The Illinois National Guard’s 108th Sustainment Brigade commemorated International Women’s Day 2019 (IWD) by recognizing the dedication and strength of Illinois Army National Guard Sgt. Gabrielle Calderon of Channahon.
Called upon at the eleventh hour to fill a critical Operation Inherent Resolve deployment vacancy with Task Force Lincoln, comprised of Soldiers from the Illinois Army National Guard, Calderon answered without hesitation.
“My family is my motivation and drive behind everything I do. I am only here because I have their support," Calderon said in a news release from the Illinois National Guard.
Serving on her first overseas deployment, Calderon executes a dual role as convoy commander and security element lead for advise and assist missions conducted with Iraqi Army key leaders.
Her fellow soldiers say she adds energy and laughter to the daily grind, and is a motivating force for the rest of the task force.
“Sgt. Calderon has a drive to continuously improve, displays a contagious attitude, and shows strong professionalism,” Maj. Zachary Bokum, her team leader said in the news release. “She is a leader that others need to emulate.”
Reflecting on this year’s IWD theme “Balance for Better,” Calderon expressed the positivity her team admires in her.
“As a motor transportation operator, I am in a male-dominated specialty," she said in the news release. "I do often feel I have to do better just to prove I’m just as good as the men. I don’t allow it to bring me down; I use it as the fuel to put my engine into overdrive.”
She offered advice for anyone experiencing gender bias in a military setting or a civilian workplace.
“Stand up for yourself, and prove that you are just as good if not better than those who surround you,” Calderon said in the release.
Calderon said her favorite part of being a soldier is the challenge and opportunity it presents. This could mean a a non-commissioned officer education school, a higher rank, a new military occupational specialty, a new unit or a a new mission, she said.
“There is always a new goal to achieve," Calderon said in the release.
She says choosing to stay in the Army has its challenges, but it was the right choice for her and her family.
“My husband has always encouraged me to do what I love and what I'm good at, and for me, that’s being a soldier," she said in the release. "Having him by my side allows us to show our kids that hard work is not only the job of a dad, but in our home we are a team.”
She said she looks forward to getting back to some of her favorite activities, like organizing special birthday parties for her kids and tinkering with the race cars in the garage.
Until then she’ll continue to focus on the mission at hand, striving to be the outstanding leader described in the creed of the noncommissioned officer.
“I have been blessed with some amazing leaders in my path, and I take pride in what they teach me,” Calderon said in the release. “I want to provide the leadership to my soldiers that has been provided to me.”
According to its website at internationalwomensday.com, International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day "celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women" and making a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
The first IWD gathering in 1911. Over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland supported it, the website also said.