Women Opened Doors in Minnesota National Guard

March 3, 2019 (ST. PAUL, Minnesota) — “The battlefront is no place for women to be,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Earl Kurtzweg, 125th Field Artillery, in 1976. “There are certain jobs girls say they can do, but they just can’t do … the battlefront is no place for women to be. Other countries in the world use women in combat, but the U.S. has not come around to that way of thinking.” Kathy Berg, a New Ulm reporter summarized. “So women in the New Ulm unit take care of personnel files and pay records and leave the fighting to the men.”[1]

The Minnesota National Guard has “come around to that way of thinking” since those early days of gender integration. In the last forty-four years women have made momentous strides toward inclusion and acceptance. Their accomplishments are testimony to their fortitude and the progressive development of the Minnesota National Guard.

“A female enlistee has joined the ranks of the local National Guard. Sworn in Saturday by Company “A”, 1st Battalion, 135 Infantry commander Capt. Morris Haskins (right) was Pvt. Roxann Otto. The rural Minnesota City woman is the daughter of Mannie Castelluzzo, SSG, (left) who serves as cook for the local unit. Pvt. Otto, as the company’s first female, will serve as a member of the company’s office staff.” Albert Lea Evening Tribune, Jan. 17, 1977.

When an accomplished female Soldier is credited with breaking barriers she will often pass that honor to the women that preceded her. Brig. Gen. Johanna Clyborne is such a leader. She acknowledges that she is one of the first females in the Minnesota National Guard that has held key leadership roles, however she sees it differently. “I feel responsible for all women in uniform,” said Clyborne. “Women before me opened the door, now I’ve cleared the room. It’s up to the women behind me to hold the room.”[2] 

ROSEMOUNT, Minn. – Soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard, family and friends gather to celebrate the promotion of Brig. Gen. Johanna Clyborne during an event at the Rosemount Armory on April 2, 2016. In Clyborne’s new position as Assistant Adjutant General – Army, she oversees Minnesota’s more than 11,000 Citizen-Soldiers. She also holds the distinction of becoming Minnesota’s first women promoted in to the Army general officer ranks. Minnesota National Guard photo by Maj. Scott Ingalsbe.

One of these “door openers” was 1st Lt. Joanie Moyer, the first female company commander in the Minnesota National Guard. In 1980 she was given command of the 47th Viking Infantry Division’s Material Management Center. She was just “naturally aggressive,” said Moyer. “Every [military] school I’ve gone to I’ve been no. 1 in the class out of sheer competitiveness.”[3]

These are some of the doors opened by women in Minnesota National Guard:

  • 1973, First female recruits in MNARNG enlisted in 47th AG Co. Pat Morris, Laura Olson and Beth Claussen
  • 1974, Pvt. Vicki Eliasen is first female technician in MNNG. Co E, 747th Maintenance Bn.
  • 1975, Spec. 5 Alberta Marth first woman in 125th Field Artillery
  • 1976, MNNG first in Midwest to offer pre-basic training course to females
  • 1976, Spc. Debbie Hodgin first woman in C, 2-135IN
  • 1976, first woman commissioned though MN Military Academy
  • 1976, 2nd Lt. Lucy Kender is third woman officer in MNARNG
  • 1977, 210 women in MNNG
  • 1977, US Army Basic Training goes co-ed
  • 1977, Pvt. Roxann Otto is first female in A, 1-135IN
  • 1977, Spc. Sally Gullickson first female in B, 135IN
  • 1980, 13 women serve as MNNG officers
  • 1980, 1st Lt. Joanie Moyer is first female company commander in MNARNG, 47ID Mat. Mgmt. Ctr.
  • 1988, Staff Sgt. Chilson, 2-136IN, is first MNNG female memorialized at Camp Ripley. Bldg. 15-71 is Lynette Ann Chilson Lounge.
  • 1994, Lt. Col. Lucy Kender, becomes first female BN commander in Minnesota Army National Guard (147th Personnel Services Battalion)
  • 1996, Lt. Col. Maureen Gagliardi becomes first female BN commander (134SIG) in 1BCT.
  • 2001, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Denny Fox became the first female Chief Warrant Officer 5 in the Minnesota National Guard, UH-1 Test Pilot with the aviation brigade.
  • 2005, first MNNG Warrant Officer Candidate School
  • 2005, Staff Sgt. Janelle Johnson became the first female S4 NCOIC in the BSB
  • 2006, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Tina Stalboerger manages and instructs first MNNG WOCS class
  • 2007, Command Sgt. Maj. Cynthia Kallberg becomes first female CSM, 334BEB
  • 2007, Command Chief Master Sgt. Jodi Stauber becomes first female senior enlisted advisor in 148FW
  • 2008, WO1 Brenda Cash first female graduate of WOCS at Camp Ripley
  • 2009, Chief Master Sgt. Denise Jelinski-Hall becomes first female enlisted advisor to chief of NGB
  • 2011, Command Sgt. Maj. Cynthia Kallberg becomes first female Senior Enlisted Advisor in MNNG
  • 2013, Col. Johanna Clyborne becomes first female MACOM commander at 347RSG
  • 2013, Department of Defense rescinds Ground Combat Exclusion Rule, women allowed in combat units below brigade level
  • 2013, 1LT Andrea Petersen graduated OCS Class 57 in August, first MNNG female to commission FA Branch
  • 2013, Chief Warrant Offer 3 Tina Podratz elected president MN chapter Warrant Officer Assoc.
  • 2014, Capt. Tara Robertson is first female company commander for all-male B, 334BSB
  • 2015, 1st Lt. Blair Marden is first female commander of NOREX Youth Platoon
  • 2015, MNNG conducts first Joint Female Professional Development Training Symposium
  • 2015, Sgt. 1st Class Sandra Johnson is first female platoon sergeant in a combat arms unit, HHB 1-125 FA
  • 2016, Col. Sandra Best promoted to first female brigadier general in MNNG
  • 2016, Pvt. Jennifer Garcia, C125FA, first MNNG female to enlist as 13B Cannon Crewmember
  • 2016, Col. Johanna Clyborne, first Army female brig. gen. in MNNG, and first female Assistant Adjutant General
  • 2016, Maj. Dana Novinskie becomes first female instructor pilot in 133AW
  • 2016, Sgt. 1st Class Nickole Wells, 851 VEC, becomes first female platoon sgt. in a line engineer company
  • 2016, 2LT  Stephanie Marschall graduated OCS Class 60 in August, first MNNG female to commission AR Branch
  • 2016, Pvt. Margaret Fromm, A334BEB, first MNNG female 12B Combat Engineer enlistee
  • 2017, Command Sgt. Maj. Shannon Froiland, 682 EN, becomes first female CSM of an engineer battalion
  • 2017, Staff Sgt. Kimberly Rauch, B 134 BSB, was first Senior Gunner in MNARNG
  • 2018, First two female National Guard Soldiers graduate Maneuver Senior Leaders Course, 175RTI, Camp Ripley

By MSG Daniel Ewer
MNNG Command Historian