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It is most gratifying to receive information about the women who are serving or have served - and it bears sharing with the many site visitors. Here, in no particular order, you will find some of the contributions from proud friends, family, and fellow service members.
Thank you all.

Adrienne Lee Goodmanson , SSG, Ret., US Army, joined the Army in 1973, as a WAC. She attended MP school Fort Gordon, GA. with the first company of women MPs to train at Brimms Barracks. In 1974, at Redstone Arsenal, she became the first female MP. She was then stationed at Ft. Leonard Wood and became the first woman MPI Investigator in 1976. In 1977 Adrienne Lee Goodmanson was deployed to Berlin Brigade and was the first woman to shoot in the Allied Weapons Meet, held between the British the French and the US. She took 1st place on the American pistol team and 4th overall and British General Richardson presented her with his 3rd place trophy. Adrienne was also the first female American racecar driver at Friendship raceway.

Debby (Larson) Mongeau graduated from Aircrew Survival Equipmentman "A" school in Lakehurst New Jersy in May 1973, making her the first female parachute rigger in the Navy.

Catherine Elliott (Rizzo) HMC (AC) USN Ret. was the very first woman to graduate from Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron in Jacksonville, Fl. and become a Rescue Swimmer on 16 Dec 1983. Catherine worked very hard to complete this grueling school and flew Search and Rescue missions up until her retirement in 1995. She received many awards for rescues and even completed one ground rescue while 3 months pregnant!

Really enjoy your web page about women in the military. We have a piece to add to it. Our daughter, at the time Captain Cathy Utnik - now Major Cathy - was in Desert Storm as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot. She rescued 12 people from downed aircraft in the desert. And after she brought them back to safety, she and her crew went back to retrieve their aircraft carrying it back to safety also. There would have been a 13th rescue, but the male pilot chose not to fly back with her, instead hitched a ride from an approaching tank. The only drawback was that the tank was on it's way to battle, and not back to safety as our daughter would have delivered him. The affectionate handle bestowed upon her by her troops was "Dragon Lady" which they engraved on a beautiful mug and presented to her. She is most proud of that. Thank you for letting us tell our story.
Richard and Cecelia Utnik
major utnik

Deborah Burr , US Navy, 1985-1993, became the first female Master-at-Arms at TPU (Transient Personnel Unit) in San Diego in 1990.

You might be interested in adding "Dottie Holmes" to your list of firsts. She was the first woman to retire from the Air Force with 30 years of "all Air Force" time (others started as WAC's). She was the first female President of a major veterans organization (TREA) she served two terms, and is still the current president of "WAF Reunion".
Joan McKinney (WAF 1951 to 1954)

In the summer of 1995, the first female AW graduated from FASOTRAGRUPAC AntiSubmarine Warfare school and then reported to VS-41 (Seacontrol Squadron 41) where she was the first female naval-aircrew to earn her wings. She then transfered to the East Coast to fly with a "combat-squadron". She was one of my students, and one of the smartest. She was last known as AW3 Carly Harris.
Robert D Shepherd (AW/SW/NAC) USN

Did you know that Captain Theresa (Toby) Netherton and Captain Patricia Hickerson were the first ond only graduates from Fort Benning, Georgia's Infantry Officer's Advanced Course. Captain Netherton later put her infantry training in as S1 (Personnel) of the 197th Infantry Brigade and later retired as a Leiutenant Colonel. Captain Hickerson is a Major General on active duty at this date (1998).
Dave Netherton, Occupational And Technical Studies, Old Dominion University

In 1975, Donna Tobias was the first woman to become a US NAVY DEEP SEA DIVER. She was graduated from the 2nd class diving school in Little Creek, Va. and worked in diving billets for the next 5 years.

The first woman physician to receive a regular Army commission was Lt Fae Margaret Adams in 1953.

Jeanette Zachry Phillips was the first female to go into a chaplain candidate program in any branch of the military.

Carol T. Kirk, MAJ, USA (Ret), was the first woman to be awarded the German Army Marksmanship medal. She qualified for the bronze medal in 1972 while an Army Nurse at the 30th Field Hospital in Germany. Her records and the order from the German Army permit her to wear the medal.

AVCM Janice Ayers, USN was the 1st female Command Master Chief aboard a Navy Warship.

In 1987 Army SGT Genotra D. Brown became the first woman to wear the coveted black hat at Fort Bragg's Advanced Airborne School. She served on the black hat committee for two years before returning to college to earn a commission in the Transportation Corps. She is currently an Army TC Captain serving in Korea. From: Jennifer I. Bower, CPT, USA, WHNS Logistics Offficer.

Adrienne Mitchell was the first African American women killed in combat during the Gulf War.

Journalist Seaman Marianne Pearch of Greenbelt, MD, was the first woman to be awarded the "gold watch" as the Distinguished Honor Graduate of the Defense Information School's (DINFOS) Basic Journalist Course at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, IN, on April 3, 1969. Journalists from all five branches of the service attended the DINFOS training center on the Army fort in Indianapolis, recently one of the many base closures of the early '90s. JOSN Pearch went on to serve at the Naval Air Station in Memphis, TN, until 1971.

When attack aircraft were opened to women in April 1993, the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, AH-64 Apache and AH-1 Cobra became new possibilities foir women pilots. The first OH-58D Kiowa Warrior pilot was 1LT Kelly Heffernan and the first AH-64 Apache pilot was 1LT Angie Norman.

In 1975 Lou Anne Harrey-Jensen, now Costa, became the first Woman in the Marine Corps to become a Basic Engineer Diesel Mechanic. She was graduated in the upper half of her class, the only female out of 30 students.

In November 1964 Julia Oliver became the first woman assigned to an Army Band, other than the WAC Band - she was assigned to the 173rd Army Band at Ft Dix, N.J. Previously Julia was a member of the WAC Band from 1958 to 1963.
For more about military women musicians see Musicians.

I served from 1992 - 1998 with the first women to become a Rabbi in the Army - Major Bonnie Koppell. She is currently serving in the Army Reserve in Mesa, Arizona with the 164th Corps Support Group. Major Koppell is truly as pioneer in the world of religion and in the USAR. She is an outstanding soldier!
Cristina Robeson, SFC, USA (RET).

Virginia R. Erickson was in the first female company at Great Lakes Naval Training Center.

As a Second Lieutenant, Rochelle A. Denman, was the first woman Postal Platoon Leader to deploy to Bosnia in support of Operation Joint Endeavor (OJE). She was assigned to the 115th Postal Company (later redesignated as the 90th Postal Company) out of Kaiserslautern, Germany. Now Captain Denman was deployed from Jan - Nov 1996 and established postal service for the 2d Armor Division's Rear element located in Lukavac, Bosnia.

In 1989 2nd Lieutenant Susan Kae Davis became the first female in the Georgia Army National Guard to graduate from the Army Aviation Rotary-wing training, and fly helicopters for the state of Georgia.

Diana Richardson (Chapa) USAF was the first female to graduate from Site Development School in the Civil Engineering at Sheppard AFB, Texas, in March 1972. It opened up the school for other females to follow. She graduated early in the top half of the class, then went to Altus AFB, OK where she was the first and only female in CES there and at Reese AFB, Texas.

Jacki Fry Brewer was the first women to reach the rank of E-8 in the Aircrew Survival Equipmentman (Parachute Rigger) field in the Navy (she was the most senior women in the field from the time she made E-6 in 1982 until she retired in 1995.) Jacki was also the first women to head up the Parachute Rigger school in 1991 in Millington, TN. (all naval aviation tech schools have since moved to Pensacola, FL).

In 1979, the Navy allowed approximately 130 women to enlist in the Navy's Nuclear Power Field. The first group. That door was shut soon thereafter to any more women, until the 1990's. They all signed a six year contract. Jane L. Pekkala, MM1, E-6, became the first woman Section Leader for class 8002, commencing Jan. 1980. This was the first class to have a woman section leader, a previous class, 8001, had woman students. Nuclear Power School was located in Orlando, Florida at that time. Jane is researching this and would like to hear from former "female Nukes". (

In 1996, Marine 1st LTs Melissa Kuo and Maria McMillen and Navy LTs Holly Hatt and Rebecca Springer, became the first women to deploy with a West Coast Marine Corps Expeditionary Unit.

The first female Navy recruits to go to the armory were in Company 3411, Orlando, Florida, July-September 1973. Many of them qualified on .45's. By the time they left basic training, junior companies of female recruits were marching with rifles.

Lt. Gen. Leslie F. Kenne, USAF, is the first active duty female in the Air Force to attain the rank of Lt. Gen. She's the commander of Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base.

first marine
National Archives Photo

My Mother Annie N. Graham (now Gilliard) was the first black female to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. A small picture of her, (standing, at left) and Ann E. Lamb, the second black female to enlist, is in the 2000 calender for Women In Military Services for America for the month of February.

On September 8, 1949 Annie Neal (Graham) Gilliard went to enlist in the United States Marine Corp. She did not know until two days later after arriving at Paris Island that she had made history as the first African American female to enlist. She stated herself in a speech she once wrote:

"I was the first black woman to enlist in the Marine Corps. It was a wonderful experience for a young lady like myself. It certainly was a good teacher. We arrived as raw material at Boot Camp in Paris Island, S.C. After 6 weeks of basic training we were well trained Marines."

"Being a Marine is an honor and a privilege and I'm proud to have served my country."

At the time of her discharge in 1952 her rank was sergeant.

Mrs. Gilliard, was born May 30, 1929 and passed away after a short illness on July 4, 2002.

She leaves to cherish her memory: her loving husband of 48 years, Curtis J. Gilliard, Sr., three daughters, Stephanie, Susan, Allison, and two sons, Curtis, Jr., Keith Walter, five grandchildren, LaToya, Jimmie, Kevin, Whitney, and Chelsea, as well as many other relatives and friends.

Many thanks to her daughter Stephanie Gilliard-Sheard for this information.

Current Representative Heather Wilson of New Mexico is the first woman veteran serving in Congress. She is an Air Force Academy graduate and a Rhodes Scholar. Her biography can be found at :

The first Black female pilot for the Air Force was Teresa Mae Claiborne. She entered UPT at Laughlin AFB, TX in 1981 after graduating from California State University, Sacramento and was an ROTC graduate of UC, Berkeley. After graduating with high honors, she spent the majority of her active duty years as a KC 135 pilot in Loring Maine. Currently she is a pilot with United Airlines.

OTCM Susan Sanson was the first female Command Master Chief of a combat air squadron. Sea Control Squadron 22 out of Cecil Field, Fl. She was also the senior female enlisted onboard the historic gender integrated cruise on the USS EISENHOWER (CVN 69).

SMSgt Glenda Ferrara, USAF was the first woman to obtain the rank of E-9 in the Vehicle Operations Career (2T1X0) field in Mar 1996.

My mom Sgt. Laura Palmer (now she's Middleton) was the first woman allowed to go thru the 8th Air Force Leadership school that was pregnant. She was stationed at Loring AFB, ME in 1977 when she was selected to go. I think she was about 4 months pregnant. The Leadership School didn't think she should go, but my mom told me it was then or never. The school she went to was in Jan 1978. When she graduated, she was given a certificate for completing the course and "Baby Palmer" (me) was given one also.....I still have it! I know it's not a big thing, but I'm proud of my mother!
Barb Palmer

SRA Michelle R. Berube was the first female to serve on alert duty. She was in the test phase of women being on alert at Robins Air Force Base Alert Facility and was an assistant crew chief on KC-135's. Michelle also believes she was the first 17 year old to join on June 25, 1974 - her birth date is Sept 17, 1956. The law was changed on June 23, 1974.

My wife, Leila Cockerel just graduated army basic on Dec 2nd 1999. She is 4' 8 1/4" tall and weighed 87 lbs. She bulked out to 90 lbs during basic.... I dont know if she is the shortest/smallest lady to go through basic... She graduated from Fort Jackson S. Carolina. She was of course the smallest lady on the post during her stay there and is the smallest lady in AIT also at Fort Jackson... She is from the Philippines and expects to become an officer (already has a BA) in about 3 years when she gets citizenship. She was given no special treatment so she had to tough it out just like everyone else. As you can tell, I am kinda proud of her.
Al Cockerel
The following is one of the many wonderful notes from women veterans and I've asked Julie for her permission to share it with you. The picture is of her children greeting her upon her return from the Gulf.
julie I was one of the fortunate ones who served with a group of thirty men in my platoon who respected me and bonded in a way beyond gender. We moved thirty seven times in six months, went over three months without a shower, slept on top of the HMMVY and ate MRE's most of the time. The focus of most articles I've read was on the mechanics of women in military service. They seem to forget that we are all human beings. We shared family pictures, letters, talked about favorite things we missed. We learned a lesson that I hope to keep for the rest of my life - that people are what is important. It was understood that I would be there for them as they were there for me. This is why the friendships have been maintained since the Gulf War. I was introduced to a wife or girlfriend as my "war buddy". My children have grown up knowing them as my best friends. As to the mechanics, I qualified expert with most weapons (.38,.45, 9mm, M16, M50, M60, Gernade launcher etc.) I did everything from night guard during the ground war to driving an Abrams tank. They trusted my abilities, but more important was the fact that they trusted me. SGT Julie Tovsen 95B, 79th MP Company

Firsts continued...Do you know what ships were named for women? More Unique Firsts

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Unless otherwise noted content © 1996 to date by Captain Barbara A. Wilson, USAF (Ret)