Local Woman Breaking Military Barriers

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FOREST CITY -- Women in our armed forces are taking on bigger and more important roles, from the front lines to some of the top leadership positions

Newswatch 16 talked with an U.S. Army major from Forest City who has broken through yet another barrier for females in the armed forces.

When Major Sonja Dyer grew up in Forest City, she never even dreamed of putting on a uniform and serving her country. More than a decade later, she's served two tours of duty overseas and just this past year, has earned a coveted position in her brigade and is the first female to ever do so.

More than 2,000 miles away from home, Maj. Dyer keeps busy at Fort Bliss in Texas. The mother of three from Forest City says her military career began at Lock haven University and was totally unplanned.

"I’m not sure what happened, but next thing I know, I woke up, I’m in the army and I really like it. It’s challenging and it’s tough, and it changes all the time,” said Major Dyer.

After a tour of duty in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, and being stationed all around the world, her mother says Sonja's worked long and hard to defend her country.

"She has been shot at, had friends that were killed in the military and she’s still going,” said Carol Hale, Maj. Dyer’s mother.

Maj. Dyer's last promotion broke through barriers for females in the military. She's now the first female combat brigade operations officer for Fourth Brigade on Fort Bliss, commonly known in the army as an S-3.

"I basically run all of the operations for the brigade, which includes all of the training. It’s basically the synchronization and organization of the entire brigade," said Major Dyer.

Now she takes care of about 2,900 soldiers, coordinating, training, artillery and land just to name a few. Something that's not surprising to some of the women who knew Sonja at a young age.

"She always showed a lot of leadership, determination. She always wanted to know more and do more than even what was asked of her,” said Joan Scarbez, her high school volleyball coach.

Maj. Dyer has gone a long way since her days at Forest City High School, but she says some of the people she met here and the lessons she learned are the most important.

"Everything, you know, whether it was staying strong, whether it was leadership through my coaches, perseverance," said Major Dyer.

Friends and family say Sonja has made them proud, and her accomplishments are hard to describe.

"I would say ‘remarkable.’," said former Cheerleading Coach Mary Alice Reamus.

Although her promotion is not the result of the military's recent women in combat decision, she agrees women have a major role to play.

"A lot of women have done some great things in the world and it’s a no brainer that it should bleed over into the Army."

And to her family.

"She’s still my little girl, always will be," said Hale.

Maj. Dyer says although she has enjoyed the travels her military life has taken her on, she still misses northeastern Pennsylvania, particularly Elk Mountain where she used to work, and all of her family and friends.