When U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted the ban on women serving in combat roles, it was seen by many as a major step forward for equal rights. But it's not just the regular army that's advancing the role of women. The South Dakota Army National Guard recently promoted a woman to the highest rank a non-commissioned officer can serve for the first time ever.
State Command Sergeant Major Susan Shoe will always remember the moment she broke the glass ceiling by reaching her rank. It's the result of 16 years of hard work in the National Guard.
"It's about being a soldier, being a leader, doing the right, having the integrity to go forward and do the right things in whatever position you're in," Shoe said.
Shoe works in logistics and with the new position will also deal directly with soldier issues. It's a task Shoe says she's up for and one she couldn't have achieved on her own.
"Over the years, those mentors continue to mentor, continue to push you to be and do what you have the potential to do," Shoe said.
Shoe's promotion comes during a time of change for the military as a whole. Just last week, the defense secretary announced that he was lifting the ban on women serving in combat. That's a move that Shoe supports.
"It's a good thing. It's a good change for the military and it's staying relevant and going forward," Shoe said.
Although the change has yet to take effect, the state's top-ranking non-commissioned officer says women have already been in harms way for more than a decade.
"There are no front lines anymore. Those front lines are everywhere, so if you're a female or a male that is deployed you're on the front lines," Shoe said.
Even as more positions open up for women, Shoe says she'll focus on helping soldiers of both genders achieve their goals and move up the ranks.
"People have helped us, so now it's our turn to help other people attain their dreams, their hopes, and their goals," Shoe said.
Shoe isn't the only high-ranking woman in the Army National Guard. The state's top-warrant officer position has been held by women for the past two years.