COLUMBUS, Ohio –
Defense Supply Center Columbus celebrated its Women’s History Month Program virtually March 24 and featured Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime Commander Navy Rear Adm. Kristen Fabry as its guest speaker. The event was live streamed and the theme for this year’s program was Making Monumental History in 2021.
The program began with a rendition of the U.S. National Anthem performed by a U.S. Navy band and a customized invocation.
Fabry transitioned into her remarks expressing appreciation for the Navy band’s performance, sharing how it encouraged her. She made note of the diversity represented in the Women’s History Month promotional poster and identified that diversity as key to a stronger nation.
“We don’t have to be famous and easily recognizable in public to feel the pride of our collective accomplishments,” Fabry said. “Our diversity makes up the many fingers that when bought together form the hand that has been persistent in pushing against boundaries and limitations…from the first suffragettes to being a heartbeat away from the presidency with the election of our first female vice president.”
Speaking on her personal career, Fabry said there weren’t many women within the Department of Defense or military to provide mentorship and guidance as she ascended through the ranks. “And because leadership was mostly comprised of men, by defacto, men often played essential roles in our advancement. Statistically, there were just not enough senior women around,” Fabry said.
Fabry pointed to the pending senate confirmation of two outstanding female military officers: Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost to be commander of the U.S. Transportation Command, and Army Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson to be commander of the U.S. Southern Command. Once confirmed, they will become the second and third women in the history of the United States Armed Forces to lead combatant commands. She added that these nominations are a clear sign that progress is occurring.
Fabry reminded the audience that women weren’t included in consideration for Navy combat ships until 1994. That exclusion prevented her from serving on a combat ship during her first three years in the Navy. She said that the exclusion prompted her to ask to be assigned to a guided missile destroyer at her first opportunity back at sea.
Channeling the program’s theme, Fabry shared that accomplishment requires mentorship – a trait she said she’s seen championed through the successive development of motivated and empowered women. Promoting mentoring, she challenged the audience to identify four or five women who proved impactful in their lives.
Sharing her list, Fabry said, “My mother is number one – hands down! She’s the truest example of unconditional and ever-present love. My mother is always in my corner; always looking out for me to this day. She’s my measure of the perfect woman, perfect mom, perfect wife, perfect grandmother: Patient, loving, strong, creative, charming, gracious to everyone, generous, fun, ready for anything, and exceptionally beautiful inside and out.”
She also listed Margaret Corbin, the wife of John, a Continental Army Soldier and cannon loader who was killed during the Battle of Fort Washington with Margaret at his side. Margaret immediately continued loading cannons until severely injured during the battle. For her actions, on July 6, 1779, Congress awarded Margaret a lifelong pension in recognition of her service. This was the first time the new government officially recognized the military service of a woman. The U.S. Naval Academy conducts The Corbin Seminar in her honor at their annual Service Academy Women’s Leadership Conference.
Fabry included U.S. Air Force Gen. Michelle Johnson, who among her numerous accomplishments was an Air Force Academy graduate and Rhodes Scholar. “She encouraged me to press ahead in my career aspirations, emboldening me to make and chart my own career outcomes,” Fabry said.
“Lastly, I’m thinking of one of my classmates from my Naval Academy class of 1991, Ken Barber, whose daughter, Midshipman 1/C Sydney Barber, was selected as the first female African American brigade commander at the U.S. Naval Academy,” Fabry said. “If you haven’t read or heard about her, I would encourage you to look her up. She’s the full package – an eye wateringly professional, smart, talented, engaging, young officer. What an encouraging achievement to help herald in the transition of the next group of emerging military leaders.
“We have most certainly come a long way but there is still much work to be done before we can say our journey is complete. There are still more opportunities to be had, more glass ceilings to be broken, and more trails to blaze,” Fabry said in encouragement. “We must continue to leverage the support of those great female, and male, leaders as we continue to break the remaining glass ceilings and level the playing fields.
“We must plant the seeds and till the soil to ensure the future crop of military and civilian leaders are prepared to grasp the leadership mantle and continue to move our efforts forward. That’s the challenge I leave you with today!”
A cultural expression slideshow showcased a chronology of exhortations from historically prominent women who reinforced the program’s theme of Making Monumental History in 2021 followed Fabry’s remarks. A recognition presentation to Fabry as the program’s guest speaker rounded out the event.
Debra Casper, Defense Finance Accounting Service Federal Women’s Program Manager provided the program’s closing remarks.