JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
In 1869, a group called the National Woman Suffrage Association, founded by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, began to fight for a universal-suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution. While early attempts were unsuccessful, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920, providing women the right to vote.
Since then, women have continued to press forward to ensure the march for equality continues. This includes contributions from women who have served and continue to serve in uniform.
During World War I, approximately 35,000 women officially served as nurses and support staff. Throughout World War II, approximately 140,000 women served in the U.S. Army and the Women's Army Corps, performing critical jobs such as military intelligence, cryptography, and parachute rigging. President Harry Truman subsequently signed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act into law June 12, 1948.
For females serving in the U.S. Army logistical maritime environment, this provides many opportunities for women to serve in any role or rank.
U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Sarah Stone, U.S. Army Transportation Corps, Maritime and Intermodal Training Department, primary instructor, has risen to be one of only four women who have recently served as a vessel master of a Landing Craft Utility vessel.
“Originally, I thought I was only going to come in and do four years, get some college and go onto the next thing,” said Stone. She expressed that over time, she began to love the job and grew in many ways, evolving to where she is now.
Though each branch of service has made strides over time to ensure equality, Stone attributes her success to her motivation, and the equity the Army has provided.
“The fact that we have a limited number of females in the warrant officer position isn’t due to anything negative,” said Stone. “I’ve had nothing but help from my male counterparts and my mentors.”
In 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that U.S. Armed Forces would lift a ban on women serving in combat. “It’s clear to all of us that women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission of defending the nation,” he said. In 2015, the historic change opened up thousands of jobs for women in the military and ensured that as long as female service members met requirements and completed training, they could now serve in almost any role in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Since 2012, 100 women have graduated from Army Ranger School, proving their capabilities in even the most rigorous and challenging of assignments.
“I think it takes very strong women, who are amazing and very powerful,” said Pvt. Amy Martinez, 329th Composite Watercraft Company, 10th Battalion, culinary specialist. “A lot of them have families, so to be a woman and leave your kids behind, deploy, and not see them for months, requires a lot of courage.”
More than 9,000 Combat Action Badges have been earned by women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. Women currently make up 16% of our nation’s Armed Forces, and the career fields continue to open both in rank and positions.
“Every day I am seeing more women in higher roles,” said U.S. Army Pfc. Brittany Arnold, 329th Composite Watercraft Company, 10th Battalion, culinary specialist. “I’m seeing generals who are women, I’m seeing captains and platoon sergeants who are women, and so knowing that at one point in time they weren’t able to do so, makes me appreciate the changes made and work harder because you know it’s attainable.”
Arnold also added that regardless of someone’s background, situation, or geographical upbringing, people can achieve almost anything they dedicate themselves to.
“There are so many opportunities in this family of brothers and sisters-in-arms,” she said. “For younger women especially knowing this is something they can be a part of and contribute to, and understand how it could benefit them.”
From the 19th Amendment, Women's Armed Services Integration Act, to lifting the ban of women serving in combat, women continue to reach into fields and positions that were traditionally filled by men.
The U.S. Air Force has seen its first woman serve as the senior enlisted leader for the service, a woman now serves as the first to command a U.S. Navy air craft carrier, and women continue to earn places in special operations. Women have provided much to each service, and continue to show measurable contributions where environments provide equality.