Women climb higher in US army ranks
· 10th Mountain Div gets its first lady Brigadier
· Army Rangers get their first women officers
By Sangeeta Saxena
New Delhi. US has come a long way since the American Revolutionary War, women served the U.S. Army in traditional roles as nurses, seamstresses and cooks for troops in camp. Army Col. Diana Holland, the 10th Mountain Division’s deputy commander for support, was promoted to brigadier general and became the first woman to serve as deputy commanding general in any US Army light infantry division.
Holland is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan this fall as the division’s deputy commanding general for support, in support of Operation Resolute Support. Holland previously deployed with the 3rd Infantry Division to Iraq in 2004 and led the 92nd Engineer Battalion and the 130th Engineer Brigade during deployments in Afghanistan.
Holland was among 895 second lieutenants who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1990. It was the 10th class to graduate women and the first to have a female cadet serve as first captain, the highest leadership position in the Corp of Cadets. Approximately 2,000 of the 7,000 lieutenants who received their commission that year went on to reach the rank of colonel, and only 40 have been selected to become brigadier generals.
Lauding the noncommissioned officers with whom she has worked throughout her career she said, “As a leader in the Army, we are charged with inspiring our soldiers but I often found myself inspired by them.” Previously, 18 of the Army's 308 generals were women. Now Holland has joined their ranks.
In another first Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver became first women to wear the tabs of US army rangers. An Apache helicopter pilot from Copperas Cove, Texas, Haver said she plans to return to her unit. Griest, a military police officer from Orange, Connecticut, said she’s interested in special forces operations should they open their teams up to women. She said that she had wanted to become a ranger for years, and both she and Haver said that they wanted the best training the army could provide.
To trace history General Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Florence Blanchfield to be a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, making her the first woman in U.S. history to hold a permanent military rank. A member of the Army Nurse Corps since 1917, Blanchfield secured her commission following the passage of the Army-Navy Nurse Act of 1947 by Congress. Blanchfield had served as superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps during World War II and was instrumental in securing passage of the Army-Navy Nurse Act, which was advocated by Representative Frances Payne Bolton.
And it has not been a bed of roses as many would like to believe, for these women. During the War in Iraq, three Army women become prisoners of war in the first days of the invasion and total casualties to date in the two Gulf Wars is 98. And they are great soldiers who don't make excuses about their gender. 42 women in different ranks of the Army became casualties in Afghanistan.
During the Revolutionary War, women follow their husbands to war out of necessity. Many serve in military camps as laundresses, cooks, and nurses but only with permission from the commanding officers and only if they proved they were helpful. Deborah Sampson served for over a year in General Washington’s army disguised as a man. After being wounded, her gender was discovered and she was honorably discharged. Later, she received a military pension from the Continental Congress.
In the last two years of World War I, women are allowed to join the military. 33,000 women served as nurses and support staff officially in the military and more than 400 nurses died in the line of duty. During World War II, more than 400,000 women served at home and abroad as mechanics, ambulance drives, pilots, administrators, nurses, and in other non-combat roles. Eighty-eight women are captured and held as POWs (prisoners of war). In 1948 Congress passed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act granting women permanent status in the military subject to military authority and regulations and entitled to veterans benefits.
During the Korean War, over 50,000 women served out of whom 500 serve in combat zones as nurses. In the Vietnam War, over 7,000 women served, mostly as nurses in all five divisions of the military, Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard in Vietnam and all were volunteers. In 1973 the military draft (only for males) ended and an all-volunteer military was formed creating opportunities for women. In 1976 the first females were admitted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to be trained in military science.
The US Army Women’s Museum is on the Fort Lee Army Post uses uniform displays, pictures, recordings, dioramas, static displays, and material and equipment to tell the story of women who have served in wars and military operations from the American Revolution through the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the name suggests, the museum is all about women’s role in the history of the Army.