'It's definitely an honor': Women continue to break barriers at Fort Bragg this Women's Equality Day

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WTVD) -- As Women's Equality Day is celebrated, it's important to note that women continue to break barriers in the workplace and at home. On Fort Bragg, female soldiers are forging ahead in a male-dominated industry.

America's Guard of Honor is known for answering the nation's call. Soldiers in the 82nd Airborne Division can be anywhere in the world wheels up within 18 hours of notification. That mission includes women like Major Haley Mercer who is breaking barriers as the first female executive officer for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

"It's definitely an honor and I don't take this position lightly," said MAJ Mercer. "There's a perception that maybe the standard should be lesser for females because they are less capable. I think now we're seeing females are as capable as males."

Data from the Pentagon show women make up 20 percent of active duty service members. Currently, there are about 873,000 men to 232,000 women serving in the armed forces.

"I'm the senior-most enlisted personnel in the company," said Sergeant First Class Sabrina Withworth. "Sometimes I miss birthdays and the first day of school. I'm not always there to go to swim lessons and dance lessons but I think it's better for the both of us."

SFC Withworth is a jumpmaster who manages day-to-day operations for 100 soldiers. She balances being a woman in military leadership with raising her daughter.

The military recognizes the contributions and sacrifices women have made for decades. In March, the 82nd Airborne Division celebrated Women's History Month by conducting an all-female jump with female pilots.

Private First Class Dara Shirley is Navajo and enlisted in the military a year ago. She sees women in leadership positions like Haley and Withworth, who aspire to be an example to her younger siblings back home in Arizona.

"It's because on the reservation it's not much you can do. So, the military is a way out for you to become better," said PFC Shirley.

These three female soldiers are a part of the 3rd Brigade Combat team. They have various ranks and lived experiences. Each of them showcase what it truly means to be an All-American woman.
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