Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
Maj. Andrea Hollen, the first female graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
Capt. Linda Bray, the first female officer to lead troops into combat.
Spc. Judith Bitterli, the first female graduate of the 82nd Airborne Division Jumpmaster Course and first female jumpmaster of the division.
Retired Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, the first female commander of the 705th Military Police Battalion (Detention).
These women were just a few that Lt. Col. Corrie Hanson, 705th MP Battalion commander, identified as trailblazers that set the path of her own career during her remarks at the Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth Women’s History Month observance March 26 in Grant Auditorium.
The event was streamed live on the CAC Facebook page.
“I have not been the first to do many things, but I owe every milestone of my career to women who … dared to be first and helped make sure they were not the last,” Hanson said. “I didn’t have to consider whether it was possible to attend and graduate from West Point. …I never had to justify my ability to lead my soldiers in combat.
“I never had to justify my place as a jumpmaster. …I didn’t have to justify my ability to manage a level two correctional facility, housing some of the (Department of Defense’s) most volatile offenders,” she said. “It would be easy to assume, hearing my story and reflecting on the achievements women have made in the last several decades, that the struggle for women’s equality is over, but my story is just one story; my path is just one path.”
Hanson said a quick Google search for “first woman to…” reveals several firsts of women still being accomplished today, including Kamala Harris becoming the first female vice president and the first women graduating from the U.S. Army Ranger School.
“While my story shows how far we have come, I look forward to the day that women’s achievements are no longer newsworthy, that their service is taken as a matter of course, that their accomplishments are expected and not celebrated,” she said. “I look forward to the day that we do not have to justify our usefulness, our presence in the military, our right to bear children and raise families while we serve, our right to be equal citizens of this country.
“Women have been fighting for this nation since the Revolutionary War. It’s time to stop looking at gender and simply look at character, at competence and at contributions to determine a soldier’s worth. It’s time to stop focusing on the first women to achieve and time to focus on ensuring that they are not the last.”
Col. Thomas Bolen, CAC chief of staff, said that Hanson is more of a trailblazer than she thinks she is, as he reflected on the “internship” his daughter, Katie Bolen, recently completed at the 15th MP Brigade before leaving for the Basic Officer Leader Course in October 2020.
“You might not see yourself as a trailblazer, Corrie, but from a dad’s perspective, for my second lieutenant daughter to spend time with you and then head off to BOLC knowing that … she’s got a good role model to think back on at Fort Leavenworth means a lot to me,” Bolen said.
Second Lt. Katie Bolen, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 504th MP Battalion, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., said she learned a lot from the experience and from Hanson even though her time with her was brief.
“Although I only spoke with her on a few occasions, it was easy to tell that (Hanson) is a fantastic leader who knows what she’s doing and is easy to trust. … We had a great conversation, and she has a very clearly defined leadership philosophy that I really admire,” Bolen said. “She gave me advice on how to be a successful officer in the MP Corps and additional advice on how to be successful as a woman in the Army.
“During the office call, she emphasized that me being a woman is not what defines me; it is my character, leadership ability and competence that will make me a great leader,” she said. “She’s a great role model to have both as an MP officer and as a female officer.”
For Hanson’s full remarks, visit the CAC Facebook page.