Women Break the Last Barrier on the Battlefield

In honor of Women’s History Month, On Your Guard takes a look back at women’s roles in protecting and defending their country, and how they will change in 2016.

As far back as the Revolutionary War, women have served alongside the American military working on the battlefield as nurses, cooks, water bearers, and laundresses. Some women went so far as to disguise themselves as men so they could serve as Soldiers in the Civil War. And as early as the Spanish-American War in 1898, female nurses served Army hospitals in and outside the country as far away as The Philippines and Guam.

By the 1940s, as World War II raged, more than 400,000 American women were serving their country in nearly every non-combat job. Fifty years later, women were serving on combat ships and flying fighter jets, but continued to face barriers that kept them out of the running to serve in direct ground combat roles – that is, until this year.

Department of Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently announced that after experimenting with and studying the matter for the last three years, all jobs in every branch of the military would be open to women who meet the qualifications for these positions beginning this year.

The announcement is undoubtedly welcomed by SSG Sonia Buchanan, whom On Your Guard interviewed last year. SSG Buchanan, the first woman to serve in her regiment in the Wisconsin Army National Guard, was looking forward to pursuing 19D Cavalry Scout as her newest military occupational specialty (MOS) as soon as it opened to women. This MOS is referred to as the eyes and ears of the Army, responsible for reconnaissance work on the battlefield.

2LT Tracci Dorgan-Bandy, whom On Your Guard spoke with last week, is the first female artillery officer in the South Carolina National Guard. Advising women who want to pursue combat positions to be fully aware of the physical and mental requirements of the job, she echoed some of the statements made by Secretary Carter, who said “… for a variety of reasons, equal opportunity likely will not mean equal participation by men and women in all specialties. There must be no quotas or perception thereof. 

As SSG Buchanan predicted last year, men and women will be given equal consideration when it comes to jobs, but not everyone is suited for a combat role.

“For the females who are physically strong and mentally capable, I would encourage anybody anytime to go for it and keep pushing the boundaries,” she says. “It’s only because women in the past have kept pushing and pushing for integration that now it is happening.”

For more on how women have been immersing themselves into combat-oriented jobs over the last few years, see this video from the Department of Defense. 

Some of the National Guard MOSs that will be open to women this year for the first time include those in infantry, ground defense, and Special Forces. Explore these careers and more on our job board, and contact a recruiter today. As of 2016, the opportunities are truly limitless.

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