From the Editors 29 (2011)Engineer and Editor Juan Hart Moved El Paso Forward 29 (2011)Elizabeth Garrett: Songbird of the Southwest 29 (2011)A Passionate Life: Josephine Clardy Fox 29 (2011)Forgotten No More: Korean War POW Tells Story of Survival 29 (2011)Janice Woods Windle Treasures Family History 29 (2011)Andy and Syd Cohen: The Men Behind the Name 29 (2011)Leona Ford Washington Preserved Black History 29(2011)Ingeborg Heuser Brought Professional Ballet to City 29 (2011)Lee and Beulah Moor Left Legacy of Love 29 (2011)
From the Editors 28 (2010)Chasin’ Away the Blues: Texas Sunday Legislation 28 (2010)Simeon Hart Pioneered Local Industry 28 (2010)Felix Martinez: Southwestern Renaissance Man 28 (2010)Teresa Urrea: La Santa de Cabora Inspired Mexican Revolution 28 (2010)Utopia in Mesilla: The Shalam Colony 28 (2010)Stahmann Farms Produce Pecans on Two Hemispheres 28 (2010)Betty Mary Goetting Brought Birth Control to El Paso 28 (2010)Maud Sullivan Made El Paso Public Library a Cultural Center 28 (2010)Lucy Acosta’s Legacy Continues in LULAC 28 (2010)Belen Robles: Voice for the Latino Community 28 (2010)Toltec Club: Of Ghosts and Guests 28 (2010)
Strong Women Building a Strong City -- From the Editors 27(2008)Notable Women of El Paso 27(2009)The Chew Legacy: The Story of Herlinda Wong Chew 27(2009)Desert Nightingale: Louise Dietrich 27(2009)1909-2009: YWCA Celebrates 100 Years in El Paso 27(2009)Mabel Welch: El Paso’s First Female Architect 27(2009)Myrna Deckert Remains Modest About Achievements 27(2009)Suzie Azar Still Reaches for the Sky 27 (2009)The Moocher: Callie Fairley, First Woman Vice Detective in El Paso 27(2009)Alicia R. Chacón Came to Politics Naturally 27 (2009)Rosa Guerrero: Cultural Dynamo 27 (2009)
From the Past to the Present -- From the Editor 26 (2007/08)Yandell Boulevard Named for Prominent El Paso Physician 26 (2007/08)Japanese Immigrants Came Slowly to Borderland 26 (2007/08)World War II Affected Japanese Immigrants 26 (2007/08)Living, Breathing New Mexico Ghost Town: Hillsboro 26 (2007/08)Canutillo Developed from Land Grant 26 (2007/08)Rómulo Escobar Zerman: Juárez Agronomist and Teacher 26 (2007/08)El Paso Mayor: Tom Lea Jr. 26 (2007/08)Ted Karam: Lebanese Immigrant Lived American Dream 26 (2007/08)Publication Credits 26 (2007/08)
From the Director 25 (2006)First El Paso Protestant Church: St. Clement's 25 (2006)Bowie High School: Always a Bear 25 (2006)Golden Gloves Grew Out of El Paso's Love of Boxing 25 (2006)LULAC Fought Hard to Guarantee Rights 25 (2006)El Paso Women Gained Power in LULAC 25 (2006)McKelligon Canyon: From Cattle to Culture 25 (2006)Tortugas Celebrates Virgen de Guadalupe, San Juan 25 (2006)Bataan Death March and POW Camps 25 (2006)Bataan Survivors Recall Horrors 25 (2006)Anthony Family Had Five Sons in World War II 25 (2006)Sober on the Border 25 (2006)Clyde W. Tombaugh: Farm Boy Reached for the Stars 25 (2006)A Taste of Southwest Wine 25 (2006)
From the Director 24 (2005)From the Editors 24 (2005)Gypsie Davenport and May Palmer Ran Infamous Brothels 24 (2005)Pioneer Attorney William Burges Tackled Unpopular Issues 24 (2005)Richard Fenner Burges: Renaissance Man 24 (2005)Charles Kelly Wielded Power with Political 'Ring' 24 (2005)Tom Charles Wanted World to Know White Sands 24 (2005)Dripping Springs has Rich History 24 (2005)Thomas B. White Directed Innovative La Tuna for 19 Years 24 (2005)Cowboys on the Range --- Missile Range, That Is 24 (2005)Ranchers vs. the Feds: The McNew Saga 24 (2005)Mexican Repatriation in 1930s 24 (2005)White House Department Store 24 (2005)Thomason Hospital Celebrates 90 Years 24 (2005)R.E. Thomason Shaped City, State, Nation 24 (2005)
Postcards from the Past Editor's Column 23 (2004)From the Editors 23 (2004)Solomon C. Schutz Helped Bring Law and Order to El Paso 23 (2004)James Gillett Showed Courage in El Paso 23 (2004)Jim White Explored Carlsbad Caverns for Years 23 (2004)Ben Lilly: Mountain Man of the Southwest 23 (2004)Aldo Leopold Proposed Land Ethics 23 (2004)Escontrias Ranch: A Link to Hueco Tanks Park 23 (2004)Hueco Tanks is Site of Controversy 23 (2004)Marcelino Serna Became World War I Hero 23 (2004)Sam Dreben Soldiered All Over the World 23 (2004)Kern Place Neighborhood: The Man Behind the Name 23 (2004)Farah Manufacturing Now Just a Memory 23 (2004)Texas Knights of Columbus Began in El Paso 23 (2004)
Look for Us on the Web - Editor's Column 22 (2003)From the Editors 22 (2003)Victorio Fought to the Death for Homeland 22 (2003)O. T. Bassett and Charles R. Morehead 22 (2003)S. H. Newman: Pioneer Newspaperman Fought Vice 22 (2003)Elfego Baca Lived More Than Nine Lives 22 (2003)Woman's Club Has Long Served City 22 (2003)Cathedral's Beauty Pleases 22 (2003)Albert J. Fountain's Achievements Eclipsed by Mysterious Death 22 (2003)Albert B. Fall's Career Ended in Disgrace 22 (2003)Cloudcroft Baby Sanatorium Saved Many 22 (2003)Dale Resler Worked Hard for El Paso 22 (2003)Price's Dairy Still Family Owned 22 (2003)Woodlawn Bottling Brought Pepsi to Town 22 (2003)Union Depot Witnessed Growth of El Paso 22 (2003)
We're Now on the Web --From the Editor 21(2002)From the Editors 21(2002)Downtown Opium Dens Attracted Many 21(2002)Juneteenth Celebrates Freedom for Texas Slaves 21(2002)Black Cowboys Rode the Trails, Too 21(2002)Ku Klux Klan Had Short Life in El Paso 21(2002)Mining Became Big Business in Southwest 21(2002)Smeltertown Still Exists in Memories 21 (2002)El Paso Played Important Role in the Mexican Revolution 21 (2002)Pancho Villa Led Northern Forces in Revolution 21 (2002)Soldaderas Played Important Roles in Revolution 21 (2002)Pershing, Villa Forever Linked to Columbus 21 (2002)Cristeros Became Mexican Martyrs 1926-1929 -- 21 (2002)Houchen Settlement House Helped New Arrivals 21 (2002)Otis A. Aultman Captured Border History in Pictures 21 (2002)
Hot Springs Have Long HistoryThe Building of a City -- From the Editor 20 (2001)From the Staff (Volume 20)Pat Garrett Enjoyed Controversy 20 (2001)Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire Terrorized Town 20 (2001)History Reveals Rivalry of Madams Etta Clark and Alice Abbott 20 (2001)Kohlberg, Krupp, Zielonka Became Business and Civic Leaders 20 (2001)Olga Kohlberg Pioneered Many Local Organizations 20 (2001)Henry Trost's Architectural Legacy Lives On 20 (2001)Sunset Heights Preserves History 20 (2001)Adolph Schwartz Built Local Retail Dynasty 20 (2001)Zach T. White Brought Progress to El Paso 20 (2001)Masons Became Leaders in Texas, El Paso 20 (2001)Smallpox Epidemic Showed Need for Hospitals20 (2001)El Paso High School Remains Classic 20 (2001)Bhutanese Architecture Distinguishes UTEP Campus 20 (2001)Elephant Butte Dam Solved Early Water Problems 20 (2001)
Pioneer Ranch became Concordia Cemetery 19 (2000)El Paso Grows Up 19 (2000)From the Staff 19 (2000)Chinese Immigrants Helped Build Railroad in El Paso 19 (2000)Volunteer Fire Department Grew into Professional Company 19 (2000)1880s Brought First Theaters to Town 19 (2000)Sisters of Charity Began Hotel Dieu Hospital 19 (2000)Tuberculosis Turned El Paso Into a Health Center 19 (2000)First Public School Built in 1884 19 (2000)Enigmatic Olivas Aoy Began School for Mexican Children 19 (2000)El Paso Public Library Began Modestly 19 (2000)Jesuits Continue to Influence Area 19 (2000)Sisters of Loretto Have Long Tradition in Southwest 19 (2000)Mormons Found Sanctuary in Mexico in 1880s 19 (2000)Mennonite Colonies in Mexico Accept Change Slowly 19 (2000)Flu Epidemic of 1918 Hit El Paso Hard 19 (2000)Early City Planners Saw Future in Scenic Drive 19 (2000)Prohibition Stimulated Economies of El Paso, Juárez 19 (2000)
The Editor's Column : The Building of a City 18 (1999)From the Editors 18 (1999)Magoffinsville Had Lasting Influence on El Paso 18 (1999)Town of El Paso Grew from Pioneer Settlements 18 (1999)Downtown El Paso Is Monument to Anson Mills 18 (1999)1848 War With Mexico Created Southwest 18 (1999)Colonel Doniphan and Volunteers Won Battle of Brazito 18 (1999)Gadsden Purchase Clarified U.S. Boundaries 18 (1999)Early Fort Bliss Occupied Pioneer Sites 18 (1999)Henry O. Flipper Paved Way for Integration of Military 18 (1999)Buffalo Soldiers Defended Western Frontier 18 (1999)El Paso Was Midpoint of Overland Mail Service 18 (1999)Salt War of 1877 Divided Southwest Residents 18 (1999)Geronimo Led Final Fight 18 (1999)Apache Indians Defended Homelands in Southwest 18 (1999)Texas Rangers Helped Keep Order on Frontier 18 (1999)Sarah Bowman and Tillie Howard: Madams of the 1800s 18 (1999)El Paso Grew Up with Arrival of Railroad 18 (1999)
Aztecs Ruled Complex, Rich Society 17 (1998)From the Editor 17 (1998)Aztec Beliefs Helped Conquer Mexico 17 (1998)Cortés Created New Order in Mexico 17 (1998)La Malinche Remains Controversial 17 (1998)Cabeza de Vaca: Travels in Texas 17 (1998)Estebán Furthered Legend of Cíbola 17 (1998)Coronado Searched for Cities of Gold 17 (1998)Oñate Conquered Desert to Explore Southwest 17 (1998)Festival Celebrates Oñate's Historic Arrival 17 (1998)Fray Garcia Left Great Legacy 17 (1998)Franciscans Brought Catholicism to Area 17 (1998)America's First Highway: El Camino Real 17 (1998)Pueblo Revolt Brought Tiguas South 17 (1998)Tigua Indians Survive 300 Years of Ordeals 17 (1998)Area Missions are Part of Living History 17 (1998)San Elizario Presidio Protected Settlers 17 (1998)Ethnic Terms Can Cause Confusion 17 (1998)
Oasis Restaurants Symbolized ‘50s Teen Scene 13 (1995)‘50s Cars Changed American Lifestyle And Image 13 (1995)Chevy Bel Air Charmed 1950 Car Buyers 13 (1995)San Jacinto Plaza Remains Heart Of Downtown El Paso 13 (1995)Smokey Bear: A Legend Is Made 13 (1995)El Paso's Company E Survivors Remember Rapido River Assaults 13 (1995)Company E Survivor Recalls Days As Prisoner Of War 13 (1995)El Paso Red Cross Essential to War Effort 13 (1995)World War II Took its Toll On The Home Front 13 (1995)Civil Air Patrol Protected Border During World War II -- 13 (1995)Quickie Divorces Granted in Juárez 13 (1995)Atomic Bomb Developed In Southwest 13 (1995)Former Crew Members On B-17s Remember Tough Times 13 (1995)Vintage Warplanes Keep Past Alive 13 (1995)The Cavalry Bugler: Essential To Horse and Man 13 (1995)Sun Carnival 1936 Style 13 (1995)H. Arthur Brown: El Paso Symphony Guru Of The ‘30s -- 13 (1995)Swing Music Helped Dispel The Blues Of The ‘30s and ‘40s -- 13 (1995)The General Store: A Hidden Treasure Of The Past 13 (1995)
Change on the Border 15 (1997)From the Editor 15 (1997)Latinos Work To Change Stereotypes In Hollywood 15 (1997)Cesar Chávez: Simple Man, People’s Hero 15 (1997)Shelter For Farm Workers Becomes Reality 15 (1997)Women’s Shelter Helps To Heal The Pain 15 (1997)Home Schools Become Popular Alternative 15 (1997)Renovation May Revive Downtown El Paso 15 (1997)Title IX Changed Women's Sports 15 (1997)Special Olympics Shine In El Paso 15 (1997)La Fe Clinic Serves South El Paso 15 (1997)ASARCO Works To Clean Up Its Act 15 (1997)A Growing Phenomenon: Single Fathers 15 (1997)Stepfamilies Become More Numerous 15 (1997)Teens Rebel Against Authority 15 (1997)Comics Retain Popularity 15 (1997)Tom Moore And Archie Have Timeless Appeal 15 (1997)
Life on the Border: 1950s & 1960s --14 (1996)From The Editors 14 (1996)A Baseball Team By Any Other Name 14 (1996)Drive-In Theaters Appealed to all Ages 14 (1996)El Paso Trolley First to Connect Two Nations 14 (1996)Barbie Doll Revolutionized Toy Industry 14 (1996)Rabies Took Bite of Sun City 14 (1996)Rabies: A Deadly Virus 14 (1996)Border Patrol Used Variety of Methods to Control Immigration 14 (1996)L. A. Nixon Fought Texas Voting Law 14 (1996)Douglass School Served Black Community Well 14 (1996)Thelma White Case Forced College Integration 14 (1996)Steve Crosno: An El Paso Original 14 (1996)Rock 'N' Roll Defined Teen Culture 14 (1996)A Shopping Mall by the People for the People 14 (1996)Chamizal Dispute Settled Peacefully 14 (1996)Turney Mansion Becomes Work of Art 14 (1996)First Hispanic Mayor Elected in 1957 -- 14 (1996)Flower Children Chose Alternative Lifestyle 14 (1996)
Three Decades of History 12 (1994)From the Editors 12 (1994)The Plaza Theater…Here to Stay!? 12 (1994)El Paso Broadcasting: The Stories Behind the Call Letters 12 (1994)Alphabet Agencies: FDR's Brainstorm 12 (1994)Chihuahuita in the 1930s: Tough Times in the Barrio 12 (1994)Hobo Sign Language Targeted El Paso 12 (1994)Self- Sufficiency Key to Farmers' Survival During Depression 12 (1994)Hanna's Story A Holocaust Survivor Remembers 12 (1994)Former Members Recall Life in Hitler Youth 12 (1994)German Prisoners of War Interned at Fort Bliss During World War II -- 12 (1994)German POWs Remembered at Fort Bliss 12 (1994)One German POW's Story 12 (1994)Ration Books and Victory Gardens: Coping with Shortages 12 (1994)Women Changed Wartime Work Patterns 12 (1994)Bracero Program Hurt Domestic Farm Workers 12 (1994)San Pedro Pharmacy Retains Look of the Past 12 (1994)Teenage Fashions of the Nifty Fifties 12 (1994)Rebel Image of Motorcyclists Set in 1950s -- 12 (1994)
Border Customs and Crafts From the Editor 10 (1992)From the Editors 10 (1992)King on the Mountain 10 (1992)Piñatas! 10 (1992)How to Play the Piñata Game 10 (1992)Out of a Cotton Boll Bloom Beautiful Crafts 10 (1992)Cotton Boll Entertains Too 10 (1992)Hands That Create Art and Soul 10 (1992)La Charreada - Mexican Horsemanship 10 (1992)Boots - A Family Tradition 10 (1992)Some Boys Still Grow Up to be Cowboys 10 (1992)Boot Capital of the World 10 (1992)The Magic of Mariachis 10 (1992)Ballet Folklorico - High School Style 10 (1992)New Generation of Mariachis 10 (1992)The Lady is a Bullfighter 10 (1992)The Midwife: Choices for Border Women 10 (1992)Retablos: Echoes of Faith 10 (1992)Tigua Indians: Dancing for St. Anthony 10 (1992)The Aztec and the Miracle 10 (1992)A Hispanic Girl's Coming of Age 10 (1992)Art - Low and Slow 10 (1992)Wedding Traditions on the Border 10 (1992)
Border Food Folkways From the Editor 9 (1991)From the Staff 9 (1991)Tortillas: Border Staff of Life 9 (1991)The Booming Tortilla Industry in Mexico 9 (1991)Where's The Beef? In El Paso! 9 (1991)How Do I Love Thee, Piggy? Let Me Count the Ways! 9 (1991)Tamales By Any Other Name Remain The Same 9 (1991)Rio Grande Thanksgiving 9 (1991)The Tigua Indians: Food for Thought 9 (1991)Corn: The Golden Gift from Our Ancestors 9 (1991)Border Pottery - Function and Beauty 9 (1991)Holy Hot Mole! 9 (1991)Looking Back at the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Men Behind the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Hot Peppers : They're Not Just for Eating 9 (1991)Food, Spices Double as Folk Cures 9 (1991)Weeds or Edible Desert Plants? 9 (1991)Cactus: It's Good for You! 9 (1991)Day of the Dead Celebrates Spiritual Tradition 9 (1991)Nutricious, Delicious Beans 9 (1991)Menudo Makes The Big Time 9 (1991)Mediterranean Cuisine: Old Tradition, Fresh Idea 9 (1991)Lenten Foods: From Fasting to Fabulous 9 (1991)Tarahumaras Rely on Nature for Food 9 (1991)Tempting Sweet Breads : Pan de Dulce 9 (1991)
Border Customs and Crafts II From the Editor -- 11 (1993)From the Editors 11 (1993)The Best Little Asaderos in Texas 11 (1993)Glass Work Disappearing on Border 11 (1993)Cockfights Legal in Surrounding Areas 11 (1993)Local Craftsmen Keep Art of Saddlery Alive 11 (1993)James and Joseph Magoffin: El Paso Pioneers 11 (1993)Chile Ristras Brighten Border Homes 11 (1993)Magoffin Home Preserves El Paso's Past 11 (1993)Bavarian Custom Celebrated in El Paso: Oktoberfest 11 (1993)Munich on the Border 11 (1993)Santo Niño de Atocha Called Miracle Worker 11 (1993)Lenten Customs Vary 11 (1993)To Ask is to Receive 11 (1993)Border Maintains Tradition of Posadas 11 (1993)A Visit from Three Kings 11 (1993)Matachines: Soldiers of the Virgin 11 (1993)Dichos Are an Intricate Part of Mexican Culture 11 (1993)Cultural Superstitions Affect Behavior 11 (1993)Que Onda Homeboy! Why Do We Talk Like This? 11 (1993)Traditional Hispanic Children's Games Disappear 11 (1993)
El Paso Women to ResearchEl Paso Women to Research (by name)El Paso Men to ResearchEl Paso Men to Research (by name)
From the Editors 30 (2012)From the Editor, Credits and Contents 30 (2012)Jessie Hawkins and Jenna Welch: Love, Loss and Laughter 30 (2012)Woodrow Wilson Bean: One in a Million 30 (2012)David L. Carrasco Gave Back to Hometown 30 (2012)Cleofas Calleros Made Local History Important 30 (2012)Robert E. McKee: From Rags to Riches to Philanthropy 30 (2012)Kate Moore Brown: A Woman of Many Firsts 30 (2012)Fun in the 1890s: The McGinty Club 30 (2012)
Borderlands Web Issue From the Editor 31(2013/14)Acknowledgements 31(2013/14)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 31(2013/14)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 31 (2013/14)Harvey Girls Changed the West 31(2013/14)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 31(2013/14)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 31(2013/14)
Borderlands 32 Tolerance. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 32(2014/15)Henry Kellen Created El Paso Holocaust Museum 32(2014/15)Bicycle Padre Still Working 32(2014/15)El Paso Connections: Ambrose Bierce: writer 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Bobby Fuller, Rock Icon 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Tom Ogle, Inventor 32(2014/15)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 32(2014)Harvey Girls Changed the West 32(2014)
Borderlands 33 Service. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 33(2015)Nothing Is Impossible: Major General Heidi V. Brown 33 (2015)Local Latino Soldiers Receive Medal of Honor Decades after Heroism 33 (2015)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 33 (2015)Will the Real Leon Blevins Please stand up? 33 (2015)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 33 (2015)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 33 (2015)
Borderlands 34 Inspiration. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 34(2016/17)Building Bridges Instead of Walls: Temple Mount Sinai 34 (2016/17)Ruben Salazar: A Bridge Between Two Societies 34 (2016/17)Luis Jimenez: Art Creates Dialogue 34 (2016/17)Richard "Tuff" Hedeman: The Michael Jordan of Professional Bull Riding 34 (2016/17)Rescue Mission of El Paso Provides Food and Opportunity 34 (2016/17)
This is the "Nothing Is Impossible: Major General Heidi V. Brown 33 (2015)" page of the "Borderlands" guide.
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Nothing Is Impossible: Major General Heidi V. Brown

By Naomi Iniguez

Color formal photo of Major General Heidi V. BrownA woman’s place in society is constantly evolving. As women continue to occupy traditionally male jobs and careers, gender neutrality and equality has become a hot issue in the military. Women have begun the long battle to demonstrate that their gender does not affect their ability to perform.

Some believe that the integration of women into the military has led to a decrease in professionalism and competence in soldiers. Yet others such as New York Times journalist Steven Lee Myers maintain that women continue to transition into the field as they endure the same situations that male soldiers do. Women’s military involvement in Iraq has proven just that. Retired Army Col. Peter R. Mansoor agreed that women “have earned the confidence and respect of male colleagues.” These female soldiers, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, have served in combat roles once assigned only to males. Women have conducted raids, patrolled streets with machine guns, driven trucks down bomb-ridden roads and disposed of explosives.

Image caption:  A portrait of Maj. Gen. Heidi V. Brown shows her many military awards and decorations.  (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)

Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times wrote that until the beginning of 2013, a big issue that prevented the further advancement of women was a Pentagon policy that allowed women to lead — but not serve with male troops in combat. This policy, among other obstacles, led to a scarcity of opportunities of advancement for women in higher positions. Even with all these barriers set in place, some women have shown that in a combat zone there is no difference in gender. One of the most important figures in this ongoing battle is El Paso native, Army Major General Heidi V. Brown.

Donna McAleer, Military Writers Society of America’s Gold Medal Award winner, recollects Brown’s early life in the book Porcelain on Steel: Women of West Point’s Long Gray Line. McAleer wrote that a major influence throughout Brown’s life was her father, William Brown. A field artillery officer, William Brown served in both World War II and the Korean War before retiring as a major. It was while serving in Germany that William met his wife Virginia, who was working in Regensburg at the time with Special Services. Their family, Heidi Brown and her five siblings, spent their time in both Fort Bliss and Germany until her father’s retirement. After his retirement, the Browns permanently settled in El Paso. El Paso’s close proximity to Fort Bliss would increase the military influence that surrounded Heidi Brown through her childhood.

Being the second youngest of six children would also impact her future decisions. Early on in high school, Brown envisioned becoming an Army doctor. While Brown made the choice not to join the Junior Reserve Officer Training Course (JROTC) during high school, both her older brothers, Brian and Robert, were involved in the military organization at Austin High School. They and their sister Anne, as well as Heidi, had military careers.

As Brown explored career options after high school, she realized that the Army might pay for medical school if she became a soldier. However, Congress opened all military academies to women in 1976, a year before Brown graduated from Austin High School. The Air Force Academy actively recruited Brown for its swim team, and her uncle Dan Graham encouraged her to pursue admission there. He was not happy about West Point, his alma mater, opening its doors to women.

Among all the options presented to her, Brown selected West Point, with its rich two-century-long history, over her other options. Looking back at her decision, Brown said in an article by Kari Hawkins on the U.S. Army home page, “When the Army’s service academy opened for women, it didn’t even dawn on me what that might mean.”

During her time at West Point, Brown competed with the Army swim team that began as a club and would later finish third in the New York State Women’s Intercollegiate Swimming and Diving Championships during her fourth and final year.

During her last year on the swim team, Brown learned an important lesson she still applies to her life. After not being named the team captain, Brown began to skip practice in protest. Her swim coach, Dr. Sue Tendy, warned Brown that one more absence would lead to suspension from the team. Testing her authority, Brown missed practice the following day. True to her word, Tendy suspended Brown two weeks before Christmas break. As a result, she also was not invited to attend a training camp in Puerto Rico. Instead, Brown was to train at home during vacation and rejoin the team in January.

Brown told McAleer, “It was a real lesson in respecting authority. … I learned that leadership and discipline are essential in working as part of a team. To this day, this lesson is present in all I do and how I lead my soldiers.”

Before leaving West Point, Brown was hit with the hard truth that graduating in the bottom ten percent of her class would limit her options coming out of the Academy. In 1981, Brown was part of the second coed graduating class and was the first female graduate from El Paso. When deciding on her choice for a military specialty after graduation, Brown settled on the Air Defense Artillery, a combat arms branch.

In 1989, according to McAleer, Brown and Mary Finch, a fellow graduate of the Academy, became the first women at West Point Academy to serve as Tactical Officers, the primary leadership developers for each company of cadets. Before officially taking this position, Brown returned to graduate school and earned her Masters of Education from the University of South Carolina.

Brown later went on to become the first woman to lead a Patriot Missile Battalion and the first woman to command an Air Defense Artillery Brigade. According to Hawkins, in 2003 she commanded the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade during the invasion of Iraq, which Kari Hawkins notes as her most memorable position as a commander.

During this mission, Brown’s father died. After he was diagnosed with colon cancer, time became precious for William and the rest of his family. Yet the illness did not stop his support for Brown. He optimistically told his daughter, “I will live to see you take command.” William arrived in an ambulance at the ceremony the day Brown accepted command of the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade.

Virginia, Brown’s mother, was also one of her strongest supporters. Virginia’s obituary stated that she “believed that her legacy was her children.” In fact, her daughter has insisted on using the middle initial “V” in her formal name to honor her mother.

While preparing to depart to Iraq, Brown was hit with the news that the cancer had won. William Brown died the morning of August 18, 2002. While finishing the preparation for the mission, Brown and her family flew to Virginia to bury her father at Arlington National Cemetery.

Through not only emotional but technical struggles, Brown led her troops into the initial march into Iraq in 2003. She had received three battalion units, one Patriot battalion from Fort Bliss, one from the V Corps in Germany, and the third she was given once they were in the war theatre. These battalions had previously not worked together nor with her. On March 20, 2003, after a month of battle rehearsals, these units prepared their movement towards Iraq. The units quickly began to face obstacles: vehicles began to sink into the sand and the units had to spend precious time bringing them back onto solid ground.

McAleer wrote that the 507th Maintenance Company of Fort Bliss, the last unit in the convoy, detached from the main convoy as soldiers recovered vehicles still trapped in sand and repaired others all along the cross-country route. On March 23, 2003, the 507th Maintenance Company lost its way and was ambushed in the Iraqi town of Nasiriyah. Nine members of the company were killed and six were kept prisoners of war by Iraqi forces. The remaining five members were wounded but were not captured, according to the El Paso Times.

El Paso local Shoshana Johnson was one of the soldiers captured by Iraqi troops. In an El Paso Times article by Diana Washington Valdez, Johnson commented that the military could have done more to prepare the unit and prevent it from taking so many casualties. Johnson and the other eight members remained in captivity until Special Forces soldiers worked with Marines to locate and rescue the POWs. After three weeks, Marines were able to liberate these captured soldiers.

McAleer wrote, “While Heidi would not change the maneuver, she would change the outcome.” And when the brigade redeployed in June 2003, Brown implemented training that included convoy live-fire excises. Later realizing the lack of preparation the 507th Company had received, Brown believed that the training would save lives of soldiers on the battlefield.

Brown next served as Executive Officer for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs at the Pentagon and then returned to Fort
Bliss. She became the first woman to become Chief of Staff of the Air Defense Center and Fort Bliss, a position she held until 2008. Although disappointed she was not promoted to the rank of brigadier general upon her arrival at Fort Bliss, Brown held on to hope that “nothing was impossible.” 

In January 2009, Brown’s patience finally paid off. After being nominated in 2008 by President Bush for a promotion, Brown became the first woman in the Air Defense Artillery to be promoted to the rank of brigadier general and also became the first woman general on the I Corps Staff. 

Besides being the first in many of the positions she has held in the Army, Brown’s hard work is reflected in the numerous awards she has received. The United States Strategic Command Web site lists Brown’s awards and recognitions including the Defense Superior Service Medal; Legion of Merit (four oak leaf clusters); Meritorious Service Medal (six oak leaf clusters); Army Achievement Medal (four oak leaf clusters); and the Bronze Star Medal (one oak leaf cluster). Each oak leaf cluster denotes a subsequent award of that decoration. These are medals given to individuals for their meritorious and heroic service in different situations. She is also authorized to wear the Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge and Secretary of Defense Identification Badge, among others.

Brown’s contributions have also focused on her hometown, El Paso. Brown received the League of Women Voters of El Paso’s BRAVO Award in 2004. This award is “presented to individuals who have shown exemplary dedication to the community by their work for the betterment of El Paso.” Brown has worked with other El Paso organizations, including the Center against Family Violence. In 2012, she gave $250,000 to establish the William G. and Virginia Maxell Brown Center for Pediatric Audiology Development and Learning located in the El Paso Children’s Hospital. The El Paso Children’s Hospital Foundation home page noted that several of her siblings had dealt with hearing issues, and as a result, Brown wanted to dedicate the only center of its kind in El Paso to this underserved area of health.

Maj. Gen. Brown with Col. Stephan Richmond.General Brown credits her success in the military not to her gender but to her ability to lead and command other soldiers. Brown told McAleer, “I am going to do my job like any other battalion commander, not based on my gender but on my experiences. My intention is to leave the battalion I command better than I found it.” It is this attitude towards gender neutrality that shows why Brown has become so successful. General Brown has always viewed herself not as a woman but as a soldier in command, an opinion that she continues to stress as she moves through the ranks.

Image caption:  Maj. Gen. Heidi V. Brown is given a tour of operations by Col. Stephan Richmond during air defense training in 2012.  (Photo by Sgt. Tyler Placiew, U.S. Air Force)

As a woman in the military, there have been times when Brown questioned whether she wanted to continue her career. In an interview with Rachel Martin of National Public Radio (NPR), General Brown mentioned that many women leave their military career to seek time for family or other related choices. Brown instead found herself living with her golden retriever Sandy, and she explained how different she felt compared to other commanders: “I’m female. I’m single. They [commanders] are all male. They’re all married. They all have kids. I have a dog.”

Yet once the moment of hesitation passed, Brown remembered why she continues to serve. She said in an El Paso Times article by David Burge, “It’s very rewarding to know what you are doing is for the security of our homeland and the protection of our allies. … This is my passion, serving in the military. I can’t think of doing anything else and I don’t want to.”

On the Army home page, General Brown in 2012 explained to Hawkins, “I love working with soldiers and they never cease to amaze me. ... Because of them, I love serving. I will serve until they tell me to leave.” True to her words, General Brown has been serving for more than three decades and has continued her career in the branch of air defense artillery.

In another NPR interview with Rachel Martin in 2011, Brown acknowledged that artillery or infantry command jobs in combat are what lead to fast promotions, which is one factor that puts women at a disadvantage. In the immediate past, women were most often “coded out,” or denied higher positions in combat, because of policies set by the Pentagon. As a result, the lack of women in ranks above Brown’s brings back to reality the lack of equality that is still present within the military. Four years ago, Brown said in her interview with Martin, “Gender now shuts the door for me.”

Brown served as the Director of Test for the Missile Defense Agency in Huntville, Ala., for the last three and a half years. Contrary to her belief that she had hit the glass ceiling in the Army, Brown was promoted again in 2012 to Major General (two stars). In February 2015, she became Director of Global Operations, U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, according to Burge. Another first, Brown serves as an operations officer, a position that is normally occupied by a two-star Air Force general or a two-star admiral. When Burge asked how she felt about the new position, Brown replied, “If you are first and you don’t succeed, you are probably the last.”

There is only one woman in the Army who has reached the rank of four-star general, the second highest rank in the Army (a five-star general position is only occupied at time of war). In 2008, Ann Dunwoody became the first female to be awarded the rank of four-star general in the military. Dunwoody, however, served in logistics, not combat. She retired from the Army in 2012.

The Pentagon slowly has begun to integrate women into different combat positions in the military. In January 2013, the U.S. military ended its policy excluding women from open and direct combat jobs as announced by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. He set the goal to integrate women as much as possible by January 2016. As U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a CNN article by Chris Lawrence, “Thousands of women in the military have already found themselves in combat situations.”

Pentagon figures in 2013 revealed that of 976 generals and admirals in all branches, 69, or 7.1 percent, were women, according to the CNN online article “By the Numbers: Women in the U.S. Military.” According to Arwa Gunja and Mythili Rao of Public Radio International, as of 2015, women make up nearly 15 percent of the U.S. military active duty forces and now serve in 95 percent of all military positions. As of August 2015, two women, both West Point graduates, were in the final phase of training to become Army Rangers, the first time the elite unit has extended this opportunity to female soldiers.

Through changes in the Army and other branches of the U.S. military, more women are being given opportunities to achieve higher ranks. And in the article by Lawrence, a senior defense official agreed, stating, “We know they [women] can do it.” Maj. Gen. Heidi V. Brown has done it!

 

Women in the Military

History of Women in the MIlitary (USMA at West Point website)

Women in the U.S. Army history, timeline, profiles, and today's soldier (US Army website)

Women in the Military  articles in the news (military.com website)

U.S. Army Women's Museum  

Women in El Paso Sources

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