Written by Noah Logan
Photos by Steve Babin
It is only fitting that Paulette Risher is the Spotlight subject for the ‘Women in Business’ edition of HUNTSVILLE EVENT Magazine. Not only does the retired Army Major General serve as the CEO of the local nonprofit, Still Serving Veterans, but she has also spent a large portion of her life blazing new trails for women in the military that were previously unheard of.
When Risher was commissioned in October of 1972, women only made up 1.5 percent of all service members. There were no women in the service academies or ROTC, and those women who did serve were usually in the administrative, logistics or medical fields. However, the women’s liberation movement was a strong social force that was bringing in change all over the country. Risher, after graduating from Arizona State University with a BS in Marketing, was given an opportunity to be part of that change at Fort McClellan in Anniston.
“Women officers did not go to branch basic schools, but rather spent their entire careers as WACS – members of the Women Army Corps,” Risher explains. “They, and their enlisted counterparts, had separate command structures including promotion boards, assignment designations and personnel policies. There was the Army and then there was the Women Army Corps. I and my class, members of what was called Women Officers Orientation Course were the first group of women to attend branch basic courses. All branches except infantry, armor and field artillery were open. This was a radical change and not everyone was thrilled. There were a lot of detractors and not all of them men.”
Risher says that she and her other classmates knew how important it was to take advantage of the opportunity presented to them so that other women could have the