The story of America is the story of American women, marked by strength, bravery and dedication, whether in our Army, in our own families, or in our society. We observe Women’s History Month in March, established by Congress as the official observance in 1987, but we have observed the outstanding achievements and contributions of women to the building and sustainment of our nation for many years.
The images of the work and sacrifices of American women are plentiful: pioneer women, heading west in covered wagons to help settle the frontier; camp followers during the Civil War, often nurses, tending to the needs of the soldiers; suffragettes, marching and sometimes being jailed for the right to vote; Rosie the Riveter, performing the “man’s work” at home so that the men could fight the war. World War II also saw women serving in the military, followed by the official integration of women into the Armed Forces in 1948.
Today, women perform virtually every job in the military as well as in the civilian sector. They play a vital role in today’s Army: they are Soldiers on the battlefield and in garrison; they are officers and noncommissioned officers; they are Army Civilians. And they are Army wives, mothers, and sisters who provide vital support to the Army team. Within USACE, more than 10,000 women work in virtually every field, comprising almost 32 percent of the workforce. About 30 percent of our Southwestern Division workforce is made up of women, more than 800 altogether, performing just about every job specialty available. They should be proud of their accomplishments. I know that I am.
Every now and then, we glimpse a piece of history that has been hidden and gain a new perspective. One such glimpse is the recent film “Hidden Figures,” the story of a team of African-American women mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program. Who knew that such unrecognized feats were buried away. This film provided great recognition not only for women, but also for African-Americans.
This year’s Department of Defense theme, Honoring Trailblazing Women, highlights women who have successfully broken down barriers and changed the role of women. This year, DoD highlights four women, one from each branch of the military: the Honorable Dr. Sheila Widnall, former Secretary of the Air Force; Command Master Chief Evelyn Banks (retired), U.S. Navy; Major General Lori Reynolds, (retired) U.S. Marine Corps; and the late Ms. Tracey Pinson, U.S. Army, director of the Office of Small Business Programs for almost two decades.
Their contributions to the Department of Defense were national news, and had an impact that was felt across the country and in some cases around the world. They are indeed role models for women to learn from and honor.
This March, I also honor each SWD woman, whether you work at a lake, a dam, or a desk, for all the great contributions that you make to our SWD mission and to our American history! Thank you!
David C. Hill
Brigadier General, U.S. Army
Commander, Southwestern Division
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
ASHDOWN, Arkansas— As the sweet aroma of barbeque circulated the air and the selection of meats roasted in a nearby smoker about 200 distinguished guests, community members and employees gathered under a large white canopy at Millwood Overlook, Dec. 1, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Millwood Lake and Dam.
Located on the Little River, Millwood Lake has been a key unit in the general flood reduction system for the Red River below Lake Texoma. The project was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1946 and modified by the Flood Control Act of 1958. It was designed by and built under the supervision of the Tulsa District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Construction of the dam began in 1961 and was completed for flood control operations in 1966 at a cost of $44 million. The project was dedicated Dec. 8, 1966.
Following the opening remarks by Steve Spicer, Millwood-Tri Lakes Project Office, operations project manager, Little Rock District USACE, welcoming guest speakers and attendees and the singing of the National Anthem, the ceremony kicked off with the two local high school students reading their award winning essays.
“Millwood Lake has always been a part of my life. I have many memories of birthday parties, family reunions, fishing with grandmother and learning how to ride a bike,” Christie Sain, a senior from Ashdown High School with blond curly hair and wearing sparkly purple shirt said. “Not many people can say they learned how to ride a bike in a park at Millwood.”
Even though Sain has many fond childhood memories of Millwood, her connection with the lake goes much deeper.
“Recreation is a way of life as a child and now,” she said. “It doesn’t get any better than drinking tea and eating fish caught on the side of a river bank.”
Once the high school senior finished her essay and before she could nervously make her way back to her seat, Denny Gray, president and board of directors for Southwest Arkansas Water District presented her with a $1000 college scholarship.
“What a wonderful essay Christie [Sain] and it’s my pleasure to present this to you,” Gray said handing Sain the scholarship.
Following Sains powerful essay, Ashdown High School Senior Jacob Purifoy walked upon the stage and read his essay to convey what Millwood Lake meant to him.
“I can always remember from childhood to just a few weeks ago, those mini trips across the river channels and campfires on the shores,” Purifoy said. “The rows and rows of hydroponic trees with dozens of fishing swarming… that make great catching on cool, breezy fall evenings.”
Purifoy talked about his midsummer’s days, where daytime television was mediocre so he would call up a friend to sit on the pier, bait fishing and laughing for hours on end.
“We would go relax on that old lake facing swing set or hitting up the horseshoes,” he said. “I do want to point out, the friend I’d call up, is my friend Christie.” [Sain]
Shortly after Purifoy finished his essay, he was presented with a $500 college scholarship from University of Arkansas for coming in 2nd place.
After the essays were read and scholarships given, Col. Robert G. Dixon, commander, Little Rock District USACE gave his closing remarks with a brief history of the dam and the reason for the celebration.
“Now about a half a century ago, people like us stood up in front of podiums just like these and gave similar speeches,” Dixon said. “As they dedicated this project to the people of this region and began an era where the constant flooding that used to plague communities downstream of here…was no longer a threat.”
Dixon shared the accomplishment of building such a massive structure during a time where many people didn’t’ agree.
“Some of you might have been here in 1966 to hear some colonel from the Corps talk about the five years it took to build the dam and the obstacles they had to overcome,” Dixon said. “These, of course were amazing feats. Constructing the longest earthen dam in Arkansas is no small task, and overcoming protests from three states and multiple citizens and businesses must have been difficult at best.”
Dixon talked about the struggles in the past and how building the dam was exciting for the town where the dam would eventually call home.
“You see, building the dam was exciting, newsworthy work,” Dixon said. “Watching this structure emerge from the ground and tame the Little River is a tribute to modern engineering and the fortitude of hundreds of workers.”
Even though the construction of the dam was exciting, Dixon concluded the ceremony saying similar to the lake and dam, USACE employees were just as dedicated 50 years ago as they are now.
“Just as our structure quietly hold back millions of gallons water, our team of great folks are dedicated to quietly caring for it… the lake, its resources and this community” Dixon said thankfully. “Millwood Dam has stood strong for the past five decades and I am reassured by the dedication and professionalism of our team and the constant support of this great community, it will certainly stand for another five decades or more.”