The population of women joining the military is on the rise.
Women have been serving since the Revolutionary War, but their involvement is steadily increasing. They make up roughly 16 percent of each branch in the US Military. The Marine Corps, on average, has the least number of females serving.
The following are real-life stories that were submitted to me by women in the military.
Women in the Army
I am a Chaplain Assistant. Most would think that with my job, I don’t do much but if you put yourself out there and you actually do your job instead of just showing up then you are used EVERYWHERE. I was helping running ranges, I was a PSG, I was a mail room NCO, on the color guard, honor guard, facility manager (not just for the chapel), coordinated duty rosters, briefed suicide prevention, taught strong bonds, coordinated org days, spur rides like the whole shebang all while still providing emotional, spiritual, and religious support to my unit and their families. All of those positions weren’t specific to 1 unit, but spread throughout a couple different ones. I was in a total of 5 units for the 6 years I was in.
By most of my leadership, peers, and subordinates, I was treated fabulously due to the hard work I put into everyone and the units and my genuine care and passion for what I do and the Army. Of course I am going to have a few people I don’t get along with, but it wasn’t a character issue. I just didn’t like their leadership style and vis versa. My career started off super strong but I invested a lot of my time for it to be that way. Everyone saw it and encouraged me to push and do greater things.
At first it was okay for my children, but then I started staying later and later and doing more and more in the units and gave the Army 90 while I have my family 10. It was a personal struggle for me to try and scale back because I am very much a doer and I like to have my hands in everything I can. Whenever I requested time off or requested to attend functions for my children my commands were always supportive due to the fact that they could count on me whenever they needed it.
I decided to give up my career for my children. Many many people were shocked when I started talking about getting out and many tried to convince me to stay in. “The good ones always leave.” “We need Soldiers like you.” And stuff like that. When I told my children I was getting out, they were over joyed. They started counting down the months and weeks and then days when it got closer.
-AD Army experience –
Being a female in a combat arms branch…. so I am the only woman in a battery of about 150 men. I can definitely say that it annoys them because once there is a woman, they have to actually walk around clothed and can’t just pee any old where. While I absolutely love the sharp program that the Army has to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault, sometimes it has the opposite effect. We like to refer to this as the sharp effect. It’s when the guys just stereotype women as reporting anything and everything. So then they just don’t talk to the women at all. It definitely breaks documentation and makes it difficult to develop soldiers on a personal level.
Sometimes, and this is to be very frank, and I experience this outside of work as well. The best way to get a man to treat you as an equal, or even to show you the respect you deserve, you have to let him think that if he wanted to, he could sleep with you. I know that sounds crazy but I promise there are others who agree. It’s not that they would make a move, or that you would let them… You kind of have to make them think that the ball is in their court if that makes sense. I know that is super forward and weird.
-AD Army experience-
I had a really good experience when I was first pregnant. My chain of command was amazing and supportive. For the most part, I’ve been treated equally with my male coworkers if not better. Aside from a few supervisors, they’ve always appreciated and recognized how much work I put in for my division and my qualifications.
I feel like being a mom is probably the hardest part of being a women in the military though. My chain of command expects me to put in more volunteer hours or command involvement without acknowledging the fact child care is hard being dual, but my husband’s chain of command is completely understanding with him. I run my division with another male and if something is wrong I always get in trouble before him even though I’m learning how to take over, and I help my division out with our events a lot more than he does. My Chief makes excuses for him, but will yell at me for things he’s in charge of and I’m just supposed to assist with.
Women in the Coast Guard
Women in the Air Force
Overall, my experience in the military was enjoyable. I did have one captain who went out of his way to be sexist towards me after I denied his sexual advances, but when I got away from him life got much better. The military worked with me for a job reassignment while I was pregnant, and I ended up truly loving where I went. Sometimes I wonder where I would be today if I would have stayed in.
-AD Air Force experience-
Overall I’ve had a pretty positive experience as a woman in the military. At my first duty station I had to deal with a lot of misogynistic leadership for maybe the first year or so. Luckily, we had a climate survey that got those people out of my chain of command.
Once I got female leadership my experience was much better. I haven’t had to deal with not having certain opportunities due to my gender which I know a lot of women aren’t lucky enough to say. I recently PCS’d* to my second duty station, and when I first got here I expressed what I went through with the negative leadership, and everyone shared their experiences with the same thing. So far I’ve been very lucky with my coworkers. For the most part I’ve had luck with the military as a whole taking care of me. My husband is Active Army and when he got orders, the military was very quick about putting us together and close enough to not have a long commute for either of us. I don’t love my actual job but the military lifestyle has definitely worked for me.
-AD Air Force experience-
Women in the Marines
If you are currently serving, or have served in the US Military as a female service member, then I would love to talk to you!
Share your knowledge, your experience, your fears.
All active duty, reserves, and national guard stories are welcome.
Your service is important, and your experience deserves recognition.
I am always looking for more personal experiences to add to this post as well as my post on Motherhood as a Service Member.
The following are common military acronyms that you may have seen throughout the text.
*AD – Active Duty ie. actively serving in the military
*Dual military – Both parties are service members
*GD – Gestational diabetes
*PCS’d – A military move involving a change of duty station
*PPD – Postpartum depression