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Retired Brig. Gen. Clara Adams-Ender speaks during the Army Women Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. 

 

Ahead of International Women’s Day last week, two former Fort Belvoir leaders were part of a group of females who received recognition for their service, as they were inducted into the Army Women Hall of Fame by the Army Women’s Foundation. 

Brig. Gen. Clara Adams-Ender and Command Sgt. Maj. Billie Jo Boersma each served Belvoir Garrison during different periods of history. 

Brig. Gen. Clara Adams- Ender 

Adams-Ender was the first Army Nurse in history to command as a general officer when she assumed command of Fort Belvoir. She commanded Fort Belvoir for two years in the early 90s, while also serving as Military District of Washington’s deputy commanding general. 

“I’m humbled by the fact that the Army Women’s Foundation noticed that I did my part, even though a small part, as a woman and as a Soldier in the U.S. Army,” Adams-Ender said. 

Adams-Ender laughed when asked why she joined the Army. “I was hungry,” she explained. “I was the daughter of a sharecropper, the fourth-oldest of 10 children. My father said he’d pay tuition and room and board. 

“So, I needed money and did what I could to get it … babysitting, cleaning. Then, I walked into the student union building one day, under a banner that read ‘The Army Nurse Corps Needs You.’ 

Adams-Ender picked up the enlistment forms and, to get through to her father about her joining the Army, presented the forms to her mother, who intervened and convinced Clara’s dad to sign his name, permitting his daughter to join. 

“I intended to sign up for 3 years … 34 years later,” she said. 

“I stayed in the Army, because there was no reason to leave,” she said. “I thoroughly enjoyed the military, the responsibility, the teams that made me responsible. I have no regrets at all.” 

“The Army is a team sport. You don’t go out on your own,” she said, adding that sexual assault and harassment in the military troubles her greatly. “Team members don’t do that to one another. This is a team sport and the women are part of that team and should always be treated with dignity and respect. 

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Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Billie Jo Boersma. 

Command Sgt. Maj. Billie Jo Boersma 

Boersma was the first female command sergeant major of an infantry brigade combat team in combat, as the CSM of the Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. Before she retired in 2017 after 25 years, Boersma served as Fort Belvoir Garrison Command Sergeant Major. 

Boersma said at the induction, “I truly believe, 100 percent, in my heart, that one day we will get to a point where there are ‘no firsts.’ But, as long as we’re doing it, there’s somebody out there who sees us and believes they can do it, too,” she said. “And, we will continue to knock down these ceilings, walls and barriers.” 

Women’s History Month 

Adams-Ender and Boersma e cho the 2018 Nati o n a l Women’s History Month theme, “Nevertheless She Persisted: Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.” 

They are examples of women who have, through that persistence, shaped American and Army history through their tireless commitment to fight against discrimination against women, while simultaneously being examples of what is possible for women to achieve. 

Now the Army has fully integrated women into all military positions, serving in every career field, as critical members of the Army team. 

Women’s History Month reminds everyone of the contributions and achievements of women in the Army, illustrating the strength of a diverse Army.