• Female senior NCOs recreate iconic photo

  • In honor of Women's Equality Day Aug. 26, six female senior NCOs recreate iconic photo.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    On June 2, 1907, eight noncommissioned officers from the 18th U.S. Infantry posed in front of the Grant statue and it has since become an iconic photo in the history of Fort Leavenworth. In the years since, several groups of NCOs have recreated the photo, but when Command Sgt. Maj. Veronica Knapp, 40th Military Police Battalion (Detention), saw the photo in the hallway of the Garrison Headquarters, she realized something significant.
    “We have three (female) E-8 and three (female) E-9 in our battalion alone and we could remake that photo,” she said.
    So, in honor of Women’s Equality Day Aug. 26, six female senior NCOs of the 40th MP Battalion (Detention) gathered in front of the Grant statue and did just that.
    “It’s historical that this many female senior leaders are part of our organization at once,” said 1st Sgt. Tabitha Hernandez, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Disciplinary Barracks.
    The 40th is not the only battalion with multiple women currently in leadership roles in the corrections facilities on post. Along with the two first sergeants, one master sergeant, three sergeants major and two sergeants first class in the 40th, the 705th Military Police Battalion (Detention) has one first sergeant, one master sergeant and two sergeants first class and the 15th Military Police Brigade has one master sergeant and one colonel.
    The Military Police Corps was established in 1941 and by 1943 women were already serving in its ranks. The USDB gained its first female corrections specialist, Pfc. Lilian Gissenanner, in 1975; its first female company commander, Capt. Yvonne Doll, in 1985; and its first female first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Diane Chaisson, in 1989.
    Lt. Col. Colleen McGuire became the first female commander of the 705th in 1998, and as a colonel in 2002, became the first female commandant of the USDB. Under the leadership of then-Col. Erica Nelson, the 40th MP Battalion (Detention) was activated in 2009 and the Joint Regional Correctional Facility opened in 2010 under then-Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton.
    Since July of 2012 the commander of the 15th and commandant of the USDB has been a woman — Col. Sioban Ledwith (2012-2016), Nelson (2014-2016), Hilton (2016-2018) and Col. Caroline Horton (present). Ledwith was the first commander of the 15th after it was reactivated in 2010.
    “That tradition has carried suit for many years with the officers of the 15th MP Brigade,” Hernandez said.
    Master Sgt. Nickie Wileman, HHC, USDB, said she felt Women’s Equality Day was the perfect day to recreate the photo.
    “As a female NCO and as a female growing up in the ranks, it was very rare to see someone that you could emulate,” she said. “Even to this day, we still don’t see a lot of females in higher ranks.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We need to be that representation for people to strive to become something because if we are seen in those ranks then that means that we can become those ranks,” Wileman said. “This photo of all these extremely powerful and amazing military individuals, they were all male. But now, to pose as all female, to show that we are in those ranks is monumental, but it’s also inspiring.”
    Wileman said recreating the photo in this manner should give insight into just how much the cause of women’s equality has progressed.
    “We’ve come a long way from the past. With hard work, a lot of hard work, we can do anything,” Wileman said. “Even with the males, everybody can do anything with a lot of hard work, but it shows that the military itself has come a long way especially from where we were 30 or 40 years ago.
    “The mentality has changed,” she said. “The mindset has changed to where we’ve become a more inclusive environment, and by showing all these women that are in key leadership positions, we are able to show that inclusiveness and the diversity within the organization and its also so other units can see that we’re setting the standard.”
    Knapp said recreating the photo shows the appreciation they have for those who served before them.
    “It’s just recognizing where we came from,” Knapp said. “I think it’s showing the older ladies and men that were in an Army quite different that it’s changed, but we recognize the steps they’ve taken to get us here and we appreciate it.”
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