Women's History Month

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Barbara Thomas
  • 1st Reconnaissance Squadron

“When I was in Vietnam in 1967, I was not weapons qualified. In fact, we were not permitted to carry weapons. I was up along the Cambodian border once with a field artillery battalion. The only thing I could do was run around carrying a purse--I called it my “M-16 purse.” I was wearing a baseball cap, no helmet, no flak jacket, no weapons, nothing. I was a liability to that unit. Women in the Army don't want to be liabilities. They want to be assets, partners in defense with their male counterparts.” 

                                                                                                                                                        - U.S. Army Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Evelyn Foote

For almost 70 years, the career path I have chosen has been available to women. It’s unbelievable to me to think that at one point this wasn’t an option for women.

Being a woman has always come with its challenges. However, being a woman with ambition comes with challenges and a side of discrimination. Prior to World War II, female presence in the military was relatively small. Women would hide their gender to be a part of the war effort, or otherwise contribute in traditional female roles.

World War II changed everything. During World War II, gender role perceptions were challenged as the nation depended on women to fill non-traditional positions so able bodied men could be sent to war. It was during this time in 1942 that the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) was formed and later granted active-duty status and renamed to Women’s Army Corps (WAC) in 1943. However, when the war ended most women were demobilized.

Five years later, President Harry Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act in 1948 giving women permanent military status. Thus, our reign officially began. Permanent military status of women did not change strong distasteful opinions overnight. Perceptions of ability have been changed over decades of women overcoming that discrimination and proving they are a valued asset to war power.

In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson furthered women’s advancement in the military by signing a law eliminating the 2 percent cap on the number of women serving and the highest pay grade achievable. Countless women have fought discrimination and won.

In the military today, we are equal in status to our male counterparts. We make up a smaller percentage of the entire force, but we are valued members of the Department of Defense. Not because of our gender, because we excel as warfighters. Less is not expected of me, or any military woman, and we would never allow less to be expected.