More women needed in military leadership positions

Kaitlyn Jorgensen
Staff Writer

In celebration of Women’s History Month this March, the Women’s Center, Maverick Battalion ROTC and the Veteran’s Resource Center hosted an open discussion panel featuring Women in the Military. On Tuesday, March 19, panelists, students, and military members gathered for a luncheon and discussion about what it means to be a woman in the military. Topics included options for enlisting, different branches, military jobs and the difference between reserves and active duty. 

Panelists featured Katie McNair, a retired Marine Corp veteran, Minnesota Nation Guard Staff Sergeant Mercedes Calvillo, and Carinda Horton, the marketing NCO also from the Minnesota National Guard. 

Hannah Mettler, an ROTC Cadet who attended the discussion said, “I think it’s important for women to go into the military to allow themselves to be pushed beyond the limits a civilian job can provide, showing how strong and capable women are in all aspects of their lives.” 

A lot of uncertainty surrounds the topic of women in the military, but Horton wants to reassure and encourage those considering enlistment. She stated, “A lot of changes have happened in the last 20 years that I have been enlisted. I have a daughter who works in field artillery, and I wouldn’t want my daughter to join an organization that I did not think she was safe in.” 

Part of the discussion featured the prevalence of sexual assault in the military. “The issue of sexual assault doesn’t just occur in the military, it can happen in any workforce environment,” said Elizabeth Steinborn-Gourley, Director of the Women’s Center. “With this in mind, we want women in the military to know and recognize that there are civilian options to receive health services and prosecution without necessarily going through the UCMJ.” 

The UCMJ, or the Uniform Code of Military Justice is a regulation that defines criminal offenses and is the basis for the military criminal justice system. 

“The military has made great strides towards gender equality in the time that I have been enlisted,” said Horton. “There are now more opportunities for mothers, numerous jobs have become open to women, women are now able to cross train between different jobs and be in leadership positions. Most of all, the climate that has changed. Remarks that were made and normalized back in the 80s and 90s are no longer tolerated, and that has made for a better work environment for females.” Horton does admit that there is work still to be done, and a lot of it requires female leadership. 

An example of this is the job of the role of an Army infantryman, which is traditionally a very male dominated job. Infantry jobs have recently become open to females according to military regulation, however females in the Minnesota National Guard cannot be in infantry jobs because there is currently no female infantry officer to oversee them. They hope to see that change within the next year. 

In their quest for gender equality, the Army also hopes to replace the APFT with a six-event physical fitness test next year called the Army Combat Fitness Test or ACFT. The APFT or Army Physical Fitness Test which scores you out of 300 based on your push-ups, sit-ups and 2-mile run according to your age and gender, it is the current standard in the Army to measure physical fitness. Traditionally women are allowed fewer push-ups and extra time to complete the 2-mile run with the APFT.  With the new ACFT, they will now hold the same standards for both men and women, in order to make it gender-neutral and non-age discriminatory.

Mercedes Calvillo, a Staff Sergeant in the Minnesota National guard stated, “We want more quality women, and not just quantity. We do have family planning options available to women, and we want mothers and women with families to consider us. To us, you are not just another number. We need females, especially in leadership positions. It is getting better and easier for females to make rank and compete with men for leadership positions.” 

Females can become leaders in the military through enlistment, direct commission, ROTC and other service academies.

Header photo by John Shreshta| MSU Reporter.

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