Most of my blog posts on here have been, and will continue to be, about women veterans. However, this post is going to be the exception. I’ll explain why as quickly as possible. Basically, I started the blog as part of my multimedia storytelling class. Our final group project put us together based on our blog topics. We had to do a story related to our topic, but of interest to the Hood College community.
So, I wrote a story about the women of ROTC at Hood College. It ended up being a story about the program overall, but most of my interviews were with the women, and one of the quotes from the men was about the great things he saw in one of his female counterparts.
What I learned is that I have a lot of hope for the future of the military. Interviewing all of these great future soldiers gave me an idealized version of what they will bring to the Army. That will be the topic for this post.
First of all, HoodCollege started as a woman’s college in 1893. In 1971, men were allowed to attend the college, but did not live on campus. Finally, in fall 2003, the college became fully coeducational. According to U.S. News and World Report, 62 percent of the student population is women.
One of the great things about the ROTC, or Reserve Officer Training Corps, is that students get a chance to balance military experience with typical college life.
“I think for ROTC, what it does is it gives the best of both worlds,” Army Capt. Adam Ehlert, the ROTC assistant professor of military science at Hood, said. “So, the cadets that go through ROTC get a chance to grow as adults in a contemporary learning environment while still going through military training. So, they grow. They learn about themselves in addition to learning about the military. It gives that balance between the two.”
The students have their own majors, but because their ROTC classes are military science, they are labeled with MS followed by their year in school, as each year of students is in a different part of training. While they have separate classes, they also do activities together.
Cadet Victoria Arnold, an MS 1, talked about the early wake-ups that start the military portion of their days at least four times per week where they wear uniforms, maintain regulation standards, and use military bearing. After that, she said they switch back to being a civilian, blending in with their classmates.
“It’s that mental switch,”Arnold said. “I have to be very careful with the using ‘sir’ correctly. People kind of look at me like, ‘What?’ They appreciate it, but they’re still kind of like, ‘What is she doing?’ because it’s not common anymore.”
By going to a college with an ROTC program, rather than a military academy, students have a wide array of majors they can choose. Arnold chose to major in biology and hopes to be a veterinarian when she gets commissioned in the Army. That opportunity is why she chose the Army over the other services. However, she is keeping an open mind.
“Even if I can’t branch vet, they have so many other jobs I can choose from which I would enjoy immensely,” Arnold said.
Cadet Laura Vetter is in her second year at Hood, which officially makes her an MS 2. However, the nursing program puts her in a unique position. One of her fellow cadets, an MS 3, Michael Cheripka, talked about Vetter while explaining a field training exercise
“Cadet Vetter was the platoon leader for one of or missions,” Cheripka said. “She’s in kind of a weird position because of her nursing. We call her MS 2.5 because she is a sophomore, but she’s doing all the junior stuff due to her nursing program. She’ll be going to advance camp next year. So, she was thrown into that position, even though she’s got a year behind us, but even the cadre were helping her out. People were helping her out because we all want to succeed. We’re all trying to become better leaders in the program.”
One of the things I noticed while talking to the students is that neither the women nor the men associated gender with ability to perform the job. That is one of the things that made me excited for the Army.
Fortunately, most of the students hadn’t heard anything negative about women in the Army. They will be going into the service with the idea that there is no reason women shouldn’t have the exact same opportunities as their counterparts.
Vetter said she was never treated differently for being a woman, just for her major.
“I only feel different here due to the fact that I’m a nurse major,” Vetter said. “I’m the first and only nurse major in the ROTC program in our entire battalion.”
Cadet Deaja Colden, an MS3, said she appreciates the opportunities she, and other women, have had during her time in the program.
“Here in ROTC, it’s pretty good,” Colden said. “We have a Ranger challenge in our ROTC program.They actually encourage females to join the team, and they don’t look at us as the weakest link or anything like that. Sometimes, we’re actually better than the boys. I think the inequality issue is getting better.”
Ehlert said that during his 11 years of service, he has already seen a lot of changes to the service,which means that as these cadets become commissioned officers, they will be seeing a more level playing ground. Even physical fitness measurements are changing.
“We’re transitioning to the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), which will create a singular standard for both men and women to complete,” said Ehlert. “Instead of being tiered based on gender and age, it will instead be tiered on the position they’re required to hold and the requirements associated with that.”
I saw a lot of changes for women in the military during my time. As a matter of fact, women had only been approved to be serving on combat ships for two years when I joined the Navy. By the time I retired, the combat exclusion policy had been lifted. Now, the services continue to change, I think, for the better.
Check back, or follow my blog to get notified of updates, for my next post where I get back to talking about veterans, where I will be discussing the G.I. bill.