April 28, 2006

Today’s military women owe success to predecessors

Chief Warrant Officer Katrina Bolls, U. S. Army Air Ambulance Detachment, attributes her opportunities in the military to her female predecessors who refused to give up on the fight for women’s equality.

-- Published in Fort Polk Guardian (April 28, 2006) --
By: MICHELLE LINDSEY, Guardian staff writer

Gandhi once said, “There is no occasion for women to consider themselves subordinate or inferior to men.”
Women in early U. S. military history held fast to the belief that they were as capable as men when it came to defending their country. It has been a long journey, paved with the dedication and determination of women who refused to take a subordinate role.
“The women in history had to stand firm and prove that women can do the so-called ‘men's jobs’ and just as well,” said Chief Warrant Officer Katrina Bolls, U. S. Army Air Ambulance Detachment. Bolls is a command and maintenance test pilot who is proud to be part of the military.
“I am in a field where there are few women. But, prior female pilots have made it easier for me to come in and do this job, with very little struggle,” Bolls said.
Maj. Tanya Peacock, Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital, agreed. “I believe that I would not be where I am today if it were not for the women who came before me. In particular, the Army Medical Department has been at the forefront of providing leadership opportunities for women.”
“Women can now step outside of traditional roles and fight and drive vehicles,” said Lt. Col. Lisa Ingulli, 115th Combat Support Hospital, Warrior Brigade.
Peacock said the Army offered her a way to achieve personal and career goals.
“I joined the military to have an exciting and meaningful career where I could serve my country while maximizing opportunities for advancement, diverse assignments, travel and physical fitness,” she said.
“The Army has provided me with a variety of opportunities. I have been fortunate to follow a nonstandard career path. This has allowed me to broaden my experiences through exposure to different aspects of the Army Medical Department.”
Women began officially serving in the U. S. military with the establishment of the Army Nurse Corps in 1901, although many disguised themselves as men to serve prior to 1901.
Bolls, Peacock and Ingulli agreed that it was the sacrifice of these pioneers that helped them achieve their success.
“I believe that I would not be where I am today if it were not for the women who came before me,” said Peacock.
“I don’t think I would be sitting here today in the active role of improving patient care if the women before me had (been satisfied) with a subservient role in the military,” said Ingulli.
“I really owe a lot to the women of the Air Corps back in World War II who flew the new airplanes, and also the women who worked in the factories and built them. They always knew that they could do the job and took advantage of the opportunity to prove it when they could. They opened up those jobs to women from then on,” Bolls added.
Even today, women in the military may find themselves in uncharted territory as they continue their careers.
Peacock will take command of the U. S. Army Air Ambulance Detachment May 12.
“I will be the first female commander of the unit. In fact I am the only female slated to take MEDEVAC company command between 2005 and 2007,” she said. “I was extremely surprised to learn that there have not been many female MEDEVAC company commanders. According to the Dustoff Association staff, there have only been six or seven other female MEDEVAC company commanders in the Army.”
The women’s journey through the military is not just part of women’s history, but America’s.
“The women who have influenced us in the military's history have also influenced America's history, so they are very important,” said Bolls.
“It is important to recognize the role of women in history because other women may have to face similar challenges (in the future),” said Peacock.
”We should acknowledge the achievements of our female predecessors. Mentorship is important and we should encourage other young women who are passionate about following their dreams, regardless of how difficult it may be.”
Ingulli agreed. “It is important for us to remember how women struggled to break through (the barriers) and see that the fight has made us stronger.”
Although great strides have been made in the fight for women’s equality in the military, these three Soldiers acknowledge that it is not over.
“I don't think the goal of equality has been met 100 percent, but I think that it has improved much in the past 30 years,” said Bolls.
“I believe that women past and present have made great strides in the military,” Peacock added. “These women are positive role models for women and we should be grateful for their service. To continue to build upon these achievements, women should not focus upon gender differences but continue to uphold the standard.  The greatest compliment I could receive would be for someone to state that I was their best company commander, not their best female company commander.”
Legal and regulatory changes in the military have eliminated many of the gender-based restrictions placed on women in military jobs and positions.
However, occupations and positions that involve direct offensive ground combat remain closed to women.
Currently there are more than 70,000 women –– 15 percent active-duty personnel –– serving in the U. S. Army.
“We owe (our predecessors) so much. They have made life for women such as myself so much easier that we don't have to push the boundaries so much. We just have to uphold the standards,” said Bolls.
“Upholding the standards is an important task, which I hope the women in our nation's military do not take for granted.”

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