Women march into the military


infographic by Shelby Yount

Grace Vance

Strength, courage, bravery, honor — these are common virtues and values people associate with soldiers in the military. Since U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter announced that combat positions would be available to women in 2015, a new meaning to these words arise.
For senior Darcie Kinnison, this proclamation serves as a beacon of opportunity. Even though she plans to go into the Army as a medic or programmer, she said the news proves women’s abilities to fight, no matter what stereotypes hold them down.
“Women are just as strong and mentally sound as men. In the civilian world, our generation stresses that women are emotional and kind of crazy over petty things, but when you step into the military world, to me at least, it seems completely different,” Kinnison said. “Women walk just as tall as the men; they train just as hard. Being male or female has nothing to do with how you handle the emotional and physical stress that being in the military puts on you. It’s all about how you as a person decides to handle the situations.”
[quote cite=”Darcie Kinnison”]It’s scary but there are also many great opportunities that come with the military as well. It takes a special kind of person, man or female, to make the commitment to the military.[/quote] Kinnison became curious about joining the military in the summer of 2015 where the sight of uniformed soldiers inspired her. Although she had never considered the military before, it was her drive to prove herself that made her enlist.
“I didn’t think about it too much until the middle of this past summer. I was flying out for something and saw some soldiers in uniform. It interested me [so] I did a little research about it,” Kinnison said. “I was afraid no one would take me seriously since I am so short and small and pretty girly. I got nervous and never spoke up about it until I saw some recruiters at a job fair and took the chance to learn more.”
Alumna Graham Ratermann, who graduated May 24, 2015, is now a cadet private in the U.S. Army. Even though he has only been in training for seven months now, he said the women he has worked with thus far have stood parallel to men. However, just as every man who enlists in the military might not be fit for service, he believes the same goes for women.
“I have very limited military experience, but during cadet basic training, there were two female members of my squad who were hammers and met every standard set in front of them, so yes, there are women who are just as capable as men,” Ratermann said. “Personally, I don’t think women should be allowed into the infantry or special operations communities. The average fighting load in Afghanistan is 65 pounds without a ruck, and with a ruck that number bumps to [around] 130 pounds. Women tend to have an increase in injuries compared to men when dealing with that kind of weight.”
[heading size=”14″]Shattering stereotypes[/heading] Sgt. Joshua Rainwater, a U.S. Army recruiter and soldier, has seen soldiers of both genders fail and succeed in their military goals. Between Sgt. Rainwater’s two deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, he believes perseverance is what makes someone fit for service.
“From what I have seen, there have been both men and women that were not willing to work hard enough to meet the demands. I have seen soldiers lose 20 pounds in two weeks because he [is] overweight. Yet a different soldier only lost two to four pounds in two weeks,” Rainwater said. “What’s the difference between them? One was willing to work hard for their goal. The other was not. The ability to work hard does not discriminate by gender.”
Though the military recently opened up all roles to women, Sgt. Rainwater said women previously could not work in the infantry, armor and special forces.
As a recruiter, he talks with students about the military’s numerous opportunities. Among these options he said the military can help to pay for soldiers’ college and has numerous military job sectors that range from programming to fighting in the front lines.
These, among other ambitions, are reasons why Kinnison decided to join.
“I chose it because it’s a helpful alternative to pay for college while doing something great for our country. It’s something that I would benefit from — new sets of skills and experiences, and you get paid,” Kinnison said. “It’s dangerous, yes, especially with what is going on within our world today, but I’m not afraid. Maybe it’s because I’m young, and maybe it’s just how I’m wired.”
Even with her mother’s background as a Navy hospital corpsman, Kinnison said her family still took it hard when she told them about joining the military. With more than 1,800 hostile deaths and about 20,000 wounded-in-action incidents among U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan recorded through Nov. 2014, according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office, the imminent threat of death is daunting.
“When you go into the military you have to take into consideration that you could die. You could get bombed or shot or captured,” Kinnison said. “It’s scary but there are also many great opportunities that come with the military as well. It takes a special kind of person, man or female, to make the commitment to the military.”
Similar to Kinnison, Sgt. Rainwater believes it’s the drive and mental ability to prove whether a soldier is ready for their service in the military.
“It’s not a matter of gender, but a matter of physical and mental capabilities. That is why we have basic training to weed out those that cannot make it,” Rainwater said. “If we do not let people try then how will we know if they can? We will continue to seek out the most qualified people for the Army, regardless of gender.”
infographic by Shelby Yount
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