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    A woman's path in the military

    Keeping in the Path: One woman's history

    Photo By Brian Godette | Lt. Col. Dianna Echard-Danis, detail inspector general with the U.S. Army Reserve...... read more read more



    Story by Brian Godette 

    U.S. Army Reserve Command

    FORT BRAGG, N.C. – “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world,” -Harriet Tubman.

    For one dreamer, that dream was to serve her country, and to do so without doubt that despite who she is, she would never stop reaching.

    “I’ve always been intrigued with some strong women in history, and one in particular,” said Lt. Col. Dianna Echard-Danis, Detail Inspector General, U.S. Army Reserve Command.

    “I remember being a child, I was involved at a play in church and she sounded like a Soldier, the description of her emulated a Soldier. She was very brave, she was great at land navigational skills, she was a leader, a motivator, and she actually was so great in her navigational skills, tracking skills, she served as a scout for the Army during the Civil War,” Echard-Danis said. “That person is Harriet Tubman.”

    Strength through courage is a force, and for many women in positions normally dominated by men, a motivator.

    ”I came in during an era where there were still a lot of the old views and sentiments, where some male Soldiers felt that females should not be in the Army, or they felt that they [women] should have certain roles in the Army,” Echard-Danis said. “We did not have some of the opportunities that exist today, that females now have.”

    “I’ve heard comments like ‘I’m not use to women serving along with us, or I’m having a hard time trying to adjust’,” Echard-Danis said. “But I continued to be resilient against some of those comments, and for me I think success is the biggest revenge.”

    Today, in the military, there are women serving as leaders in various roles, the U.S. Army Reserve welcomed its first female Ranger, Maj. Lisa Jaster, and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced women are eligible for all combat roles in the military.

    “It makes me proud because I know women have had their struggles in the past, so that means that we are finally overcoming, rising up, and it makes me proud to be a woman,” Echard-Danis said.

    Pride and success were factors learned at home for Echard-Danis, who not only had female inspiration to be encouraged by, but family inspiration.

    “My dad was a deputy, he was actually the first African-American deputy in my hometown,” Echard-Danis said. “He went from that to working for the department of corrections where he worked all the way up to the rank of captain.”

    “My dad was pretty encouraging for most of the things I did, always telling me that I could do anything that I wanted to do, and be anything I wanted to be. He inspired me,” Echard-Danis said.

    Being the daughter of an Army veteran, Echard-Danis idolized her father and took keen interest in the military, seeing it as something brave and cool someone could do despite their gender.

    “I can recall as far back as I can remember looking at my dad’s photo album, he had an Army photo album,” Echard-Danis said. “I remember sitting on the couch with the book spread across my legs and I would ask my dad what is it like to be in the Army?”

    “I was intrigued with his airborne pictures, asking what does it feel like to jump out of an airplane? Describe what you did,” Echard-Danis said.

    Her curiosity grew as she did, and at the age of 17 Danis decided she wanted to join the ranks.

    “When I joined the military my dad told me I could do it, he gave me positive feedback, he told me ‘I’m pretty sure you’re going to be successful because your mother is like a drill sergeant and if you can handle her, you can handle any drill sergeant,” Echard-Danis said.

    “I think I’m a combination of both my parents. My dad was the strong silent type, and my mom was the loud silent type, she was the firm one and I think I had both of that,” Echard-Danis said.

    Inspiration takes many forms, and when it came from her mother, it was different from the typical pat on the back.

    “My mom told me I’d never make it. She said ‘I’ll give you one year, actually, you’ll never make it past basic training because you don’t like being told what to do, and you would argue with a stop sign,’” Echard-Danis said. “She said she told me that to make sure I didn’t quit, because she knew whatever she told me I could or could not do, it would make me want to do it even more, and succeed at it.”

    Echard-Danis enlisted in the Army and soon found herself at her first duty station In Germany. Fulfilling her age old desire to join the ranks wasn’t the end of her growth.

    While in Germany, Echard-Danis was notified she had been accepted to Greensboro College, back home in North Carolina. She took the opportunity to further her education but did so in a way to maintain her military status. Echard-Danis joined the U.S. Army Reserve and later became an ROTC student at North Carolina State University.

    “I always had a good support team, either my father, my mom, a friend, or another female officer where we formed a bond and help support one another,” Echard-Danis said. “Also in the back of my mind I heard my mother say ‘you’ll never make it,’ so I said I can make it.”

    She did make it, and fast forward in time to the present and now Echard-Danis is a lieutenant colonel with the Inspector General directorate of USARC, a positioned she never truly considered.

    “They tried to recruit me [Inspector General] and at that time I wasn’t ready, and I really didn’t know much about the IG and IG program,” Echard-Danis said.

    “I had it all wrong. I was thinking IG’s are these people that come in, inspect the units just to look for something wrong,” Echard-Danis admitted. “They’re going around, making enemies, spreading discord, and I really didn’t think I wanted to do that.”

    Echard-Danis judged a book by its cover, a mistake many people made with her and other women, solely because of their gender.

    To not fall into that category of pre-judgement, she decided to educate herself on IG.

    IG’s should be good communicators, both oral and written, they should possess characteristics such as trust, expertise, honorable service, competence, and should uphold the standards and demonstrate good military appearance and bearing, according to Echard-Danis.

    “After I found out the truth about the IG, and I learned all the positive attributes it takes to be an IG I developed an appreciation for what they do. I thought I can do that, I want to be a part of that,” Echard-Danis said.

    “I found out IG’s are impartial fact finders, they aren’t just out there looking for the bad things, they are looking to correct things,” Echard-Danis said. “The time was right and I decided what a great way to culminate all the years of my military experience and become an IG.”

    The opportunity to be a problem solver and to help Soldiers has been one of the most rewarding aspects of serving as an inspector general, adding true value to the command she works for.

    The IG has four specific functions- inspections, assistance, investigations, and teaching and training. These functions are all to enhance a commands readiness and war-fighting capabilities.

    Ensuring she always remained an asset was an integral part of her character and a tool she could use to help others, especially women who might face the same decision she once did, whether or not to join the military.

    “I would encourage them to talk to someone who has been in the military and have served successfully, and listen to those individuals, do not listen to the one who have never served or served a short time and washed out,” Echard-Danis said.

    Once you have joined, and are empowered by the sense of success as Echard-Danis was, the road to that success does not end there, according to Echard-Danis.

    “Get a mentor, no matter what your rank, no matter what job you’re in, someone who is at the next rank above you and ask that person to be your mentor, or watch and emulate that person, and if they are successful and you pattern yourself after that person, you will be successful too,” Echard-Danis said.

    As a member of the Reserve Officer Association, and affiliated with the Veterans Empowering Veterans organization, Echard-Danis is able to offer herself up as that mentor. Having successfully fulfilled one of her dreams, she can now help other dreamers, reach for theirs.

    “In order to get respect, you have to give respect and earn that respect,” Echard-Danis said.



    Date Taken: 03.08.2016
    Date Posted: 03.21.2016 18:32
    Story ID: 193086
    Location: FORT BRAGG, NC, US 

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