Women from S.C. inspire future generations with their remarkable military service
Women from S.C. inspire future generations with their remarkable military service in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) and later in integrated units in the Army and Army and Air National Guard. The Army disbanded the WAC in 1977 and integrated the military units in 1978. From there, women bagan to make strides in rank and position in the services, including the National Guard.
Enlisting in 1977, I entered basic training in one of the first integrated units. From there, I served with many trailblazing women in the S.C. National Guard and often didn’t know that they had blazed a trail. However, the month of March was proclaimed Women’s History Month in 1978. The military, along with other organizations, began to celebrate the accomplishments of women. Soon their stories emerged. Their stories, combined with each of their own words of wisdom, provides a powerful inspiration for future generations.
Lieutenant Colonel Juanita Redmond Hipps (July 1, 1912 – February 25, 1979) was born in Swansea, S.C. and served in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps during WWII (1936-1969). Her best selling book, I Served on Bataan, is a gripping, emotional page-turner and the basis for the 1943 movie, So Proudly We Hail!. Known as one of the “Angels of Bataan”, the Army awarded Hipps the Purple Heart and Bronze Star and she was instrumental in the establishing the United States Air Force’s flight nurse program.
In her book, Hipps recalls the words of bravery she heard often as bombs shreded their medical tents in the jungles of Bataan, “Take my buddy, the wounded would say. He’s hurt worse than I am.” – Lt. Juanita Redmond
Lt. Col. Juanita Redmond Hipps pins a service member. Image from the Library of Congress
Lieutenant Colonel Charity Adams Earley (5 December 1918 – 13 January 2002) grew up in Columbia, S.C. and served in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) (1942-1946). She became Battalion Commander of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, first African American women serving overseas. She graduated from Wilburforce University with majors in mathematics, Latin, and physics. Her book is titled One Woman’s Army/A Black Officer Remembers the WAC.
“In the midst of doubts [regarding disrespect and ridicule of women serving in the military] we adjusted to regimentation and learned self discipline.” – Lt. Col. Charity Adams Early
Lt. Col. Charity Adams Earley inspects the ranks. Image from the Library of Congress
Major General Irene Trowell-Harris grew up in S.C. and earned a master’s degree at Yale University and a doctorate in Education at Columbia University. She became the first African American woman to achieve the rank of Major General in the U.S. National Guard. Her books are titled Sky High No Goal Is Out of Your Reach and Bridges A Life Building & Crossing Them.
“Follow your dream: Your whole life comes alive when you have the courage to follow a dream, to create change, to do what’s right over what is easy, and the courage to value tomorrow as much as you do today.” – Maj. Gen. Irene Trowell-Harris
Retired Maj. Gen. Irene Trowell-Harris
The first women in the S.C. Army National Guard began serving in the State headquarters unit as early as 1973. Lieutenant Bonnie Morse; Specialist Six Ramona Swails; and Sylvia Hydrick (Schulman) were among the first women to serve in the S.C. National Guard.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Nadene Mahon served in the U.S. Navy and became the first female to reach the rank of E-7, serve as a 1st Sergeant, and serve in a Military Police Battalion in the S.C. National Guard. Accomplishing yet another achievement, she became the first female in the Warrant Officer Corps in the S.C. Army National Guard.
“I hope this shows other women, if they get themselves qualified, that they too could become warrant officers.” – CWO 2 Nadene Mahon, U.S. Army Retired
CWO 2 Nadene Mahon is pinned as the first Warrant Officer in the S.C. National Guard.
Command Chief Warrant Officer 5 Janice Ready became the first female to achieve the highest rank and position as a Warrant Officer in the S.C. Army National Guard. The Army Adjutant General’s Corps honored Ms. Ready for this achievement during the 2014 Distinguished Members of the Regiment event at Fort Jackson, S.C.
“Pay attention to detail, whether it’s your military records or any activity. One day it will pay off.” – CCWO Janice Ready, U.S. Army Retired
CCWO Janice Ready retires from the S.C. National Guard.
Command Sergeant Major Gail Williams enlisted in the S.C. National Guard in early 1977. She was the first African American female to achieve the rank of first sergeant and Command Sergeant Major in the S.C. Army National Guard, serving for 34 years. Interestingly, she began her career in the U.S. Women’s Army Corps. Years after serving together, she and I learned that we’d entered the same year, with her beginning in the WAC and me beginning in one of the first integrated basic training units.
“As females sometimes we have to really show what we can do, and I don’t mind doing that.” – CSM Gail Williams, U.S. Army Retired
Women began entering all positions where they were allowed to serve, which excluded combat positions. Captain Joanne Darling became the first female Judge Advocate General in the S.C. Army National Guard in 1998. Women from S.C. inspire future generations by entering all roles excluding combat positions.
“I am excited and honored to have the opportuntiy to serve in the South Carolina Army National Guard.” – CPT Darling
In 2015, Colonel Renita Berry became the first female to become a Brigade Commander in the S.C. Army National Guard. During her career, she deployed to Bosnia and Kosovo. She contunues to serve as the Director of Forensic Services Laboratory for the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.
“We fought so hard for a ‘seat at the table’ and once seated, we must also fight to be heard. We must ensure that we are mentoring and preparing other women to join us at the table and take our place once we move on.” – Col. Renita Berry, U.S. Army Retired
Renita Berry is promoted to the rank of Colonel in the S.C. National Guard, Image courtesy Col. Renita Berry, U.S. Army Retired
Women in the S.C. Air National Guard were also entering and achieving rank and position in both officer and enlisted ranks.
Chief Master Sergeant Tina Pastore achieved the rank of Chief Master Sergeant, retiring in 2001 after serving for 26 years.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions or take a chance and make mistakes, everything is fixable.” – CMSgt Tina Pastore, U.S. Air Force Retired
CMSgt Tina Pastore, S.C. Air National Guard, U.S. Air Force Retired
Chief Master Sergeant Debbie Marshall retired in 2012 after serving in the S.C. Air National Guard for 34 years.
“I am inspired by the core value service before self.” – CMSgt Debbie Marshall, U.S. Air Force Retired
CMSgt Debbie Marshall, S.C. Air National Guard, U.S. Air Force Retired
Women from both the S.C. Army and Air National Guard deployed during Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990-1991. Later they would deploy again in even greater numbers to Iraq and Afghanistan, following terrorist attack on U.S. soil in 2001. These wars are filled with stories of courage, sacrifice, and heroic action by women from S.C. serving in combat. Women from S.C. inspire future generations by deploying around the world to areas of conflict.
It’s important for all Americans to know and appreciate that women fight in combat; women are wounded in combat; women are captured as prisoners of war (POW) in combat; and women lose their life in combat. – Brig. Gen. Marie Goff, U.S. Army Retired
Lieutenant Colonel Tally Parham Casey was the first female fighter pilot in the South Carolina. Enlisting in 1996 with the S.C. Air National Guard’s 157th Fighter Squadron, her service includes three combat tours over Iraq. She has nearly 1500 hours in the F-16, more than 100 hours in combat. After leaving military service, Lt. Col. Tally continued a successful law practice and is now a shareholder and Chair of Wyche, P.A. in Columbia, S.C.
“The common trait that impressed me most in the few other women pilots I met during my career was authenticity. Their courage was real, their kindness was real, their passion was real. I think the predominance of this attribute was driven by the nature of the job. While the F-16 was a great equalizer — it didn’t care if a woman or a man was in the cockpit — it was also unforgiving. Knowing yourself, knowing your limits, and trusting your instincts were the keys. And they can open all kinds of doors.” – Tally Parham Casey
Command Sergeant Major Jewell McCullough blazed a trail through every level of command in the South Carolina National Guard where she served for over thirty-six years. Her remarkable achievements include a deployment to Iraq as the Command Sergeant Major for the 151st Expeditionary Signal Battalion. She was awarded the Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster for her service in Iraq. She also served as the 218th NCO Academy Commandant and the State Personnel Sergeant Major for the South Carolina National Guard.
“Do not allow everyone to pat you on the back. Be humble and accept criticism.” – CSM Jewell McCullough, U.S. Army Retired
CSM Jewell McCullough, S.C. Army National Guard, U.S. Army Retired
Lieutenant Colonel Cindi King was the first female to serve as Public Affairs Officer for the S.C. National Guard. Lt. Col. King deployed to Afganistan in 2012 and Kuwait/Iraq/Syria/Jordan in 2019-2020. She continues to serve in the S.C. National Guard and as a Public Affairs Officer with the Department of Defense at the Pentagon.
“Know what you bring to the fight. We all have talents, insight, and capabilities that make us unique and valued. Understand the mission, be an expert, and never be afraid to stand your ground when your input is critical to mission success.” – Lt. Col. Cindy King
Lt. Col. King with CNN reporter during the 1000 year flood in S.C. (2015). Image courtesy Lt. Col. King
S.C. National Guard Specialist Chrystal Stout died in 2005, while serving in Afghanistan, the only female from the S.C. Army National Guard killed during Operation Enduring Freedom. When the S.C. National Guard conference room was named in her honor, then Rcruiting and Retention Commander Clarence Bowser spoke these words.
“She [Specialist Stout] embodied the principles of dedication, pride, and loyalty that is the S.C. Army National Guard.” – Lt. Col. Clarence Bowser, U.S. Army Retired
The Secretary of the Army issued a directive in 2014 that opened doors to combat roles for women in the military.
“The Army must open all combat jobs to women.” – Sec. of the Army
Women in the S.C. Army National Guard began entering combat positons for the first time in history. Women from S.C. inspire future generations by entering combat roles.
- Lieutenant Tracci Dorgan entered the field artillery officer branch.
- 1st Lt. Jenna Pitcher became the first AH-64D Apache helicopter pilot.
- Staff Sgt. Jessica Smiley graduated from the Army Ranger School, the Army’s direct-action raid force.
- Staff Sgt. Rachelle Dutton attended Infantry School.
- Veronica Lasch was first to enlist in the S.C. National Guard Infantry Branch.
During Women’s History Month (2021), Sgt. 1st Class Felicia Penn, 1st Lt. Briana Yancey, and I spoke with Sgt. Chelsea Baker on Palmetto Guardian Episode 93. Sgt. Baker asked me to recall the first woman I saw in a military uniform. The first woman that I saw in a military uniform was Sergeant Joann Lewis. She was one of two women serving in the headquarters company of the 111th Signal Battalion when I joined the unit in 1977. I remember her fondly as a person dedicated to the mission and as a woman with a big heart who always put others before herself.
Stories that would inspire future generations are often lost to time. Recalling the amazing stories of women from S.C. who served in the Army and those I served with in the Army and Air National Guard prompted me to begin this endeavor.
Image courtesy U.S. Archives
The S.C. National Guard does not endorse and is not responsible for the accuracy or content of this story and this is not a comprehensive list. There are many remarkable achievements of women in the S.C. Army and Air National Guard. If you’d like to add a story, please contact me, email@example.com.
Darlene M. Goff, Brigadier General, U.S. Army Retired