by SFC Anthony Reed
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. – Soul-singer James Brown once musically proclaimed, "It’s a man’s world, but it don’t mean nothing without a woman."
According to Socrates, "Once made equal to man, woman becomes his superior."
This is abundantly true in Army Signal Command’s G-1, G-3 and G-4 sections, as the top enlisted positions of each are women.
Sergeants major Scarlett Williams, Maria Wilson and Lula Chase, ASC’s G-1, G-3 and G-4 sergeants major respectively, are vital parts of the command’s personnel, operations and logistics issues for more than 7,500 soldiers. All three were also selected and are students in the non-resident Sergeants Major Academy.
While many may assume these positions were filled as a form of gender equity or affirmative action, ASC’s top enlisted soldier, CSM Larry Paylor, said, "We (leaders) don’t look at gender anymore when making assignments. Our missions are too critical. Williams, Wilson and Chase are doing exceptional work in critical jobs. Physically, it’s obvious they are women, but their professionalism and expertise in their jobs are what stands out and helped them achieve all their substantial accomplishments. They are the most proficient soldiers I have worked with in my military career."
Many believe retired CSM Anthony Ford, ASC’s former top enlisted soldier, hand-picked the three sergeants major. "I can take credit for one (Williams)," he said. "We were just lucky to get one (Wilson) because the Signal Branch selected her, and another (Chase) was already assigned here."
Ford called Williams "...a true professional soldier." He has known her for more than six years. "It is good she’s in charge of personnel for ASC. I asked for her specifically for the G-1 position as soon as I found out she was selected for promotion to sergeant major. She has always supported soldiers and was never afraid to speak on behalf of soldiers."
Wilson served under Ford as a first sergeant in Panama. "I remember when she was seriously contemplating leaving the military. She got frustrated and discouraged with where she thought the military was headed," Ford said.
Proving that mentoring can be developed at all levels, the retired command sergeant major posed an interesting question to the then-first sergeant. "I asked her, ‘If all the good noncommissioned officers get out, who will take care of the young soldiers?’"
Ford said Wilson is professionally knowledgeable and "hard, but fair." He added, "She is a top-notch soldier with great potential. I think she has a great chance of becoming Signal’s Regimental command sergeant major."
Chase was already in ASC, working on the inspector general’s staff as a master sergeant. "It was ASC’s good fortune that she was selected for promotion to sergeant major at about the same time the G-4 position became vacant," Ford said. "She was leaving the IG and returning to her MOS."
Of Chase, Ford said, "She has always shown compassion for soldiers as the IG and G-4. She thinks with her heart and mind. She has always been technically and tactically proficient."
Ford said of all three, "They deserve to be here because they are experts in their respective fields. Gender has nothing to do with where they are right now and are headed in their careers. They are all good soldiers, and even better people."
All three have a lot in common, and because of their positions in ASC, rank and attending the non-resident course, it’s obvious they share a sisterly bond. Yet they are vastly different. One is a single parent. One is single. One is married with one child.
Williams, 41, has been in the military 23 years. "I always wanted to travel and have the opportunity to serve my country," she said. "When I was in my second week of basic training, I knew I would make this a career. The structure and discipline was no different than how I was raised.
"My mother wanted to join the military, but her father wouldn’t let her. In a way, I’m living my mother’s dream," said the Atlanta native.
"I’ve always wanted to be treated like any other soldier – not singled out because I was female," Williams said. "I felt early in my career I had to take the challenging jobs like drill sergeant to prove I could do the job as well, if not better, than my male counterparts."
SGM Scarlett Williams
Daisy Curry, Williams’ mother, is not surprised at the success of the G-1 sergeant major. "My daughter and I are good friends. She is generous and loving. Scarlett has always been a meticulous, dedicated, determined, dependable person in anything she pursued. She has managed to hang in there – in good times and bad. She has made a lot of sacrifices, but we all make sacrifices," Curry said.
One of Williams’ most difficult sacrifices was accepting her current position. Her daughter, Anquinette, 18, will graduate from high school in June. She resides with her grandmother in Atlanta.
"I never used the fact I was a single parent to turn down an assignment," Williams said. "I didn’t want to uproot her in her senior year. I would have loved to be there to help plan for prom and all of the other things that go with being a senior."
"My mom has made a big impact on my life," Anquinette said. "Because we moved around a lot, it made it easier to communicate and meet new people. She has been through a lot, and I am so proud of her."
Williams said her daughter is very understanding of the demands of the military. "She knows I am providing a good life for her," Williams said.
A sign in Williams’ office reads, "The best thing to spend on your child is time." The caring mother said nothing will stop her from being at Anquinette’s graduation – even if she has to postpone graduating from the non-resident’s SMA course. "I owe her so much more than a couple of hours," Williams said. "She has been there for me, and now I will be there for her."
Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Columbus College, Columbus, Ga. She plans to retire at 26 years and wants to become a certified public accountant.
SGM Maria Wilson
Wilson, 43, has been in the military 22 years. "I was walking down the street one day going shopping, and I saw a recruiting office," she recalled. "I decided to go in and talk with a recruiter to see what they had to offer. When I left the office, I had passed the entrance exam on a whim. My father talked me into making a career out of the military."
The Meridian, Miss., native acknowledged the inherent challenges of being a female in the military. "You always have to prove yourself in everything you do," Wilson said. "That makes you work harder, but I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to do all the training and deploy to all the places my male counterparts have experienced."
The former drill sergeant said she never got discouraged at some of the biases. "I never let those things hold me back, and anything I participated in I tried to always excel at," Wilson said.
CSM Andre Sexton, 307th Signal Battalion sergeant major, Camp Carroll, Korea, was Wilson’s first sergeant more than 10 years ago in Vicenza, Italy.
"She was one of the best platoon sergeants I ever had," Sexton said of Wilson. "Whenever I had a tough job, I gave it to her because I knew the mission would be completed."
SGM Terry Russell, Transmissions Systems Department, Fort Gordon, Ga., was stationed in Panama with Wilson about five years ago.
"She has always been a top-notch, highly professional soldier," Russell said of Wilson. "She will do anything for a soldier. She works hard and has earned everything she has accomplished. She truly is one female no one can ever say they ‘gave’ her anything."
Russell added, "She is very opinionated but is a total team player. She will always be honest with you. She is a strong role model and mentor, not just for females, but for all soldiers. Hopefully she’ll make command sergeant major and run a battalion or brigade."
Chase, 38, has been in the Army more than 19 years. "I was prompted to join the military because of adventure and a ‘slick’ recruiter," she said. "I never had any intentions making a career out of it."
She is married to Geoffrey Chase. They have a daughter, Leahlani.
"Between my job and the non-resident course, it’s difficult to be a wife and mom," the G-4 lamented. "I have no life right now, but who’s complaining?"
Born in Florida but raised in Indiana, Chase is always upbeat, choosing to look on the bright side of any situation. "I was promoted to sergeant major on April Fool’s Day," she said. "I’m still waiting to see if a joke is involved.
SGM Lula Chase
"The only disadvantage I’ve seen being a female in the military is I have to take longer steps to keep up on roadmarches and in (physical-training) formations," Chase joked. "But the advantage is I don’t have to cut my hair."
She may joke about many things, but she has accomplished many things in the military. "Chase has never ducked the tough assignments," Paylor said. "She is a paratrooper with more jumps than me!"
With no end to having fun in sight, Chase said she recently re-enlisted for 10 ½ years. "I’ll retire when I stop having fun," she said.
"All three sergeants major are exceptional," Paylor said. "They weren’t sitting in offices. They took the tough jobs."
Among other notable women in the Signal Regiment are BG Velma Richardson, deputy commander of the Signal Center, Fort Gordon, Ga.; BG Marilyn Quagliotti, 5th Signal Command commander, Mannheim, Germany; and CSM Barbara White, 11th Signal Brigade command sergeant major, Fort Huachuca.
Ford said these women will soon be the norm in the military instead of the exception. "People better get ready. There will come a day when all of our leaders can and will be women."
SFC Reed is assigned to ASC’s public-affairs office.
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