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Author, West Point grad promotes positive female role models

3rd ID celebrates women’s accomplishments during observance

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POSTED: March 26, 2011 7:00 a.m.
Denise Etheridge/

Author Donna McAleer chats with Sgt. Maj. Sheryl Lyon, left, during a book signing at Club Stewart. Sgt. Kate Lyker, back right, looks on.

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Donna McAleer offered young women in the military some straightforward advice Wednesday following the 3rd Infantry Division’s Women’s History Month observance at Fort Stewart.
“Do your best at everything all the time, never take no for an answer and if there’s a door there, either knock it down or walk through it,” McAleer said.
McAleer, a published author, former Marne soldier, West Point graduate, business leader and athlete, spoke to soldiers, spouses and civilians during a presentation hosted by the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team and the 3rd ID Equal Opportunity Office. The theme for this year’s observance was “Our history is our strength.”
McAleer profiled 14 strong women, all West Point graduates, in her book, “Porcelain on Steel: Women of West Point’s Long Gray Line.”
“They’re really the vanguard of a new generation of leaders,” she said.
McAleer said she was inspired to write the book after realizing the need many young women, and men, have today for positive female role models. She said she began her research after an experience she had coaching a women’s volleyball team. The teenage players had shown up in “tank tops and jewelry.”
“I issued some rules,” McAleer said. “No breasts, no butts and no bellies,” explaining she instructed her students to wear appropriate athletic clothing.
“Americans are bombarded with images of women selling everything from beer to cars,” McAleer said. “Women are objectified in the media. That says a woman’s worth is tied to her looks.”
McAleer said the women in “Porcelain on Steel” profile women who graduated from West Point between 1980 and 2007.
“They are rich; they are poor; they are athletic; they are studious,” she said. 
McAleer said she found about 10,000 book titles dealing with 200 years of West Point history, but only four dealt with the women of West Point.
She spoke about dispelling myths that women are not as capable as men to serve in the military or lead in politics or the corporate world.
“Women make up more than 50 percent of the U.S. population but relatively few women hold political office,” she said.
McAleer was a member of West Point’s eighth “class of women” from 1983-87 and served in the 3rd Infantry Division from 1987-91. She resigned her Army commission to earn an MBA at the Darden Graduate School of the University of Virginia.
She later moved to Park City, Utah, where she first trained to represent the United States in the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in the medal debut of women’s bobsled. As a bobsled driver, she finished fourth in the Olympic trials.
Before McAleer spoke to her military audience, several 1st Brigade soldiers performed a skit and Nancy Engel of Macon performed a “one-woman show.”
Lt. Col. Monica Robinson, dressed as an old-fashioned school teacher, led the “class.” Her “student” soldiers reported on American women who have inspired them, such as tennis pro Billie Jean King and valor award recipient and soldier Leigh Ann Hester.
Engel donned a leather flight jacket and pilot’s cap to portray American aviator Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. Engel said she has toured schools and now tours military installations. She portrays a total of eight women who influenced history.
The 3rd ID pop band also performed Gloria Gaynor’s hit “I Will Survive,” and Aretha Franklin’s iconic tunes “Respect” and “Freedom.”

 

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