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Meet Your Army: Women's equality keeps improving says 'Soldier for Life'

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Aug. 26, 2016) -- Joyce Myers grew up as a military "brat." Both her parents served in the Air Force. But she said she never saw her mother in uniform, because she had been forced to leave the service before she was even born.

"Back then, they made the women get out when they got pregnant," Myers said. "So she had to get out of the Air Force."

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Her dad still served in the Air Force as a supply specialist though, and that took Myers around the world as a youth. She was born at Tripler Army Hospital in Hawaii. Then her family moved to California, Texas, Germany, Michigan and finally Oregon.

She spent a significant amount of her grade-school time in Germany and said she speaks German.

"I think being a military brat makes you so much more open to cultures and so much more patient with people," Myers said. "What it does do is when you settle down you have this urge to move all the time."

As a young adult, Myers had earned an associate's degree in structural engineering before deciding in 1984 to go off to join the service like both her parents had done.

"The Air Force recruiter told me they weren't taking any women in the Air Force. They didn't want any women in the Air Force at that time," Myers said. "So I went down the hall and joined the Army."

Both her parents ribbed her some about choosing the Army over the Air Force -- but she said they both remained proud of her decision to serve.

"After they gave me a hard time for picking the Army, they were both very, very proud," she said. "They were very proud and supportive -- minus the hard time for having picked the 'wrong' branch.'"

Her mother had gotten out of the Air force in 1964, Myers said. She remembers her mom commenting on the opportunities afforded to women in the service in 1984, when Myers signed up, compared to her own service in the early 1960s.

"She said 'you guys are lucky,'" Myers recalled, relaying bits of the conversation she'd had with her mother about her own service "'You get to wear pants. We had to wear dresses. And you get to have children and family, and they made me get out.' She said she wasn't able to have a career, but that I get to have the best of both worlds: the job, the adventure, and my family."

When Myers initially approached the Army about a job, she said she had wanted to enlist as an "engineer," believing that the job described something similar to what she'd studied in college. The recruiter told her that the Army didn't let women enlist into that career field.

"I wasn't savvy enough about the Army to realize it was a 'combat engineer,'" she said.

"I asked them what I could do in the Army, where I could get a job when I got out," Myers said. At the time, she'd hoped to do just one enlistment in the Army. She ultimately chose to go into military supply -- it was the same career field her father had in the Air Force. And she also said that as a supply Soldier, there were great opportunities for her as a woman -- at least for a while.

"I liked it. And I saw I was able to go to promotion boards and it didn't matter if I was a man or woman," she said. "I was able to get promoted. I think once I got in and went to basic and advance initial training, I actually liked my job. I liked it. I enjoy numbers, and I enjoy data. And I enjoy that linear kind of thinking."

Myers said up until about the rank of sergeant first class, things were pretty equitable for men and women in the Army, though after that, she said, "it was pretty much turned into a man's world. There were not a lot of women in my career field above that rank."

Still, Myers said, she thought at the time, the Army was a good option for her -- "I never felt I was personally treated unfairly," she said. And she also thought that at the time, the Army was a better choice, with more opportunity for her as a woman, than what would have been offered in the private sector.

Myers retired from the Army after 20 years, as a sergeant first class. She said she's augmented her associate's degree in structural engineering with a bachelors in business, and a master's in education. After some time as a defense contractor, she came on board as a Department of the Army civilian, and works now at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

Myers now serves as the chief of the Process Integration Division, Supply and Item branches, within the Logistics Support Activity, U.S. Army Materiel Command.

There, she's responsible for, among other things, maintaining the catalogue of materiel that units across the Army can purchase, a catalogue she describes as being somewhat akin to the Sears catalog -- but much bigger.

"If you go to the Sears catalogue, it's got a part number and it tells you how much it costs and what the part number is, and how much it weighs and what it's measurements are and all of the attributes of it. We do that for everything in the Army: every nut, bolt, part, truck and tank -- if you can order it through the Army system, we keep that master catalogue," she said.

The catalogue her team maintains for the Army consists of some 6 million standard items, and over 250,000 "non-standard" items. That catalogue is part of a Defense Logistics Agency-managed product called "Fed Log."

Within the Item Branch, she said, they manage information regarding the status of items ordered -- though they don't handle the actual ordering for items.

"You have an Army unit, and they are authorized 10 trucks," Myers said. "So the item branch tells them all the information about those trucks in the catalogue. Then they order that truck. And we track all of the statuses of that order. The status that says it was an initial order, the status that says it was back ordered, the status that says you have this much time to wait, and all of the in-transit statuses as well -- the transportation data. You know when you go on Amazon and it says your stuff is shipped and it's here, then here. We do that for Army stuff."


At lot has changed since Myers first joined the Army more than 30 years ago -- in particular, for women.

"When I joined, hardly any of us were women," she said. "When I went to a school, I was the only woman there, or one of two or three. And when I'd go places, it would be all men. But when I'm on a post with Soldiers now, there's a definite equality with the numbers. I think that's because the opportunities are open. Now, more and more, women will choose to take advantage of them. I think we'll see more women leaders."

Myers said that policy and law changes slowly -- but not as slowly as cultural change.

"While I personally do not want to be a Ranger, I think it shows great strides that women that choose to and can meet the qualifications have that option," she said.

"I think it will still take a while," she said about the Army's culture changing to completely accept female leaders in combat arms. "The opportunities will be there, and the military will allow the women to strive and grow as far as they need to. And on the civilian side too. We have women Senior Executive Service members. So the opportunities are there."

Myers said she opted to come on board as an Army civilian, after 20 years of service in uniform, because she felt an emptiness that can only be remedied by being around Soldiers.

"When you are part of the Army, you belong to something: a team, a squad, a platoon or a company," she said. "You have this common bond, this common mission, this common training. If somebody went to AIT, or basic, you have that bond. It doesn't matter if you have ever met before, there is this family, or camaraderie, or esprit de corps. It's just there. When you get out, there is a hole, a pretty big hole. The Army gave so much to us as far as skills and adventures and family and bonds and experiences and benefits -- you want to kind of give something back to the Soldiers that are coming after you, and to the Soldiers that paved the way before you. You want to keep being part of that."

Following are some questions she answered in her own words:

Q: What does it mean to you as a woman and a former Soldier to see all the opportunities that are open to women in the Army now?

A: As a woman that joined the Army in 1984, I was part of a very small percentage of the Army. It makes me proud to know that society and the Army has realized that women can and do make extremely significant contributions to the success of our military.

Q: What made you become an Army civilian? What are some of the similarities and differences to being a Soldier?

A: I knew that when I left active duty I still wanted to support my fellow Soldiers. After my retirement I worked as a contractor supporting an Army program. I worked side by side with Army civilians. Having been an NCO for most of my adult life, I knew that I still wanted to lead. An opportunity presented itself for me to apply for a position as an Army civilian and I was fortunate enough to be selected and eventually move into a supervisory position. The similarity between being a civilian and a Soldier is that both play a critical role in support of the Army's mission. While the roles may differ significantly, it is the combination of all those skills, duties, and missions that each performs that allows the United States Army to continue to be the best even with the reduction in our forces.

Q: How has working within Army Material Command broadened your professional development?

A: Working at Logistics Support Activity has exposed me to multiple logistics disciplines and allowed me to meet and work with some of the most knowledgeable functional logisticians in the Army. I am constantly challenged to understand different logistics data and how to integrate it to provide the Army with usable information. As the Army moves to enterprise logistics, I feel that I am fortunate to be part of the team that is helping define how the Army sees itself from a logistics and master data point of view.

Q: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement both personally and professionally?

A: My greatest achievement personally is that I believe I was able to raise both of my children while serving in the Army as a single mother and that they both are wonderfully kind, caring, and generous adults that I am proud to know. My greatest achievement professionally is that even though I am often considered "strict" or "hard", I have many former Soldiers and employees that still reach out to me for guidance and encouragement.

Q: As a civilian working for the Army, do feel like the work you perform plays an important role in the Army's mission?

A: Absolutely. The work that I perform, as well as my entire organization, provides a critical role. The civilians I work with are dedicated to doing the best they can to provide quality products and support to our Army even with reduced resources and competing priorities. I believe that our Army's mission and the ability of leaders at all levels is directly impacted by the work that our team provides each day to ensure the best possible data and information is available to support the decisions that need to be made.

Q; When you reflect on the fact that Aug. 26 was Women's Equality Day, what thoughts come to your mind about where the Army is today as compared to when you first enlisted?

A: I was recently able to tour the Women's Veteran Museum at Fort Lee, Virginia, while I was there for a workshop. It was amazing to me to realize that when I joined in 1984, I was a part of history. When I joined, I was told that only 2 percent of the Army was women. I served 20 years and retired in 2004. The changes in those 20 years and the 12 since absolutely make me proud to know that I was a part of something so large. I was able to compete (within my field) and be paid the same as my male counterparts in the Army and can still do so as a civilian. I know that I was considered on my merit and not on gender and it makes me proud that there is that equality in the Army for Soldiers and civilians.

Q: What hobbies do you enjoy when you are not at work?

A: When not at work I am part of Team Red, White, and Blue (RWB) and participate as a volunteer leader. I also love working in my flower bed, reading, and occasionally I like to participate in 5Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons (as a walker).

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