Opening doors for future female Soldiers

Women are performing missions in all the Army's occupational specialties. Pfc. Heaven Southard, an Army military working dog handler with the Directorate of Emergency Services, Area Support Group, Kuwait, releases her military working dog "Jerry" during a demonstration of MWD capabilities on March 7 at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

By Sean Kimmons, Army News Service 

Education is Brig. Gen. Miyako Schanely’s passion.

While in uniform, she leads the Army Reserve’s 102nd Training Division, where she molds engineers and military police officers as well as chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialists.

Brig. Gen. Miyako Schanely, deputy commander of 412th Theater Engineer Command in Vicksburg, Miss., is the first female Japanese-American, first female engineer in the Army Reserve and second in the Army to be promoted to general officer. (Photo by Lt. Col. David Konop, 10th Mountain Division Public Affairs)

As a civilian, she’s the chief of a partnership involving six college campuses near Fort Drum, N.Y., which provide higher education to Soldiers and their families.

She also has three master’s degrees.

“On a personal level, I like learning myself,” Schanely said. “In terms of what I do, I have a personal mission statement and that is to help people reach their potential. I feel like I do that, both through my civilian job in higher education, as well as through my Army job as a leader.”


In December 2013, Schanely made history as the Army’s first Asian-American female to join the ranks of general officer. She also became the Reserve’s highest-ranking female engineer.

“Obviously, it’s an honor to serve at this level and I hope I can make a difference,” she said in a recent interview.

Schanely belongs to a small but growing club of Army women with general stars on their uniform.

In 1970, Anna Mae McCabe Hays became the first woman in the armed forces to be promoted to general officer. Before retiring, the Army brigadier general served as chief of the Army Nurse Corps.

As a leader in Army engineering — a career field mostly populated by men — Schanely said she is excited to open the doors to more women following the Defense Department’s decision to make all military jobs gender neutral, including 12B combat engineer.

“I love being a part of recruiting and encouraging all young people, but especially women,” Schanely said. “There are plenty of opportunities out there, and we certainly need the talents wherever they lie.”

Under her command, the 102nd Training Division helped validate high-physical-demand testing last year, as part of the Army’s move to test Soldiers looking to serve in military occupational specialties that require strenuous activity such as heavy lifting.

“If you’re going to graduate and be awarded an MOS, you’re going to have to perform certain physical tasks that are required for that MOS,” Schanely said.

Unlike the Occupational Physical Aptitude Test for new recruits, the HPDT has specific tasks tailored to a particular job.

For instance, combat engineers have to do a 12-mile road march; bridge crew members perform a two-person carry of a heavy bridge component; and Army plumbers lift the equivalent of a toilet bowl as if they were installing one.

“Because to be a plumber, you have to do that,” Schanely said.

Synchronizing Schools

Schanely’s division also has been busy partnering with proponent schoolhouses, she said, as part of the One Army School System, which synchronizes all three Army component school systems to allow Soldiers to attend the right class at the right time, regardless of component.

In the system, for example, Schanely said that an active-duty Soldier could attend a Reserve or National Guard course, or vice versa, if it was being taught closer to the Soldier’s post, rather than having the Soldier go back to train at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., where the division is headquartered.

“It should save the Army a lot of money in terms of travel because it now becomes a much more cost-effective and convenient process for those students and for the commands that are sending them,” Schanely said.

Her efforts in educating Soldiers also stretch to her job as the executive director for the State University of New York’s North Country Consortium, a partnership of college campuses that offers extension programs to the Fort Drum area.

Schanely resides in upstate New York, and each month she travels back and forth to Fort Leonard Wood as part of her duties as a Reservist.


Schanely draws on inspiration from her military family. Her father and mother both served in the Air Force, and her stepfather worked as an Army intelligence officer while his family was forced to live at internment camps during World War II.

“He and many other Japanese-Americans volunteered to serve during that time, even while their families were living under those conditions,” she said.

Schanely also had two uncles serve for a short time in the military.

Despite all of their service, none of her family members insisted on her serving as well, said Schanely.

“I come from a long line of patriots,” she said. “They did not put pressure on me at all [to join]. They really allowed me to discover for myself that this was what interested me and motivated me.”

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