FORT HOOD, Texas— Our nation observes Women’s Equality Day each year on August 26, commemorating the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees women the right to vote. The 3d Cavalry Regiment joins the Army in recognizing not only the significance of women’s contributions, but also the value of diversity and inclusivity throughout the regiment.
Although all Army combat role military occupational specialties are open to both men and women, fewer than three percent of the women in 3d CR fill combat roles, further proving there is still much work to be done by way of inclusivity.
Pfc. Jennifer Cortez, a 19-year old infantryman from Colton, California, is one Trooper carrying the torch for women in combat military occupational specialties, serving as a beacon for more women to follow in her footsteps. According to a 2020 Department of Defense demographics profile, 15.5% of all Soldiers are women, and just 16.6% are Latino.
Cortez, assigned to Killer Troop, 3d Squadron fits both of these small demographics and is one of the only 20 female infantrymen currently serving in the regiment.
“I’m just asking for my Troopers to be better than they were yesterday,” said Staff Sgt. De’Andre Thomas, Killer Troop platoon sergeant. “Cortez has been a great member of the team. She brings backbone to the fight. Most people think she’s at a disadvantage because she’s a woman, but she’s able to run the distance, ruck the distance, and accomplish the objective even at two eschelons higher than her current position,” citing an anecdote from the National Training Center when Cortez was tasked with gathering information, building and sending multiple reports to platoon leadership.
Cortez says her older sister Cindy helped mold her into the woman she is now. Cortez’s father passed when she was one, and her mother had to take on more jobs to take care of the family. Cindy – 10 years older – made caring for her younger sister was her priority, often assuming role of their mother who was often absent from home working to support her family.
“I’ve come a long way because of her. My sister was always the one to keep me going,” Cortez said. “She didn’t live the life that she needed to live because she was always taking care of me. I owe it to her to not disappoint her.”
Cindy’s support, sacrifice and care has helped Cortez focus on honing her skills, developing as a successful person, striving to reach her fullest potential. Cortez’s other family also serves as continued motivation along her Army journey. She sees the opportunity to be the example for her two younger siblings.
“I want to be a role model for my younger family members so they feel like they can be two steps ahead of where I’ll ever be, and hope that I can pave the way for young women to feel strong and confident, empowered and believe in themselves to succeed,” Cortez said.
Cortez is pursuing education to become an obstetrician-gynecologist, but intends to fulfill her journey as an Army infantryman through to retirement. She plans on making sure that her actions continue showing what she and other women in combat arms are capable of achieving.
“It’s all mental, so if you feel like you can do it, just do it. Don’t let other people’s opinion of you matter to what you’re trying to do.”