Guard pioneer honored as a top woman

March 15, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - Col. Annette M. Deener went from volunteering at her husband's Army Reserve center to managing more than 5,300 Maryland National Guard members, a 30-year progression for which she was honored Wednesday.

At a ceremony in Annapolis, Deener was one of five inductees into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame.

"Thank you for considering a military woman," Deener, a Sharpsburg resident, said in her speech.

She is the only person in the Maryland Army National Guard's history to hold three directorate level positions, according to a summary of her background. She has been in charge of information system management, military personnel and human resources.

Deener said in an interview that her husband, Michael, a retired colonel, encouraged her to enlist in the Army Reserve in 1975. She did, going to Fort McClellan in Alabama for basic training. She said hers was one of the last classes of the Women's Army Corps there.


When she joined the Maryland Army National Guard, choices were limited for women and she started as a medical corps officer, according to a written recap of her career, but she "continued to push into new fields," becoming a training officer at the Maryland Military Academy.

She then worked full time for the Guard as a personnel and administration officer before moving into directorate positions.

In 2005, she was appointed chief of staff for Maryland's Guard - the first woman to hold that title.

Deener told the crowd that good mentors helped her along, including Maj. Gen. Bruce F. Tuxill, Maryland's adjutant general.

"I am not a token on General Tuxill's staff, I might add," she said. "A token is someone who is placed in a position of responsibility because of their gender, race or nationality, but they have no responsibility, no voice. They are just a figurehead.

"I am not that token. General Tuxill seeks my counsel on Army National Guard issues and he listens. For that, sir, I am grateful, and I feel that I am a genuine member of the team and that means a lot to me, sir."

Tuxill, who nominated Deener, said in an interview that she stands out for her "expertise, her military knowledge and her leadership."

He called her someone who "understands how to get the job done."

Deener made the crowd laugh with stories of how her atypical career affected her children's lives.

She said that when her son, Matthew, was told in elementary school that his Mom wears combat boots, he replied, "Yeah, she does, but I bet that she can outshoot your Dad."

Her daughter, Megan, wanted her mother to homeschool her. "When she saw my school day plan for her was to be up at the crack of dawn and begin with an hour of physical training," Deener said, "she decided that maybe the public school wasn't so bad after all."

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