Former Fort Hamilton commander lauds female-friendly changes
The U.S. military has made great strides in terms of women’s rights, the former commander of the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hamilton told a group of soldiers and civilian workers at a Women’s History Month observance at the fort on March 23.
Col. Tracey E. Nicholson (retired), who was the first and, so far, only female to serve as the commanding officer at Fort Hamilton, was the guest speaker at a Women’s History Month celebration at the post’s theater. She was the fort’s commander from 2005 to 2008.
Nicholson, who retired from the U.S. Army four years ago after 29 years of service and is currently the city manager of Hyattsville, Maryland, said things have changed for women in the military.
Nicholson cited several examples. The Army has a black female lieutenant general, Lt. Gen. Nadja West. Two female soldiers, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, made headlines in August 2015 when they graduated from the elite U.S. Army Rangers School after passing the rigorous course.
And changes implemented by the Department of Defense to open up combat roles for women are giving females the chance to “contribute fully to the defense mission,” Nicholson said.
Women are proving that “they can do just about anything,” she added.
Equally important, women are getting a seat at the table when decisions are made.
Nicholson said that of the top six staff members currently working under the secretary of the army, four are women. “They are influencing what we do every day,” said Nicholson, whose last job before retiring from the service was as an executive officer to the assistant secretary of the army.
“I am so very proud of where we are now with women in the military,” she said.
Nicholson also paid tribute to young people who are joining the military today. “Those, I think, are true heroes. They’re willing to rush toward danger,” she said.
Fort Hamilton, located in Bay Ridge, serves as a military entrance processing station, a place new recruits go after they enlist.
Nicholson urged women to move their careers forward, in the military and elsewhere. “Be relevant as an added value to the team. Treat people with respect. Do not run from challenges. Sometimes they are disguised as opportunities,” she said.
Nicholson, who is an African-American, has certainly faced challenges. She recalled that early in her career, there were people who refused to shake her hand. She remembered feeling different and out of place at staff meetings at one military base (not Fort Hamilton), where the male officers all played golf with each other and called each other by their first names.
“Life is a classroom,” she said, summing up her experiences.
During her military career, Nicholson served as the commander of several army bases, including Fort Hamilton. She served in Operation Iraqi Freedom was a staff member to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
She has won numerous military awards including the Legion of Merit, the Defense Meritorious Medal and the Bronze Star Medal.
Col. Joseph Davidson, the fort’s current commander, called Nicholson “a role model” for many people, men as well as women. Gender should not be important in the military, he said. “It’s who can do the job.”.
“We still have a ways to go. We’re not perfect,” Davidson said.