By (Courtesy article)
Utah National Guard
During the month of March, the Utah National Guard celebrates Women’s History and honors and acknowledges the struggles and achievements of American women throughout the history of the United States. Women have played a vital role in our military in every war since the Revolutionary War. Today, women serve in every career field in the military and are critical members of the Utah National Guard.
Below we highlight the stories of women service members who serve in a variety of positions in the Utah National Guard and are role models exemplifying our highest values.
Name: Capt. Melissa Stenquist
Date joined: Oct. 12, 2007
Unit: 65th Field Artillery Brigade
MOS: Air Defense Artillery Officer
Why did you decide to join the military?
I wanted to serve my country and follow in the footsteps of my grandfather who was a World War II veteran. My grandfather was an Army officer, and my father was a Marine.
I also had a desire to get my education. The Army National Guard provided the way for me to earn a Bachelor of Science in Health and for me to become the first woman in my family to receive a degree of any kind. I recently went back to school and earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. I am currently working on my Master of Science in Nursing.
What has been your favorite moment or part of serving?
There have been two personally special moments that I feel exemplify my service and heritage; watching my son and daughter join the Marines. I like to say, “I gave birth to greatness not once, but twice!” Supporting my children in their military careers has been a wonderful experience for me and I’m proud that my children have shown an eagerness to serve and add to our family’s rich military heritage.
What was your most memorable mission/deployment?
My most memorable mission was serving as a finance management specialist in Germany. It was an amazing learning experience and opportunity for growth. I was able to help military members and gain a better understanding of the German culture. I absolutely loved it!
What does this observance mean to you?
To me observance means to formally celebrate and respect a special occasion. Observing my heritage helps me recognize my personal accomplishments and the accomplishments of my family and culture. I value my heritage and the traditions of those who have come before me in the service and those who will serve long after I am gone.
Name: Col. Sue Melton
Date joined: July 23, 1984 (Air Force), March 22, 1989 (Utah Air Guard)
Unit: Joint Forces Headquarters, Utah National Guard
MOS: Director of Human Resources
Why did you decide to join the military?
I joined with a childhood friend through the “buddy system”. Military service had never crossed my mind until she mentioned it. I joined after completing two years college as I was unsure what path I wanted to take. It ended up being a very positive experience for me. I initially joined the Utah Air National Guard primarily for school benefits. However, as I continued to serve my purpose changed and I realized how much I loved serving, the purpose and camaraderie.
This is a tough one. I have had many great memories while serving. Overall, I have had the opportunity to travel to many beautiful places, made many great friends. I have had the opportunity to command at the Squadron and Group level working with incredible people.
My deployment to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. I worked in the U.S. Central Command Deployment & Distribution Operations Center. It was the first opportunity I had to work in a joint environment working with people from all services. Seeing the professionalism and expertise everyone brought to the team was impressive, it was a fantastic experience for me both personally and professionally.
Women’s History Month is very meaningful, it provides me an opportunity to reflect on my career and how fortunate I have been to have achieved what I have through hard work and determination while battling some obstacles along the way. I have had the support of several women who came before me, and I hope I have been able to support and pave pathways for the women who started serving after me.
Name: Chief Warrant Officer4 Deena Haag
Date joined: July 1996
Unit: Utah Recruiting and Retention Battalion
MOS: Apache Helicopter Pilot
To serve my country and protect our American way of life.
The camaraderie and helping human beings all over the world who need assistance.
When I joined in 1996, I was denied entry into a military occupational specialty (MOS) that I wanted because I was a female. This chapped my hide. Twenty-five years later my daughter can now join any MOS she desires if she earns it. Women’s History Month is enormously important.
Name: Chief Warrant Officer 4 Elizabeth Hoepfner
Date joined: Aug. 2, 2000
Unit: 97th Troop Command
MOS: Human Resources Technician
Before I began my senior year of high school, I started thinking about what I wanted my future to look like and how I was going to afford college. My three older brothers were in the Utah Army National Guard, and I always looked up to them. I decided to look into military service. The education benefits were a selling point, but I really loved the feel of camaraderie within the unit. The Soldiers cared about each other and wanted each other to succeed. I joined the Utah National Guard because I felt like I would be able to make a difference
My favorite part of serving is being able to see different parts of the world and to connect with people. I have made many life-long friends in the military. Also, holding regional positions where I’ve been able to help make change and push topics/issues to a national level has been an amazing experience.
One of my favorite missions was an annual training to Germany in December. We were able to get a human resource specific mission and work side by side with Active Duty in-processing new Soldiers coming to that base. We were able to learn the systems that Active Duty used and in turn, showed them products/systems that we use that might be helpful for them. We also got a chance to see the German Christmas markets, it was a great experience overall.
With less than 20 percent of the Guard and Reserves being female, I feel it’s important to show our strengths and what we are capable of doing right beside our male counterparts.
Name: SGT Kaitlin McGee
Date joined: April 13, 2013
Unit: Recruiting and Retention Battalion
MOS: 25U Signal Satellite Support Specialist
I decided to serve my country when I was six-years old. I was sitting with my grandmother looking at family photos and we came across a picture of an uncle I had never met. My grandma told me his name was Kenneth and that he had died in the Vietnam War serving his country. He looked so handsome in his dress uniform, and I instantly admired him. I immediately knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
My favorite moment up to this day is a tie: The day I pinned on sergeant rank and the night I returned home from Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training after nine-and-a-half month absence. I worked so hard to become an NCO and learn how to be a leader that other Soldiers could look up to. Also, I had promised my mother (who has always been my number one supporter) that she could pin me. That day meant I had achieved a long-awaited goal that had unbelievable challenges, ups and downs, and plenty of moments where I wanted to give up. I hope to inspire other Soldiers to continue on the path to achieving their goals and to keep their eye on the prize.
When I returned home from BCT/AIT, I didn’t tell anyone I was coming. My flight had left my school location at zero-dark-thirty and then ended up being delayed by hours somewhere in Georgia. Instead of knocking on the door around 1500, I was knocking at 2300. My daughter, who at the time was five, was already asleep and my mother almost beat me with a baseball bat. I gave my mom hugs and went into my sleeping daughter and snuggled her until morning when she woke and said, “Are you real?”
To have a month entirely dedicated to women’s history is an honor. It is wonderful to teach younger generations, especially young girls, the struggles women as a whole have gone through to get to where we are today. To be treated as equal humans rather than property, to be given a voice to speak our minds, to marry and love who we choose rather than be used as a bargaining tool for business endeavors, and to be able to contribute to society with our ideas and imaginations.
I think that it is so important to note when discussing women’s history that now a days we teach our daughters that they can be anything they want to be. It wasn’t like that so long ago and in some countries, it still isn’t like that for women. Educating the youth of our past and history is the only way to ensure that we continue to progress forward as a society but to also ensure that we never repeat the atrocities of the past.
Anything else we should know about you?
Being a Soldier in the Utah Army National Guard is an honor and a dream of mine but, it has done so much more for me than that. As a single mother of two young ladies, I have a lot of roles to fill. The National Guard provided me with the opportunity to open doors that I never even knew existed, and the means to care for and provide for my daughters in a way that most other single mothers only dream of. Every day I am grateful for my ability to serve and be a part of the world’s strongest fighting force. I am proud every single time I put on my uniform to go and talk to anyone and everyone who will listen to me about the original Minutemen.
Name: Sgt. Felicia Olmos
Date joined: Nov. 11, 2017
Unit: Charlie Battery, 145th Field Artillery Battalion, 65th Field Artillery Brigade
MOS: Cannon Crewmember
I had always wanted to join, and it was constantly in the back of my mind. I chose to go to college then start a career as a correctional officer at the Utah State prison instead. Eventually, I just did it. I got a late start, but with four younger siblings, I wanted to be a hero and great role model in their eyes. I wanted to wear the uniform proudly and serve this country the best I could. There’s an abundance of opportunities here and I plan on making it a career as well.
I’ve always been very competitive and willing to learn how to do tough things. When I asked my recruiter what was one of the most physically demanding jobs available, he told me how 13B just opened up to females. Before he could even finish, I told him to sign me up ASAP. I have really enjoyed getting familiar with the Paladin and being “one of the guys”. Every Solider I have met in field artillery has been nothing but helpful and welcoming. You come together as a family and train like crazy. It’s one heck of a workout once the rounds start flying. I love showing what women can bring to the table too.
Sometimes successes, contributions and achievements of women are overlooked. This observance provides a time to highlight a few of the very many strong and successful women that are out there now. It’s also a time to remember those women who were trail blazers and made a huge difference in the world. They made it possible for us to do what we do today.
Name: Pfc. Brooke Pia
Date joined: Sept. 9, 2020
Unit: Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1-145 Field Artillery Battalion, 65th Field Artillery Brigade
MOS: Paralegal Specialist
I joined the Army National Guard to serve my great country and state, hoping to do something to fulfill the patriotism that I have always felt for the United States of America.
My favorite part of serving was the sense of pride I felt when I graduated from Basic Combat Training and moved on to be with my unit, which is one of the greatest examples of teamwork I have ever been a part of. We support each other and lead by example.
While I have never been deployed, when I was on one of the many field-training exercises, we rucked through a very dark area and all we had was the support and footsteps of each other to guide us in the right direction. It was a great example of a metaphor of how much we must be able to depend on each other in every single situation.
While my patriotism is what brought me to join the Army, the teamwork and support from my comrades is what helped me through the tough process of Basic Training. I work every single day to make the Army a place that everyone who is willing to work hard and fight for their country is welcome, so that anyone who decides to join can have the same support I did throughout my training and my placement into my unit.
Name: Spc. Christine Hoskins
Date joined: Dec. 9, 2019
MOS: Human Resource Specialist
I finished school and found myself looking for opportunities to move forward. I saw that the National Guard could offer me not only assistance in tuition for my postgraduate degree, but also career opportunities. I saw the chance and ran with it, and it has been a really good decision for me.
My favorite part of serving has been the friends I’ve made, the skills I’ve learned, and the chances I’ve had to help others.
I definitely think women in the military face unique struggles compared with their male counterparts, and it’s awesome to see their accomplishments recognized.
Name: Staff Sgt. Emily Hoff
Date joined: March 1, 2021
MOS: Human Resource Specialist & Automated Logistical Specialist
My dad has been in the military my entire life (he is still in!). While I loved the structure and opportunities that the active military lifestyle provided while growing up, I longed for roots and a place to call “home”. When I learned that the National Guard wouldn’t require me to move around and could also pay for school, I knew that was the path I was supposed to choose.
Accomplishing my early adulthood goals with the help of the Utah Army National Guard. I obtained a bachelor’s degree debt free (go Weber State Wildcats!) and purchased my first home at the ripe age of 21. Those roots I longed for have been planted and continue to grow here in the beautiful state of Utah.
I’ve loved the thrill of being airborne while I was with the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) before coming over to Recruiting. The adrenaline those few minutes before exiting the aircraft is truly something else.
Now that I’m in recruiting, I have so many new favorite moments. Helping others that are/were just like me go through the process is such a blessing. Having the affect to allow others the opportunities I’ve seized is so rewarding. I love learning about people; where they came from, where they want to go, meeting their families, etc. Recruiting is such a good fit for me and my personality!
To me, Women’s History Month observance means recognizing, respecting, and honoring women who have made a positive impact. I think it is important to understand the strides we’ve made and remember we haven’t always been able to do what we do today. Being a woman not only in the work force, but in the military is something I am extremely proud of and grateful for.
I was the head cheerleader at my Texas high school - even won “Most Spirited” my senior year - so when I mentioned to people that I was thinking of joining the military during my senior year, some of them chuckled and said I couldn’t handle it. That fueled my desire to enlist even more.
I love dogs (have three of my own), playing the piano, and video games. I am married to another service member and wouldn’t have it any other way. I have a younger brother who is attending West Point. I have very little family here in Utah but am lucky to call those I work with my brothers and sisters. So much comradery within the National Guard, especially within my recruiting team.
Your Career Starts Here