News: Women's History Month: Arizona State CSM offers insight, motivation
Story by Sgt. Lauren Twigg
PHOENIX - Growing up in rural Montana, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Pamela Higgins remembers watching the Montana Guard members helping with community activities, while admiring their sharp uniforms.
A National Guard armory in town was held in high regard. “The Guard had a big presence in the community,” Higgins said. “We always held divisional track meets there and I remember the Guard members, in uniform, measuring the long jump, starting the sprint races and setting up hurdles.”
In her senior year, Higgins considered her family’s financial situation and realized that in order to obtain an education and successful career she would need to look at her options with the military. “After talking to a few people I knew in the Guard, I decided to join.” Higgins said.
After convincing a friend to join with her, they nervously boarded a plane, a first flight for both, and headed for Fort Jackson, SC.
Higgins, now the state command sergeant major of the Arizona Army National Guard, served in three different state National Guards. Starting her career in Montana, she moved to New York, and then to Arizona in 1991.
“I just recently went over 36 years of service and have always served for the Army National Guard,” she said. “I have been a traditional Guard member my whole career, which included a deployment to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010.”
Higgins is the second female soldier to serve as the state’s senior-most enlisted Soldier in Arizona Army Guard’s history. Prior to her was Command Sgt. Maj. Karen Craig from 2002 until 2009.
“Women in the Armed Forces have come a long way, and can now be assigned to some combat arms duties,” Higgins said. “Allowing women to serve in combat jobs is a huge change – training and testing the women for these positions must be exactly the same as the males, and if the women meet the standards, then they deserve the position.”
Since the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948, the progression of allowing women into service, recognizing them for their service, and creating more military career growth for women has become more prominent.
“Since I have been in the military, women have gained the respect of their brothers in arms,” Higgins said. “That is all we ever wanted – to be treated and respected the same as our counterparts.”
In reflection of Women’s History Month and celebrating this year’s theme, “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment”, Higgins said:
“[This year’s theme] describes every female that signed on the dotted line to join the Armed Forces. Women in the military have deployed, fought in battles and have come home to deal with the same issues as their male counterparts. Honoring their courage and commitment will hopefully inspire girls and encourage young women to follow in their footsteps.”
Higgins expressed her sense of pride, being only the second female to serve as state command sergeant major in Arizona, and the importance of setting the standard, encouraging her sister-in-arms to continue to pursue their dreams.
“The door is wide open for females in the military, so maintain your commitment, courage and character in all that you do,” she said. “Continue to challenge yourselves and develop strong leadership skills. Apply and compete for positions of leadership and you will have a very successful and rewarding career in the military.