FORT BENNING, Ga. (U.S. Army) — For the female Soldiers currently training to earn the 91M Bradley Fighting Vehicle System Maintainer military occupationally specialty, Monday was a special day.
The Soldiers received a mentoring session from Brig. Gen. Michaelene Kloster, the commander of the 98th Training Division and Fort Benning's only woman general.
Following her remarks earlier in the day at Fort Benning's observance of Women's Equality Day, Kloster spent time with women Soldiers who will become Bradley maintainers when they complete advanced individual training here. Both the 91M and 91A Abrams Tank Maintainer military occupationally specialties, or MOSs, are among the jobs the Army opened to women this year. Both training courses are taught here.
While addressing the Soldiers from E Company, 3rd Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment, Kloster told the group of Soldiers they would be responsible for setting the standard not only for future women who might pursue the 91M MOS, but for women who pursue any and all MOSs in the Army.
"You gals are making history right now, and you're opening doors for women who will come after you," she said. "You're blazing trails right now, and I don't think you realize what front runners you are.
"What I challenge you to do is to not look at yourself as a female as you're going through this," she continued. "Think of yourself as a Soldier. You may be a female, that may be your gender, but you are a Soldier."
Kloster also discussed the Army's sexual harassment and assault prevention efforts, and said it is vital that all Soldiers trust their chain of command.
"I've never been witness to, nor have I ever experienced, sexual harassment, but I know many people who have," she said. "You've got to stand up for yourself, and you've got to say 'no.' If 'no' isn't understood, you've got to find help, and you've got to escalate up the chain of command.
"Everybody is very sensitized to this, so if there's any woman or man who is having problems with sexual harassment, they have the tools now to escalate their complaints up the chain of command and stop those predators," she explained. "We have to stop those predators, because there is no place for that (behavior) in my Army, and I, as a commanding general, will hold those people very accountable."
Kloster, who has 29 years of military experience, said the opening of more MOSs to women Soldiers is something that has finally come about thanks to the cultural evolution of both the military and the nation.
"As we evolve as a military, it only makes sense that we are opening up all these opportunities for women to not only excel but to lead as well," she said.
The first women to earn the 91M MOS graduated here in June, and Kloster said it is vital the Army continue to provide strong female leadership for women Soldiers to look up to.
"I do think it's very important to have female leadership, so that they know they have someone to talk to and someone who will understand," she said. "That's very important as we begin this journey."
One of the most important pieces of advice Kloster said she could offer the Soldiers was to always demand the same level of respect as their male counterparts.
"Do the best job that you can. Meet the standard and demand to be treated the right way," she said. "When you lower your own personal standard, that's when things go a little bit awry. We all need to demand that level of respect that we deserve, as human beings and as Soldiers."