KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Literally, Capt. Kristin Y. Ramos often has to look up to people. But on Sept. 20, she proudly stood before a company of Guam Army National Guardsmen, with all of them looking up at her.
In a historic change of command, Ramos assumed leadership of Guam’s Foxtrot Company, 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, succeeding Maj. Florante Manaloto and becoming Task Force Guam’s first-ever female company commander deployed to a combat zone.
Ramos has close to 70 soldiers looking to her for leadership. She previously served as the unit’s executive officer and has been with Foxtrot since 2009.
“Get everybody home,” said the 5-foot-2 Ramos, on her No. 1 priority as commander. “It’s the sign of the times. They’re allowing females greater combat roles. It’s a challenge, and I’m looking forward to being successful at it.”
Manaloto steps down as Foxtrot commander for three years. His new responsibility is assisting from within the battalion headquarters as we prepare for Task Force Guam’s redeployment. Task Force Guam and its nearly 600 troops will end their current mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in December.
“It’s been a great ride. We built a great team,” said Manaloto. “Not many people have the opportunity to be with a special team like this. It’s always been about the Soldiers. I thank every single one of them.”
“Maj. Manaloto dedicated his life to ensuring his soldiers are cared for,” Lt. Col. Michael Tougher, Task Force Guam commander, said. “He’s made numerous sacrifices including sacrificing his time away from his family.”
While it is not uncommon for women to command Combat Support units, Ramos’ change of command is coincidentally a reflection of President Obama’s January 2013 announcement that the U.S. Armed Forces will open more positions – including ground combat units – to women. The commander in chief stated this transition is another step fulfilling America’s ideals as fairness and equality. (Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov)
“Every American can be proud that our military will grow even stronger with our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters playing a greater role in protecting this country we love,” the president said. “This reflects the … indispensable role of women in today’s military. Many have made the ultimate sacrifice, including more than 150 women who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan—patriots whose sacrifices show that valor knows no gender.”
Ramos said her role as the Guam Army National Guard’s first SECFOR company commander in a combat zone is of positive recognition. She sees her new role as that of a pilot flying an airplane.
“[A pilot] is entrusted with the lives of passengers, and knows that one must utilize common sense, caution, experience and all the formal training received to have a successful mission,” Ramos said. “A pilot must most importantly understand the turbulence that makes for a bumpy ride will always happen. An even greater pilot, like a great commander, will hold steady that ride and ensure the lives she’s entrusted with will move safely from Point A to Point B as smoothly as possible.”
“To some degree, there’s a little pressure on her knowing she’s that person,” Tougher said on Ramos’ significant role. “The pressure of having to bear the burden [of being Task Force Guam’s first female SECFOR company commander] may make her feel there’s a greater responsibility. But she’s a great officer. She truly cares for her Soldiers.”
The command change concludes a recent series of Task Force Guam leadership switches. Last month, 1st Lt. John Salas succeeded Maj. Rickey Flores as commander of Charlie Company, while 1st Lt. Shawn Meno stepped in as Bravo Company commander in place of Capt. Glen Mesa. Flores moved to executive officer in place of Maj. Joseph I. Cruz, as Cruz returned to Guam to serve as rear detachment commander.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey announced January 2013 the rescission of the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment rule for women and that the Department of Defense plans to remove gender-based barriers to service. (Source: http://www.defense.gov)
“Women have shown great courage and sacrifice on and off the battlefield, contributed in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission and proven their ability to serve in an expanding number of roles,” Panetta said. “The Department’s goal in rescinding the rule is to ensure that the mission is met with the best-qualified and most capable people, regardless of gender.”
Today, women make up approximately 15 percent, or nearly 202,400, of the U.S. military’s 1.4 million active personnel, the source states. Over the course of the past decade, more than 280,000 women have deployed in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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