on an operational deployment; in 1980, she became the first woman promoted to Brigadier General in the comptroller field; in 1982, she was appointed Commander, U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command, North Chicago, Illinois, the largest command, geographically, in the military; she served as Chairperson of the NATO Women in the Allied Forces Committee; and Vaught was the senior military representative to the prestigious Secretary of Defense's Advisory Committee on Women in the Service ("BG Vaught" par. 2). When she retired in 1985, she was only one of seven women generals in the United States military, and only one of three in the Air Force (par. 2). A living legacy to many young women warriors of today, BG Vaught is one of the most decorated female officers in this nation's history; however, when asked to recall her proudest moment, she does not hesitate in responding, "Establishing the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation," the first national educational center commemorating the nearly two and a half million women who have served and defended their country. In the early planning stages, in order to pay homage to all women in uniform, BG Vaught and the Memorial Foundation Board held a design competition for artists and architects alike to offer their vision for the memorial. Recalling the submissions, Gen. Vaught chuckles, "You should have seen how ridiculous some of those things were: a woman's hand coming out of the ground to comfort a fallen soldier, a chopper with wounded soldiers inside crashing into the ground as a nurse to their rescue; they went from the stereotypical role of women in uniform to just plain laughable. Immediately I knew what I had to do; I needed to not only pay tribute to my fellow sisters at arms, but also create a center to educate the public on the diverse roles women have played and now play in today's total force. Clearly the 'real world' has no idea what women have done and are doing for this country" (Vaught). While much has changed since the 1960s when General Vaught recalls learning how to shoot a handgun on her uncle's farm and then (on her tour in Vietnam), finding little comfort in the fact that her only protection was an M-1911 pistol tucked away in the bottom drawer of her desk in case the war zone should reach Military Assistance Command (MACV), South Vietnam, a general resistance to women's presence in the military, particularly on combat missions, is still pervasive. As this month marks America's seven year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, women warriors are making history (much like BG Vaught) by breaking the barriers and preconceived notions about who they are and what they should be, which has been imposed upon them by society and a male dominated force. Yet, as demonstrated in their spoken and written word, and actions, for many of these valiant women, the sacrifice is great--at home, in their hearts, in their minds, and on the "battlefield." United in their patriotic pride, they nevertheless find themselves in the suffocating quicksand of memories from their Tour(s) of Duty (TDY) in Iraq.

Professional & Technical
June 22
Forum on Public Policy

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