Women's History Month; Expanding roles of women in the military
By Staff Sgt. Dwayne K. Holliday, Equal Opportunity NCO, U.S. Army Operational Test CommandMarch 1, 2017
Women continue making great contributions to today's ever-evolving military by dedicating their lives through personal service and sacrifice.As early as 1775 during the Revolutionary War and until present day, the once male-dominated armed forces is becoming more of an equal playing field.Command Sgt. Maj. Yzette L. Nelson became the Army's first female command sergeant major when she was promoted on March 30, 1968, after president Lyndon Johnson signed Public Law 90-30 Nov. 8, 1967, removing restrictions on women achieving advanced military rank.A Shevlin, Minnesota native, Nelson retired in 1970 after serving 26 years beginning in the Women's Army Corps as a clerk typist in 1944. Since her time, advancement of women in the Army picked up at an astounding rate.Equal opportunity for Soldiers in the Army has been a steady structure for the military way of life, but consistency was sometimes lacking among the women who strived to serve in combat units.During the last several years, women have begun serving in nearly all combat and non-combat military operational specialty positions.It seems like only a few years ago when male Soldiers on the battlefield had to rely exclusively on their male battle buddies when it came to Army training and real world missions that involved engaging deadly enemy forces. That's almost an ancient concept now that women are taking and preparing for more combat-related roles.Former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said, "Integration provides equal opportunity for men and women who can perform the tasks required; it does not guarantee women will be promoted at any specific number or at any set rate, as adherence to a merit-based system must be paramount."On March 10, 2016, the Department of Defense gave the final approval to integrate women across all military jobs.Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver (now a captain) were the first women to earn the elite Army Ranger tab after completing the rigorous training course that began with 400 students, including 19 women. The course is so grueling, that just 94 male Soldiers graduated at Fort Benning, Georgia along with the two females.Griest is the Army's first female Infantry officer and is from Orange Connecticut, while Haver is a native of Copperas Cove, Texas. Both were featured in Fortune Magazine's list of "World's Greatest Leaders."The Associated Press reported, "Their success casts new attention on the obstacles that remain to women who aspire to join all-male combat units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment. Although Haver and Griest are now Ranger-qualified, no women are eligible for the elite regiment, although officials say it is among special operations units likely to eventually be open to women."Also, former President Barack Obama nominated Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson to become the first female combatant commander to lead the U.S. Northern Command on May 16, 2016. Robinson's responsibilities are to head homeland defense efforts for the Pentagon and coordinate defense support of civil authorities, as well as the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which conducts aerospace warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning in defense of North America.The Army has and will always adapt to the changes of the world in order to maintain its military readiness at the drop of a dime.Women have been a part of that change since the Army existed. Now, the Army has gotten stronger and more versatile with integration of women into combat units, and this is just the beginning.