Women have always had a place in the military. The women in the military in 1943 belonged to an auxiliary unit called Women’s Army Corps or WAC for short. They didn’t do any of the dangerous or hazardous jobs that men did. The jobs that they did were mostly clerical and nursing, or any of the behind-the-scenes jobs that needed to be done. None of the jobs they performed put them in a position to make high rank, which would have meant more money. This unit was disbanded in 1943.
Then, in 1978, women were integrated into the main body of the services. Women being integrated meant that they had to undergo the same physical and mental testing as men. I was in one of the first classes of this new Army. The group of women that I went through basic training with didn’t hear about this change until we arrived at the base in South Carolina. We were caught completely off guard. There was weapons training, which involved shooting and taking the weapon apart and also night fire, which involved bombs going off and the pretense that you were getting shot at. In addition, there was the physical training of a timed, 2-mile run and ‘no-mercy’ drill sergeants barking orders, which was an everyday occurrence. There was also the issue of the men not really wanting us there, and they made it known in any way that they could. We wanted to be equal, but had no idea what being equal truly meant. The way to pass the testing was to be friendly with the testers, if you couldn’t make it on your own. Women did whatever they had to do, so that they could pass and not be sent home, which was the ultimate failure. The jobs that women got were still clerical, nursing, and anything not on the frontline. The ranks were still below the men, even when the man was doing the same job. The high ranks were reserved for men on the frontline or the decision makers. The women were still not satisfied with their roles.
The Military’s Reasoning for No Women
There are many arguments as to why women should not be put on the frontline. There was the fact that the composition of a woman’s body made her not as strong as a man physically. The men didn’t feel comfortable having to depend on women in life and death situations. It was thought that women would freeze or emotionally breakdown in life or death situations. There was the thought that fraternization would take place, and the military was not prepared for women having babies. The biggest reason was that women were needed for reproduction; if too many got killed, it would stunt the growth of our population.
The military and corporate America had a lot in common in the way that women were treated. Corporate America believed that a woman’s place was in the home and most of the available jobs were clerical in nature. Women were always kept below men and they were never put into any decision making roles. They to had to do whatever was necessary, not only to be employed, but to stay employed. Women were tired of the limited thinking of men when it came to their trying to move ahead in their careers.
With the military, women wanted inclusion, because they were ready to die for their country just like a man. The military provided the best job around, and women wanted to be part of it. Soldiers were provided a free education, job security, and the chance to see places that you only dreamt of.
Times Change for Women
The voices for true equality for women in the military kept getting louder and louder. Women started proving themselves more and more physically and academically. They took their weaknesses and made them into strengths that couldn’t be ignored. They no longer had to be friendly to testers to pass, because now they could pass on their own merit. They now relied on their own intelligence and built up their strength at the gym.
Today, there are women in some of the frontline jobs that were previously closed to them. They proved themselves worthy of inclusion in the military in the Desert Storm and Iraqi campaigns. Michelle J. Howard is an admiral, and the highest ranking female, in the Navy. Ann Elizabeth Dunworth was the first female to be awarded four-star in the Army. These are just a couple of the leaders who helped women march to total equality in the military. They aren’t finished, but they’ve come a long way since 1943.