By Elliott Fabrizio
Call it the glass camo-netting, or maybe the glass overhead for the Navy—Whichever you go with, women in the military are shattering it and all gender-related restrictions are crumbling away in today’s armed services.
Women have served alongside men in the military since the revolutionary war, but at first they were limited to non-combat, un-uniformed support roles. But women just couldn’t be kept out of the fight.
In 1779, Margaret Corbin manned a cannon during the Revolutionary War in place of her fallen husband until she, too, was wounded. For her valor, Congress bent the rules and granted her a military pension in 1779 (141 years before she could vote). The courage women displayed in combat defied the stereotypes of the times.
Through heroic acts like this, military women marched their way to gender equality one battlefield at a time.
Now, if you pay attention, you’ll notice military women are wrapping up the final loose ends. March is Women’s History Month and, in honor, The Pentagon Channel blog presents the top 4 modern-day, historic landmarks for military women.
1. Pentagon rescinds ban on women in combat units
“We’re already in combat,” says Catherine Ross of Fort Carson. In her editorial on army.mil, Ross explains that policy does not prevent women from being in combat when they are forward-deployed despite whether their unit is combat or not.
The Pentagon was not blind to this fact. Former defense secretary Robert Gates began the process of examining this disparity.
In a Q&A session with troops Gates said “I had some women complain to me in Afghanistan…that because they’re not in a combat [military occupational specialty], they haven’t had combat training, but they’re on combat patrol.”
Former defense secretary Leon Panetta made it official on Jan. 24, 2013. He announced the elimination of the direct ground combat exclusion rule for female service members.
“I fundamentally believe that our military is more effective when success is based solely on ability, qualifications and on performance,” Panetta added.
2. DoD designs body armor specifically for female Soldiers
Now that women are officially in combat, it’s time to get them some body armor that fits.
Classed among TIME magazine’s best inventions of for the year 2012, female body armor is strong enough for a man, but made for a woman. Sorry… that’s a deodorant slogan. How about this? Strong enough to save your life in combat, but made to fit securely and comfortably.
Lynne Hennessey, as cited in army.mil, says she has received nothing but positive feedback from women testing the new body armor.
“We actually took a picture of one Soldier hugging her vest, like she was immediately in love with it,” Hennessey added.
3. Women Sailors excel aboard subs
On December 5, 2012, three female officers became the first women to receive Dolphins—the nickname for the submarine warfare insignia.
The ban on women in submarines was lifted in 2010. And you can imagine the first women to go through the program were being watched carefully by all levels of brass and civilian media.
The professionalism and commitment that these female submariners demonstrate by earning their qualifications prove they’ve always had the ability to serve in these roles. It’s the policies that are catching up with them.
“Qualifying is a huge accomplishment for any submariner, and it feels no different for me, said Noonan.
4. First female four-star Army general retires
After 38 years in uniform, Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody retired on August 15, 2012.
Her retirement represents the realization of a significant milestone for women in the military, and is proof positive of the equal opportunity now available in today’s military.
Gen. Ray Odierno, Army Chief of Staff, said the following during her retirement, regarding her professional achievement and rank: “It wasn’t because you were a woman. It was because you were brilliant.”
For women in the military, barriers, restriction and limitations are falling away quickly and it’s the perfect time to etch your name in military history.
It’s only a matter time before we find out who will be the first female Submarine Captain, the first female in our current conflicts to be awarded the Medal of Honor, or the first female secretary of defense.