1st female brigadier general retires from Reserve

April 25, 1994|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Sun Staff Writer

Dorothy B. Pocklington thought she was signing up for a two-year stint in the Army when she quit her job teaching nursing at the University of Southwestern Louisiana.

Thirty years later, the 60-year-old Howard County resident has retired from the Army Reserve as the organization's first female brigadier general.

"I was thrilled to be a general officer (GO)," said General Pocklington, who has lived in Ellicott City for 17 years. "It was wonderful."

Last month, the nurse marked the culmination of her 30-year Army career with a retirement at the Pentagon where she received the prestigious Distinguished Service Medal, the Army's highest medal for a noncombat role.

General Pocklington's Army career includes 13 years on active duty and 17 years in the Reserve. During that time, she held various assignments, including deputy chief of public affairs, assistant to the chief of the Army Nurse Corps for Mobilization and Reserve Affairs, and chief nurse positions at three Army Reserve units.

As a brigadier general, she played a key role in mobilizing more than 20,000 Army nurses and enlisted personnel in the Reserve for duty in the Persian Gulf War, which began in 1991.

"I would act as a conduit of information," said General Pocklington, who although she was not deployed to the Persian Gulf maintained regular contact with Army nurses living in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

"They would tell me what the living conditions were like," said the general, who would then tell Army nurses who were leaving for the Saudi Arabian desert what she had learned.

In her most recent assignment as deputy chief of public affairs, General Pocklington oversaw various military broadcast services and publications, including Soldiers magazine and Hometown News, and field offices in Los Angeles and New York.

While General Pocklington said she didn't encounter resistance when seeking promotions, she noticed that her high rank generated amazement among many members of the armed forces.

"It distresses me -- that attitude I get as GO," said General Pocklington, who attributes the surprised reaction to a dearth of high-ranking female officers.

"We have to work to get as high a profile as possible for female GOs," she said.

Part of the reason why so few women occupy high-ranking positions is due to a lack of support from commanding officers, she said.

"They were never mentored," said General Pocklington, who makes a point during motivational speeches to tell Reservists how to become general officers.

Women must also change attitudes and traditions that exclude them from the upper echelons of the armed forces, said General Pocklington, who believes women should be allowed to participate in combat if qualified.

"Women in the Army should have any assignment that they can meet the standards for," she said. "They should have that option."

During her career, General Pocklington has received support and encouragement from her husband, Alvin, a retired consultant in the biomedical electronics field.

"Behind every great person, there's a great spouse," Mr. Pocklington said.

While General Pocklington is proud of her military accomplishments, she's anxious to see women continue to make progress in the armed forces.

"We're moving, maybe slowly," she said. But "we're going to get there."

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