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Wednesday, Mar. 07, 2012

Assistant secretary reflects on Women's History Month

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WASHINGTON — March is Women’s History Month and an assistant secretary of the Army said the observance is a recognition of the value that women have had in society all along.

“There have been periods in our history where women have not been as in front of the decisions — but behind the scenes women have had a tremendous role,” said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment. “It’s always interesting to me to walk into the halls of the Pentagon and see the Women’s Army Corps and see the contributions that they made in previous wars. Women have made contributions all throughout history.”

This year, the theme for Women’s History Month is “Women’s Education —Women’s Empowerment.”

An engineer by trade, Hammack said early on in her career, she was one of only a few women in her profession.

“When I went through engineering school I was one of three women in the engineering department,” Hammack said. “It was interesting to be a minority in that situation. But after a while, people forget whether you’re a man or a woman, and you’re just a fellow student getting an education.”

Hammack said opportunities for women in the private sector and the Army have increased from when she started out. A woman today, she said, is limited primarily by her own aspirations.

“There are way more opportunities available to women today than there were in the past,” she said. “I think if you have an education that’s going to serve you well, I think women are capable of almost any role now. I think in the past -- a paradigm, it was my mother’s generation, where women were nurses or teachers, if you had a job. Nowadays, a woman can be anything that she has interest in being. I don’t think there are any limitations to what anyone can do.”

Hammack, who said she has no background with the military prior to being appointed in her current position, said she was surprised at how women in the Army are accepted in the positions they are in, and in the leadership positions they hold.

Army protecting integrity of awards, adjutant general says

WASHINGTON ¬— “The current system we now have works,” Col. Jason Evans told Congress Wednesday, regarding the Army’s ability to maintain adequate databases and systems to track and verify awards of valor.

Evans, the Army’s adjutant general, responded to Rep. John Tierney’s questions on whether or not the Army and other services should continue using separate systems or merge them into one database for greater efficiency, accessibility and cost effectiveness.

Other congressmen echoed the concerns of Tierney during a Fraudulent Awards hearing this morning by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and its subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations.

The importance of good record keeping, according to Rep. Darrell Issa, committee chair, is “because people, including members of Congress, have in the past lied about their military service” and “people have been hired based on false service and claims.”

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