We live in a world of continuous progress.
Less than a month ago, Army Staff Sgt. Amanda F. Kelley became the first female enlisted soldier to earn an Army Ranger Tab. While she is the 13th woman to graduate the school, she is the first from the enlisted ranks. She is also unique because she doesn’t have a background in any of the Army’s combat arms military occupational specialties. She was an electronics warfare technician.
Her path was paved by the first two women to graduate the course, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver. My favorite part of reading about these two women is how they proved themselves during their time completing this course. The past two years have shown about a 40 percent graduation rate for men going through the course, so it’s clearly not easy.
According to the article linked above, they proved themselves to their classmates with their actions. During one phase of training a classmate said he had hit a mental wall, and didn’t think he could go on. When he asked for help, the men just looked at him, but Haver took some of his burden, so he was able to continue.
The same thing happened during the same phase of training when a classmate was carrying a heavy automatic weapon known as the SAW. When he asked for help, none of the men offered to help, but Griest eagerly took the weapon from him.
Others said they were impressed when they saw the women finishing ahead of some men during different parts of the training. This goes with what I have always thought. While overall, women are not as strong as men, some women are stronger than some men. Sometimes, we’re even stronger than some strong men. All we’ve needed is a chance to prove it.
It wasn’t until 2013 that these women were even allowed to try. That’s when Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced an end to the exclusion policy set in 1994 that kept women out of ground combat roles. I was elated when I heard the news. It’s not like women weren’t in the line of fire before, but they were being excluded from opportunities that could lead to leadership roles. Yes, I am referring to the roles that put women in a position to make decisions about the future of our forces.
Who knows how much women could have done if the ban had been lifted sooner?
Actually, there were a lot of contributions that women have made up to this point.
During the Revolutionary War, women would act in support roles or as spies, or even disguised as men.
In 1918, Opha May Johnson became the first woman to enlist in the Marine Corps in 1918. While she was the only woman serving in the military during the first World War, many other women joined Johnson on the front, serving as nurses and support staff. More than 400 were killed in action.
World War II saw the start of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), the Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES), and the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. During the war, approximately 400,000 served in noncombat roles such as mechanics, pilots, and ambulance drivers. There were 88 women taken as prisoners of war and 16 were killed in action.
Cmdr. Elizabeth Barrett was the first woman to hold an operational command in a combat zone during Vietnam.
Toward the end of the century and into the 2000’s, women start taking more leadership roles such as commanding warships and flight squadrons. Eventually, we started to see women putting on four-star rank.
I look forward to a day when we look at “first” women as something we talk about in history class, because there are no more firsts to be had. I look forward to the day when my blog is obsolete because military women are just military service members.