FORT MEADE, Md. -- Before 1st Lt. Hanna Rozzi climbed into an M1 Abrams tank as one of the first female armor officers in the Army, the soccer field dominated her life.
She had competed in the sport from an early age while growing up in Redlands, California. She never imagined herself in an Army uniform until she visited the U.S. Military Academy’s West Point campus and marveled at the institution’s dedication to service.
After graduation from West Point in 2016 and four years competing for the Army women's soccer team, Rozzi saw that the Army was changing and granting more opportunities to women following the opening of combat career fields to women in December 2015.
She had set her sights on applying to a combat career field. But an ankle surgery sidelined her after graduation, limiting her in any strenuous physical activity.
She later received an assignment as an armor officer and served as a platoon leader for the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas.
It didn’t take Rozzi long to acclimate to her tank crew, whom Rozzi said welcomed her to the squad.
“I had a really good platoon sergeant,” Rozzi said. “He was a huge fan of having me (in the platoon).”
Still, Rozzi felt the pressure of being a pioneer for female Soldiers. When she commissioned into the Army in 2016, she became one of only 23 female armor officers at the time. That number has since climbed to 137 as of October 2019.
“There aren’t a lot of women in my field,” Rozzi said. “So trying to be a good example for the Soldiers … I think that’s something that’s usually in the back of my mind. Everything that I do is going to directly change how people view women doing my job in the future.”
While women have made significant strides in Army combat arms in recent years, the number of women in those jobs still lags significantly behind males, though growing.
Enlisted female infantry troops increased from just two in fiscal year 2016 to 365 in 2019. Enlisted women in armor rose from 147 during the first year the career field opened to females and steadily climbed to 333 in 2019. Female infantry officers went from 18 in 2016 to 76 in fiscal 2019.
Maj. Melissa Comiskey, chief of command policy for the Army’s G-1 office, said that multiple factors have contributed to the full integration of women into combat career fields. More mentorship opportunities have become available for women interested in applying, she said.
The Army’s marketing strategy also aims at attracting Soldiers from diverse backgrounds regardless of gender, race or ethnicity.
Overall the Army has gone from just 2% females in the service in the early 1970s, to its current peak of 15 percent. Last month, officials confirmed that female Soldiers were currently enrolled in the Green Beret’s qualification course.
“It’s a steady progress,” Comiskey said. “It doesn’t happen overnight and takes time to grow leaders. These are junior Soldiers and lieutenants that are coming into the career fields and as their experience grows, they will become leaders and begin to influence additional women down the road.”
As of October, 38 women had graduated from the Army’s Ranger School and 25 of those currently serve in combat arms specialties.
Rozzi deployed to Germany last year in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, an annual readiness exercise with partner European nations that builds interoperability. She recently served as the military aide to Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, a deputy commanding general of III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas.
Rozzi also competed with the U.S. Armed Forces Women’s Soccer team at the World Military Games in Wuhan, China, in October.
After serving as an aide, Rozzi will return to the field as a company commander. The game of soccer will remain a part of her, and the center midfielder said she will attempt to try out for the team again to compete in the next World Military Games games. But her primary focus will remain on her Army career in combat arms.
“I’m trying to be a good example as a woman in my field,” Rozzi said.