Breaking Barriers in Recognition of Women’s History Month

Middle East – March is Women’s History Month. It is a time to reflect on the advancements women have made and their strive for equality. Lt. Col. Nicole Smith is an example of a woman who has pushed the needle forward. Smith, the division surgeon serving in the 34th Infantry Division “Red Bulls”, began her military career in 2006 when she direct commissioned during medical school. Over the years she has served in various capacities, including battalion surgeon, forward task force brigade surgeon, and most recently, division surgeon.

“I met my husband in 2003. He had gotten injured in the Marine Corps. We got married and he ended up deploying to Iraq two weeks later,” said Smith. “It just felt like I had something to contribute. I finished college and after doing medical research and then being accepted into medical school I took a direct commission.”

Smith is passionate about her career and teaching those under her.

“What I love about my job is that I get to teach medics and Soldiers how to provide medical care. They become kind of an extension of my hands and feet out there,” said Smith. “They’ll save more people than I ever have.”

Despite her career successes and recognition, Smith is keen to reiterate that there are still more strides to be made for women in the military.

“Women’s History Month is important because while we make up 51% of the population, women are underrepresented in leadership roles across the board, especially in the Army,” said Smith.  “For example, we make up 22% of the Minnesota National Guard but very few women are in leadership positions. For me, Women’s History Month is a moment to reflect on how far we’ve come and recognize how far we have yet to rise.”

Good leadership makes good Soldiers and Smith reflects often on how she was mentored and wants to share what she knows with the next generation of Soldiers.

“I try to exemplify what strong female leadership looks like. I’m really grateful for the women who preceded me,” said Smith, “and I am actively reaching down to the women climbing up the wall behind me.”

Smith occupies a position that shows the progress that female Soldiers have made over the years and intends to be a pillar of support for those who follow in her footsteps.

“I have a unique privilege in that the leadership of the division surgeon section is entirely female. For the first time in Minnesota National Guard history, the Division Surgeon, the Chief of Medical Operations, and the Chief Medical NCO for Operations/Sergeant Major are all women. I get to hold unique counsel with these women.”

Smith always strives to be the best leader she can be. The Soldiers under her inspire her to continue doing her best.

“The Soldiers I lead inspire me to be a better leader every day,” said Smith. “The NCOs who have shaped me are true professionals and I owe a lot to them.”

Smith is both a woman and Soldier. She intends to be the role model younger generations deserve and make it known that no matter who you are or where you come from you can be a leader and be successful.

“I hope every Soldier I touch knows how much I care about them,” said Smith. “I hope that little girls see me and know that they can be doctors, officers, and leaders too.”

Story by Army Spc. Tyler Becker

Minnesota National Guard