With the theme "Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow — Army Women Telling Their Stories," the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation hosted their 13th annual Hall of Fame/Scholarship awards program Tuesday. And it was fitting that the event — recognizing amazing women Soldiers and supporters — was held at the National Museum of the United States Army, where female Soldier stories are shared throughout its galleries.
Welcoming the many family members, friends and coworkers of the women being recognized, AWF president Brig. Gen. (ret.) Anne Macdonald said that the ceremony pays tribute to the incredible achievements of women who have worn the uniform in service to their country.
“As our nation celebrates Women’s History Month we honor women who have served through these awards and scholarships,” Macdonald stated. “Women have been critical members of the Army and have changed the course of history. We have learned that the contributions of women make our Army and nation stronger.”
AWF inducted 13 new members to its Hall of Fame, which since 2009 has been recognizing women who made extraordinary contributions to the Army or Armed Forces and helped break down barriers to service for those who followed. Among the 2022 inductees were Lt. Generals (ret.) Gwendolyn Bingham and Nadja West who were the first women, and African American women, to serve in senior leader roles in their Army career fields. AWF also posthumously recognized Col. (ret.) Bettie Morden, one of the first members of the Women’s Auxiliary Corps, later the Women’s Army Corps, who was the driving force behind the creation of the U.S. Army Women’s Museum.
Another new Hall of Fame inductee was also a champion for recognition of women who served. Staff Sgt. (ret.) Stephanie Mitchell was honored for her efforts to bring national recognition to the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. She saw her work come to fruition earlier this year with the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal to this history-making World War II all-Black women’s battalion.
A full list of the 2022 Hall of Fame inductees, with their impressive biographies, is available on the AWF website: https://www.awfdn.org/hall-of-fame-and-special-recognition-awards/us-army-womens-hall-of-fame-inductees/2022-hall-of-fame-inductees/.
The significance of the honor was not lost on two of the newest members of the Hall of Fame. Col. (ret.) Diane Ryan noted that without awards like these, many amazing stories and accomplishments wouldn’t be noticed.
“I think about representation a lot, that is my area of scholarship and was a focus during my 29-year military career,” explained Ryan who is currently an associate dean and professor at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. “Having an organization like AWF where people who are under-represented can go to see stories of people who look like them or who have shared experiences is really important,” Ryan stressed.
For CSM Diane Cummings, current Sergeant Major of the III Corps G-2 at Fort Hood, Texas, the stories of the other inductees and seeing the success of women she’s worked with during her career inspires her to continue to serve.
“It is staggering to hear these stories from the past and then there’s me following their example,” Cummings shared. “I think these stories are so important because a lot of time they are overlooked. Soldiers can get caught up in social media or tv and they don’t learn about the accomplishments of great women and their contributions to the Army.”
In addition to the Hall of Fame honors, AWF presented its Special Recognition of Champions awards to The Rocks, Inc., Maj. Megan Tucker and singer Michael Peterson. The Rocks was honored for its mentorship, professional development and outreach work with historically Black colleges and universities. Peterson was recognized for his support to U.S. servicewomen and families through decades of USO performances around the country and globe. Tucker received the Champions award for founding The Valkyrie Project, which helps women train and prepare for previously-all male career paths and schools in the U.S. Army (https://www.valkyrieprojectus.com/).
Editor's note: A feature on The Valkyrie Project was in the July/August 2021 edition of At Ease, which can be found here: https://www.dcmilitary.com/at_ease/eedition/.
The AWF event not only focused on the women who had made notable contributions to the Army and female Soldier community. Its scholarship awards recognized those who will be making impacts in the future.
One of those individuals, former Army PFC Jillene VanNostrand, was presented with a PenFed scholarship which will help her attain a graduate degree in IT management from Western Governors University. Currently working at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the mother of 5 shared that the scholarship is not just a financial aid to her family.
“This is helping me be an example for my children, that you can achieve your goals,” said VanNostrand. “My great grandmother was the first woman in her hometown to join the WACs in WWII and my mother was in the Army, so I am proud to have followed their footsteps. It’s heartwarming to know that AWF is there to support women, even after they take off the uniform.”
AWF, with the help of its corporate sponsors and individual donators, awarded 14 scholarships to active duty and former women Soldiers and to 8 children of Army women. The biggest scholarship prize was awarded to SSgt. Beatriz Betty who received a full scholarship to Trident University. AWF is able to offer 6 full-ride Trident scholarships each year. To learn more about the organization’s scholarship program, go to https://www.awfdn.org/scholarships/.
“Our scholarships represent an investment in our future leaders,” noted Macdonald. “We are proud to be able to help women because we know that education is key to success.”
“The mission of AWF is to promote public interest in the U.S. Army by recognizing and honoring Army women who have served past, present and to inspire those who’ll serve in the future,” Macdonald shared with At Ease. “We do that by honoring, empowering and connecting – honor through our awards program, empower through scholarships and outreach efforts and connecting Army women through our resource offerings. We want Army women to be their very best and at the end of the day help keep the U.S. Army rolling along.”