COMMENTARY: Breaking the military glass ceiling

Long before the #MeToo movement, women were fighting for job parity on a day-to-day, minute-to-minute basis.

I was one of those women, entering the U.S. Army during the unpopular Vietnam War, when the majority of male soldiers had been drafted and the women were confined within their own Corps.

A Direct Commission, I was in the first class of 80 women officers specifically recruited to test out a theory that women could work with and lead men in order to make the all-volunteer force viable.

LTC Eugenia Thornton when she commanded the 22d Personnel Services Battalion, I Corps, Fort Lewis, Wash. in 1991. (U.S. Army photo)

At first I was shunned, then barely tolerated, and then exposed to periods of blatant sexual harassment, and institutional or personal gender discrimination before I felt like I was accepted.

I was the first woman to hold every single job I had in my 27-year career.

Through pluck and luck and a lot of really hard work, I persisted, eventually rising to the rank of colonel.

When I pinned on my Eagle insignia, I was one of only a dozen women in the regular Army at my rank or higher.

Today women officers are commissioned through ROTC and West Point. We are Infantry, Rangers, wear three-and four-stars, and serve as state National Guard Adjutant Generals, such as here in Delaware.

Today everyone is talking about the bravery and quiet professionalism of the military-trained combat pilot who commanded Southwest Flight 1390 so competently. Tammie Jo Shults landed her wounded Boeing 737 with a cool head, losing only one life when all her passengers were at great risk.

I will be telling my story — which is the story of countless other women in my generation — on May 7 at 7 p.m. in the Great Hall of the St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, 625 N. DuPont Highway Dover. Please come.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Col. Eugenia Thornton, USA retired from the U.S. Army in 2000 and moved back to Delaware after 27 years of continuous active duty. Married to Donovan F. Jagger, she resides near Frederica.

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