BAGHDAD – Women in the military were honored and celebrated at the Women’s History Month Luncheon conducted in the Babylon Conference Center here March 31.
“Selfless service is one of our Army values, but it is a trait that can be used to best describe any woman serving in our armed forces who contributes to our nation’s defense,” said U.S. Army Col. Lillian Dixon, chief of staff for Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Ministry of Defense, who spoke of the strength that all female Service Members possess.
Dixon, who served as the event’s keynote speaker, shared the faces and stories of notable women who have served America since the Revolutionary War.
“Military service for women has been a continuous journey,” said Dixon, a native of Washington, D.C.
During the event, Dixon also paid tribute to the women of Forward Operating Base Union III and their significant accomplishments, such as U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jackeline Perez-Martinez, who serves as the chief of Plans for ITAM-Army.
Perez-Martinez grew up in a traditional Puerto Rican household, where her father hoped one of his two sons would grow up and join the Army.
“My dad was in the National Guard and he was a policeman, and he always wanted to have one of the boys to join the Army or any armed forces,” she said, adding that for some reason her older brothers did not want to join.
“He would say all the time, ‘I want one of you to join the Army,’ but he never addressed that to me,” said Perez-Martinez, a native of Canovanas, Puerto Rico. “That really bothered me.”
She said that it was her strong relationship with her father that spurred her curiosity. One day, she got the courage to ask her father why he never encouraged her to join the Army, and he told her that she was too girly.
“Everything that was important to my dad was important to me,” said Perez-Martinez, who is deployed here from the Pentagon, where she works in the U.S. Army’s Force Management Directorate.
Perez-Martinez knew that she had the ability to do well in the military, despite her father thinking she was too feminine to join.
“That actually triggered my interest to pursue something in the military,” she said. “Then I went to college and I saw the opportunity for [Reserve Officers Training Corps]. I got into it and I really, really found my place.”
She liked being able to compete based solely upon her skills and educational background.
“I do not have to wear makeup to do my job, from that perspective I really feel very comfortable,” she said.
Today she is enjoying her role as a female leader in the Army.
“I have the opportunity to see how a decision can impact the young Soldier that is out front on the battlefield,” said Perez-Martinez, a 19-year Army veteran.
Perez-Martinez said that there are a lot of opportunities for women and minorities in the military today. “Anyone who wants to join should,” she said.
In addition to Perez-Martinez’s story, the observance also paid tribute to some strong women within the Iraqi Security Forces, including the first four females to graduate from the Iraqi High Institute for Security Development in 2009 and members of the Iraqi Police Academy’s first female class graduate, as well as the first, and only, female Iraqi Army officer to graduate from the Joint Services Command and Staff College.
Editor’s note: Hudson is a member of the Maryland Army National Guard’s 29th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment attached to the U.S. Forces-Iraq Deputy Commanding General for Advising and Training Public Affairs Office.
This work, US, ISF women serve as living examples for Women’s History, by SGT Crystal Hudson, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.