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Feature | March 16, 2016

Mother, wife, soldier: SGM believes in equal human rights

By Airman 1st Class Breonna Veal 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

"Throughout history, women have driven humanity forward on the path to a more equal and just society, contributing in innumerable ways to our character and progress as people. During Women's History Month, we remember the trailblazers of the past, including the women who are not recorded in our history books, and we honor their legacies by carrying forward the valuable lessons learned from the powerful examples they set," Presidential Proclamation, Women's History Month, 2016.

At the age of 15, a young Cielito PascualJackson moved from a barrio in the Philippines, to Blaine, Washington. Once in the United States, PascualJackson excelled in school and began planning the path for her future.

In 1985, PascualJackson enlisted into the U.S. Army, a goal she had always wanted to achieve. 

"I was very good in school, really smart," said U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. PascualJackson, command career counselor for U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Headquarters. "I wanted to compete for a scholarship and have the opportunity to go to the United States Military Academy at West Point. When I lived in the Philippines, I did a form of reserve officers' training corps called Citizen Army Training in school, and it was a part of the curriculum. Every student had the choice to participate in the military course or participate in intramural sports. I chose to learn how to be a Soldier. I loved it, I really did. I wanted to challenge myself."

At the time, PascualJackson thought she was supposed to go to college in the United States, which is the way to provide family in the Philippines. Although PascualJackson was intelligent, the testing standards in the Philippines are different than the testing standards of the United States. For PascualJackson, it was difficult to absorb all the knowledge of a new culture, a new language and American history to accompany everything she grew up learning about her heritage. Even though she scored well on the SAT, it wasn't enough to earn acceptance into West Point - her school of choice. 

PascualJackson turned to the possibility of enlisting in the military, and after petitioning her parents to sign her contract, she joined the Army. 

"I knew there wasn't the opportunity for me to compete for scholarships at the time, so I joined the military because I knew they would give me college," she continued. "[Two], I told my mother, 'what better way to repay America for what they did for me and my parents than join [the military].'"

PascualJackson became the first female in her family to join the military instead of going to college.

Joining so young, PascualJackson found she was the only female or, sometimes, the first female in a unit.

"In the history of the unit I got assigned to at Fort Drum, the 513th Personnel Service Company, then renamed 10th PSC. I was the first corporal of the unit and the first female," she explained. "Back then, I didn't know what being the first one at something meant, because I just saw it has being an NCO. I just wanted to be an NCO. It isn't about gender."
During her time in the unit, PascualJackson heard many people question her ability and presence in the unit.

"I remember my [noncommissioned officer in charge] saying, 'I don't want you to worry about what other Soldiers are saying because they could have done the same thing that you did but they didn't want to. You showed that you are capable and have done more than what was asked of you and did not waiver from that. So do not worry about what they say,'" said PascualJackson.

As she progressed in her military career, PascualJackson said she realized that her accomplishments had nothing to do with her being a female.

"The only way I knew if I was the only female or the first female to do something was because somebody else said it to me," said PascualJackson. "It truly was and still is never about gender; I just want to serve, and I never wanted my supervision and leadership to give me favoritism or roadblocks just because I am a female."

PascualJackson said character is critical for people in her culture. They are taught to do the best they can do and to always do the right thing. Because of the virtues that were instilled in her it was easy for PascualJackson to volunteer no matter what situation arose.

"I wanted to be well-rounded and wanted to do a lot [for the Army], so raising my hand for things was easy," said PascualJackson. "Because of this, 'she ain't all that,' and 'why is she getting promoted' were just a few of the things that I heard while in the early years of my career. In their eyes, I was a young, 19-year-old, Filipino Soldier and they didn't think I deserved the rank."

The superlatives continued in her career,  in 1996, then a staff sergeant with the 1st Armament Division, Sustainment Support, PascualJackson became the only career counselor who went to Bosnia. While assigned to the brigade, and before personal security teams existed and before females were allowed to be military police, she was a part of the security team for her brigade.

Then in 2007, as a sergeant major for the 25th Infantry Division, she was the first female command career counselor who led her retention team through pre-deployment preparation and deployment. 

Most recently, PascualJackson was the first female command career counselor for the U.S. Army Pacific.

In addition to being a Soldier, PascualJackson is a mother, and she said being a caregiver for another human being was "life changing."

"The birth of my child was the moment when I realized the [U.S. Army] is what I want to do for a while," said PascualJackson. "I was five years into the military and I wanted my daughter to have something I never had. Two years of college was all I had under my belt and I couldn't let her struggle. She didn't ask to be born; I made that decision. I wanted her to know the importance of character, honor and working hard -- the same things I was taught."

PascualJackson believes being a wife, a mother and a female Soldier doesn't mean that she should treat the opposite gender any differently, rather it represents empowerment and equality.

"I do not call myself a feminist," said PascualJackson. "Feminism has gotten a bad reputation. It has been labeled as 'man-hating.' Just because I voice my opinions doesn't mean that I am being bossy. I have the same rights as my male counterparts. To me, it is about equal human rights; every human being should have justice. If we would just appreciate each other's diversity we would be fine."

PascualJackson added that she believes women's rights have increased significantly over the past few decades.

"Women in the military have come a long way and that is for sure. We are heading in the right direction. The opportunity is really opening for us and it is our responsibility to really grab that and do well because so many before us had to fight for that, just to be an equal , accepted and respected. It would be injustice if we do not continue on the right route. We are capable, that I know for sure. We can do it, but it requires acceptance and mentoring, regardless of gender or race. If we could all come together the Army would be better than best."