VILSECK, Germany – In recognition of Women's History Month, the U.S. Army seeks to honor the sacrifices and celebrate the stories of its female service members.
Recently returning from their deployment in Poland in support of enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group-Poland, U.S. Army Sgt. Martha Esther Ruiz and Spc. Doreen Seyram Parku, assigned to the 2d Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment, shared their thoughts and experiences in Vilseck, Germany, March 23, 2021.
Born in Puerto Rico, Ruiz is a unit information technology specialist with the 2d Squadron's Headquarters Troop, and Parku, hailing from Ghana, is a combat medic with the U.S. Army Health Clinic Vilseck.
Both Ruiz and Parku offered insight on what drew them to the Army.
Parku, in her home country, is recognized as a nurse and a practicing midwife.
“My aunt, herself a nurse, asked me, ‘why, why would you do this with all of your credentials,’ but I was eager for a challenge,” said Parku. “This is a whole new experience; it's nothing like the civilian world!'”
She strongly credits her uncle, an Army veteran of over twenty years, with opening her mind to the idea, initially.
“In 2016, I worked in a Washington D.C. lobbying firm with a former congressman,” said Ruiz on how her journey began with the Army. “I worked in that world, and saw policy, negotiations, and debates over military affairs from a governing perspective. I wanted something different. I was 32 years old, and I wanted to see it for myself. I knew I had to step up before I hit the enlistment cutoff for age.”
After enlisting, both Ruiz and Parku expressed some short-lived regrets upon entering the Army’s training and doctrine command.
“At first, I'll admit it, it was a chug,” said Ruiz on her initial impressions as a 32-year-old woman passing through initial entry training. “You train with a lot of teenagers. It can test your patience, and you have to accept that you're now from a different generation.”
She continued, “Later on, I learned to not regret it at all. This position has offered me the chance to be a mentor. And now, to be an [noncommissioned officer] means that I should not just be a leader, but a mentor. Acquiring all of these IT skills, it's great, but the mentorship part is what motivates me more than anything.”
“What I've found is what can happen when you have good leadership that cares about you,” said Parku. “The Army has a lot of opportunities; it all depends on how you grab them. Good leadership can help you find that.”
Parku elaborated more on her position.
“Now, I love my job, and I love the Army. Being a medic is very different from being a midwife,” said Parku. “There is more adrenaline and the thought of what you're expected to do on deployment. It's a different kind of pressure than delivering children. What TRADOC brought out of me is this idea that I must train to become capable of dragging a man twice my size when down-range. It may be up to me to save someone's life by getting them to safety. You never got that in my civilian career, no matter how stressful delivering children could be.”
Ruiz and Parku also discussed women who inspired them in their careers. Parku even elaborated on how women were now able to serve in any combat role, and the positive impact this had on her perception of the Army.
“In [Advanced Individual Training], my first sergeant and company commander were both women, and they were amazing,” said Parku. “I also think about Capt. [Kristen] Griest; women are now rangers! And our own Capt. [Melissa] Vargas here in 2/2 [Fox Troop]!”
Ruiz recounted her years in Washington D.C. and on the time she met New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“My politics didn't necessarily align with hers, but I met her at this event for a nonprofit,” said Ruiz. “It was impossible not to notice her. She had recently won her election during a very heated time in D.C. Here was this powerful person, and I saw how humble, how hopeful, and how approachable she was. She had a very positive energy when she spoke with me. That's the type of person I think a leader should be.”
Ruiz and Parku shared similar mindsets in their thoughts on the Army’s integration of women. Both Soldiers believe that having leadership with more diverse backgrounds can only be a good thing.
“I think women are often expected to deal with stress and think critically in different ways [from men],” said Parku who also believes that more women will continue to follow as more women break ground and glass ceilings. “I think by putting women in more positions traditionally held by males, it will bring fresh knowledge, fresh perspective, and fresh zeal. This means that we [the Army] can do this better!”
Ruiz added her final thoughts.
“The United States has changed so much demographically,” said Ruiz. “Even in the last decade, social movements and calls for greater representation have been heard. We need more minorities and more women represented everywhere in government, not just the military.”
Parku concluded with, “ Women in power are powerful.”
For more Women’s History month content, please visit the 2CR Facebook page and website.