Women from S.C. inspire future generations with their remarkable military service.
On Oct 29, 1978, an Act of Congress disestablished the Women’s Army Corps. Two years earlier, in 1976, women were accepted into the Air Force on an equal basis with men. Women from South Carolina began making strides in rank and position as they entered the Army and Air Force.
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 about their groundbreaking achievements. ~ Brig. Gen. Marie Goff, USA Retired
Presidential Proclamation (1978) proclaimed March as Women’s History Month. Incredible trailblazing stories emerged as the military, and other organizations celebrated the accomplishments of women. I began compiling these stories of trailblazing women from South Carolina in 2020. There are many more yet to be listed. Together, they provide the breadth and depth of trailblazing military women from South Carolina and offer powerful inspiration for future generations.
Army and Air Force
Lieutenant Colonel Juanita Redmond Hipps (Jul 1, 1912 – Feb 25, 1979)
Born in Swansea, S.C., Juanita Redmond served in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps during WWII (1936-1969). Known as one of the “Angels of Bataan,” the Army awarded Hipps the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, and she was instrumental in establishing the United States Air Force’s flight nurse program. 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!
Lt. Col. Juanita Redmond Hipps pins a service member, Library of Congress.
In her book, Hipps recalls the words of bravery she often heard as bombs shredded their medical tents in the jungles of Bataan, and the nurses tried desperately to move the patients out of harm’s way, “Take my buddy, the wounded would say. He’s hurt worse than I am.” ~ Lt. Juanita Redmond
Lieutenant Colonel Charity Adams Earley (Dec 5, 1918 – Jan 13, 2002)
Charity Adams 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, the first African American woman to be an officer in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (later WACS), and served overseas. She graduated from Wilburforce University with mathematics, Latin, and physics majors. Her book is titled One Woman’s Army/A Black Officer Remembers the WAC.
Lt. Col. Charity Adams Earley inspects the ranks, photo from Library of Congress.
“Amid doubts [regarding disrespect and ridicule of women serving in the military], we adjusted to regimentation and learned self-discipline.” ~ Lt. Col. Charity Adams Early
The Women’s Armed Services Integration Act (Pub. L. 80-625), enacted on Jun 12, 1948, “enabled women to serve as permanent, regular members of the armed forces in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.” As a result, South Carolina and other states proclaim Jun 12 Women Veterans Day.
Major General Irene Trowell-Harris
Irene Trowell grew up in Aiken, 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 become Major General in the U.S. National Guard. Her books are Sky High No Goal Is Out of Your Reach and Bridges: A Life Building & Crossing Them.
Maj. Gen. Irene Trowell-Harris
“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, U.S. Air Force Retired
South Carolina Army and Air National Guard
As early as 1973, Lieutenant Bonnie Morse, Specialist Six Ramona Swails, and Sylvia Hydrick (Schulman) served in the State Headquarters of the S.C. National Guard. They were the first women to enlist and inspire others.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Nadene Mahon (Aug 3, 1940 – Jun 22, 2010)
First serving in the Navy, Nadene Mahon then joined the S.C. National Guard and became the first female to reach the rank of E-7, serve as a 1st Sergeant, and serve in a Military Police Battalion. Accomplishing yet another achievement, she became the first female Warrant Officer.
The Adjutant General pins Nadene Mahon as the first Warrant Officer in the S.C. National Guard.
“I hope this shows other women, if they get themselves qualified, that they too could become warrant officers.” ~ CWO 2 Nadene Mahon
Sergeant Major Karen Black (Hodge) (Jun 6, 1945 – Apr 14, 2018)
Sgt. Maj. Karen Black achieved many firsts. She was the first female from the S.C. National Guard to graduate from the Sergeant Major Academy and was in the top 20 percent of her class. In 1991, she was the first woman elected to the city council in the 98-year history of West Columbia, S.C.
S.C. National Guard promotes Karen Black as the first Sgt. Maj.
“Always maintain high professionalism because it is needed to maintain credibility.” ~ Sgt. Maj. Karen Black
Command Chief Warrant Officer 5 Janice Ready (Jul 12, 1949 – Sept 26, 2019)
Cmd. CW5 Jan 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 Ready for this achievement during the 2014 Distinguished Members of the Regiment event at Fort Jackson, S.C.
Command CW5 Janice Ready retires from the S.C. National Guard.
“Pay attention to detail, whether it’s your military records or any activity. One day it will pay off.” ~ Command CW5 Janice Ready
Command Sergeant Major Gail Williams
Command Sgt. Maj. 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 34 years.
Years after serving together, Command Sgt Maj Williams and I learned that we’d entered military service the same year, with her beginning in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) and me beginning in one of the Army’s first integrated basic training units. ~ Brig. Gen. Marie Goff, USA Retired
“As females, sometimes we have to “really” show what we can do, and I don’t mind doing that.” ~ Command Sgt. Maj. Gail Williams, USA Retired.
Colonel Lorinda Keck
Col. Lorinda Keck was born in Baguio City, Philippines, the daughter of Filipino immigrants. Her parents moved to the U.S. when she was 3, and Keck lived the life of a “military brat.” Keck was commissioned at the University of S.C. through the ROTC program. In 1984, she joined the S.C. Air National Guard, and in 1988, she became a full-time technician, becoming one of the first female officers that McEntire Air National Guard Base hired. She held various leadership positions, including Communications Flight Component Commander (CC); 240th Combat Communications Squadron CC; Comptroller; and 169th Missions Support group CC. Keck’s leadership led to technological advances on the Air Base, such as upgrading base technology from analog to digital, installing the first networks, upgrading the telephone switch to direct in-dial, and transitioning combat communications to state-of-the-art equipment. After Sept 11, 2021, attack on the U.S. World Trade Center, Keck deployed to Kyrgyzstan as a commander in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. She was awarded the Bronze Star and greeted by President George W. Bush upon her return from deployment. Keck retired with 35 years of military service in March 2015.
Col. Lorinda Keck
“The United States is a land of opportunity. If you work hard, you can make something of yourself. My parents instilled this in us as we were growing up. It was challenging, but in the end, the quote proved true to me.” ~ Col. Lorinda Keck
Captain Joanne Darling
In 1998, Capt. Joanne Darling became the first female Judge Advocate General in the S.C. Army National Guard. Women from S.C. inspire future generations by entering all roles, excluding combat.
Capt. Joanne Darling joins the 263d Air Defense Brigade as the first female Judge Advocate General officer.
“I am excited and honored to have the opportunity to serve in the South Carolina Army National Guard.” ~ Capt. Joanne Darling
Colonel Karen Hatfield
Col. Karen Hatfield retired in 2016 after blazing trails as South Carolina National Guard’s Deputy State Surgeon. During her military career, she served during the Gulf War in Operation Desert Storm. The Army recalled Col. Hatfield for her medical laboratory expertise during the Covid-19 pandemic. She served during that mission from May 2020 to April 2021.
Col. Hatfield in Hafar al-Batin, and observing the sunset in the wadi (desert) outside King Khalid Military City, Saudi Arabia.
“If you can read and do the math, you can do anything.” ~ Col. Karen Hatfield, USA Retired
Colonel Renita Berry
Col. Renita Berry became the first female Brigade Commander in the S.C. Army National Guard. During her career, she deployed to Bosnia and Kosovo. She continues to serve as the Director of the Forensic Services Laboratory for the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.
S.C. National Guard promotes Renita Berry to Colonel.
“We fought so hard for a ‘seat at the table,’ and once seated, we must 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, USA Retired.
Chief Master Sergeant Tina Pastore
CMSgt Tina Pastore achieved the highest enlisted rank in the South Carolina Air National Guard and retired in 2001 after serving 26 years.
Chief Master Sgt. Tina Pastore
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions or take a chance and make mistakes; everything is fixable.” ~ Chief Master Sgt. Tina Pastore, U.S. Air Force Retired
Chief Master Sergeant Debbie Marshall
CMSgt Debbie Marshall achieved the highest enlisted rank in the South Carolina Air National Guard and retired in 2012 after serving 34 years.
Chief Master Sgt. Debbie Marshall
“I am inspired by the core value “service before self.” ~ Chief Master Sgt. Debbie Marshall, U.S. Air Force Retired.
Women from S.C. demonstrate courage, sacrifice, and heroic action in combat. Women from 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 the terrorist attack on U.S. soil in 2001. Women from S.C. inspire future generations by deploying to areas of conflict worldwide.
Women fight in combat, are wounded and captured as prisoners of war (POW), and women lose their lives in battle. ~ Brig. Gen. Marie Goff, USA Retired
Lieutenant Colonel Tally Parham Casey
Tally Parham Casey enlisted in 1996 with the S.C. Air National Guard’s 157th Fighter Squadron. As South Carolina’s first female fighter pilot, she has nearly 1500 hours in the F-16, and 100 hours in combat, serving three combat tours over Iraq. 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, and their passion was real. I think the nature of the job drove the predominance of this attribute. 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.” ~ Lt. Col. Tally Parham Casey
Command Sergeant Major Jewell McCullough
CMSgt 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 an 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.
Command Sgt. Maj. Jewell McCullough
“Do not allow everyone to pat you on the back. Be humble and accept criticism.” ~ Command Sgt. Maj. Jewell McCullough, USA Retired.
Colonel Cindi King
Col. Cindi King is the first female to serve as the S.C. National Guard Public Affairs Officer. King deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 and Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, and Jordan in 2019-2020.
Lt. Col. King talks to a CNN reporter during the 1000-year flood in S.C. (2015).
“Know what you bring to the fight. We all have talents, insights, 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.” ~ Col. Cindy King.
Specialist Chrystal Stout
Chrystal Stout from Traveler’s Rest, S.C. died in 2005 while serving in Afghanistan, the only female from the S.C. Army National Guard killed during Operation Enduring Freedom. Recruiting and Retention Commander Lt. Col. Clarence Bowser spoke these words when the S.C. National Guard named the Bluff Road Armory conference room in her honor.
“She [Spec. Stout] embodied the principles of dedication, pride, and loyalty that is the S.C. Army National Guard.” ~ Lt. Col. Clarence Bowser, USA Retired
In 2014, the Secretary of the Army issued a directive to open combat roles to women in the military. Women in the S.C. Army National Guard entered combat positions for the first time in history and continue to inspire future generations.
Image courtesy U.S. Archives
- 2nd Lt. Tracci Dorgan is the first female to enter 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 was the first female to attend Infantry School.
- Veronica Lasch was the 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.
Sergeant Joann Lewis was the first woman I saw in an army uniform. She was one of two women serving in the headquarters company of the 111th Signal Battalion when I enlisted in 1977. She inspired future generations of women, and I remember her fondly as a person dedicated to the mission and always putting others before herself. ~ Brig. Gen. Marie Goff, USA Retired
During a lecture, Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis, Professor of Intelligence and Security Studies at Coastal Carolina University, asked me to highlight women’s military service. That lecture inspired this list. Considering the remarkable women I’d served with in the S.C. National Guard, it was easy. ~ Brig. Gen. Marie Goff, USA Retired
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you know of trailblazing women in the military service from South Carolina. If you are a veteran, send your story to The Library of Congress, which collects first-hand accounts of U.S. veterans as part of the Veterans History Project.
The S.C. National Guard does not endorse and is not responsible for the accuracy or content of this information, nor is this a comprehensive list. Women from S.C. in the Armed Forces continue to inspire future generations with their remarkable service.