Cavalry warrant officer still going at 40 years

By Sgt. Kimberly Brown
Headquarters, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs

News story photo
Photo credit: Courtesy Photo
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jeanne Pace, commander and band master of the 1st Cavalry Division Band, when she was with the Women’s Army Corps as a private and 18 years old in 1972.
FORT HOOD, Texas – In 1972 the Vietnam War and the draft were still in full swing, President Nixon was in office, and the Women’s Army Corps was the only way women were allowed to service in the Army.

40 years ago Aug. 31, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jeanne Pace, now the commander and band master for the 1st Cavalry Division Band, was 18 years old looking to further her education and decided to join the WAC in August 1972 and serve the military as both of her parents had in the Air Force.

“My interest, at the time, was to pursue an education … and the only thing women could enlist for was the WAC Band,” Pace said. “I enlisted for three years to grow up, figure out what I wanted to do and get my money for education.”

She began her career as a private with the 14th Army (WAC) Band at Fort McClellan, Ala. and within her first three years on active duty, Pace had attained the rank of E5, known then as a Spec 5.

When it came time for her to re-enlist, her outlook on the Army had become a positive one.

“[WAC] was pretty fun at that point still and I thought, hey this isn’t so bad, and at that time you could reenlist for three years, four years, or six years … So I enlisted for four,” Pace said.

During her final year at Fort McClellan a male warrant officer was assigned to conduct the band. She also began seeing male soldiers come in from their Advanced Individual Training, thus the integration of the WAC with the regular Army had begun.

“In 1976 [WAC Band] did a Bicentennial concert and the following week we did a WAC Band anniversary concert and at that point in time we were no longer allowed to call ourselves the WAC Band,” She said.

The WAC did not fully integrate into the Army until 1978 and at that time Pace was stationed in Panama.

At her 13-year mark Pace was an E7 and in a senior noncommissioned officer course at the School of Music, Virginia Beach, Va. During the school she decided to apply to be a warrant officer. Her first attempt at the warrant officer course was to no avail. Yet she tried again and made it, thereby pinning on the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 2 in 1985.

She was then assigned as the bandmaster of the 1st Cavalry Division Band. After a month on station her position transitioned into a commander’s position, therefore she became the first commander/band master of the 1st Cavalry Division Band.

Following Fort Hood her career led her to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Washington D.C., Fort Jackson, S.C., and finally back to Fort Hood where she is again with the 1st Cavalry Division Band.

Pace is now looking at finishing out her career at Fort Hood and the Cav with a mandatory retirement of 2015 and will have 43 years of total time served.

“Sometimes you have to go to the school of hard-knocks to learn how to improve and do better on the other end, so I don’t have any regrets,” she said.

Currently she is the only woman from the Women’s Army Corps Band left on active duty.

“I don’t know what else to do,” Pace said while holding back tears. “My emotions come through every time (I talk about it) because I don’t know how I’m going to let go."

She mentioned a few times throughout different interviews that she lives through her soldiers and that they keep her young.

Sgt. Devan Peters and Sgt. Ronald Mullins, both members of the division’s band, both agreed that Ms. Pace is very passionate about her job and has a wealth of knowledge and experience.

“I believe that when she retires it’s going to be a great loss for the Army and band field,” Peters said.

Pace plans to continue helping the Army community once she retires. She discussed volunteering with Army One Source and whatever else she can to further help soldiers.

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