November 10, 2015, by Michelle – In the United States, women have long been part of war. In fact, as early as the Revolutionary War, women were accepted into the military. However, their roles would be auxiliary and they were required to be in disguise as they work alongside their male counterparts.
But as weaponries and techniques of warfare evolved in the late 20th century, the Pentagon started to acknowledge the capacities of women on the battlefield. At present, more than 15% of the US military is comprised of women, with over 165,000 women enlisted and active in the armed services and more than 35,000 women serving as officers.
Permanent Assignment of Women to Battalions
It was in February of 2012 when the Pentagon announced that women would be given permanent assignment to battalions and given critical roles such as radio operators, tank mechanics, and medics. Service Women’s Action Network director Anu Bhagwati asserted that, “It’s time military leadership establish the same level playing field to qualified women to enter the infantry, special forces, and other all-male units.” Prior to this announcement, however, many women solders have been performing those roles in temporary status in Iraq and Afghanistan due to demand.
First Woman to Achieve a Four-Star Officer Rank in US Military
General Ann Dunwoody served as the commanding general of one of the Army’s largest commands – the US Army Materiel Command. She is the first woman in US military history to achieve a four-star officer rank. US Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno regarded her as “quite simply the best logistician the Army has ever had.” She led several divisions both at home and abroad, commanding at every level.
First Women Graduates from the Army Ranger School
2015 witnessed the first two women who graduated from the Army Ranger School – Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver. They graduated during the first year that the Army Ranger School opened this particular course to women, along 94 other students in August, proving that “every Soldier, regardless of gender, can achieve his or her full potential,” as Secretary of the Army John McHugh said in a statement.
First Female Soldier to Receive the Silver Star
Back track ten years and you have Leigh Ann Hester, the first female soldier to be awarded the Silver Star for exceptional valor in close quarters combat in 2005. Hester served in Iraq, where she used hand grenades and an M203 grenade launcher while leading her team in a 25-minute firefight to cut off the enemy. A few years later, Monica Lin Brown also received the Silver Star in 2008, for having protected wounded soldiers and bravely running through gunfire to save their lives after a roadside bomb was detonated in Afghanistan.
Over the years, women in the army evolved from supporting men in battles to actively serving and leading alongside them.