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Salute to Women in the Military


Women make up around a fifth of the U.S. military.

Stats according to the Military Leadership Diversity Commission:

  • The United States Air Force: 20% female

  • The United States Army: 13.5 % female

  • The United States Coast Guard: 12.4% female

  • The United States Navy: 15.9% female

  • The United States Marine Corps: 6.3% female

Women have served in the military in various roles and throughout history. Women are no longer excluded from some types of combat mission such as piloting, mechanics and infantry officer, in many countries.

From the battlefields of the American Revolution to the deserts of Kuwait, women have been serving in the military in one form or another for more than 200 years. They have had to overcome decades of obstacles to get to where they are today: serving in greater numbers, in combat roles and in leadership positions all around the world.

Even though women were not allowed to join the battles early on, some found ways to join the fight for independence. From cleaning cannons to disguising as a man, women fought alongside men. Women’s roles in the military became even more crucial during the Civil War.

History.com stated, “Thousands of women in the North and South (during the Civil Way) joined volunteer brigades and signed up to work as nurses. It was the first time in American history that women played a significant role in a war effort.”

With the outbreak of war in 1861, women eagerly volunteered to fight for the cause.

Women organized ladies’ aid societies to supply the troops with everything they needed, from food to clothing to cash.

Women organized fundraising campaigns, fairs and performances of all kinds to raise money for medical supplies.

Additionally, women baked, canned, and planted fruit and vegetable gardens for the soldiers. Some laundered uniforms, knitted socks and gloves, mended blankets and embroidered quilts and pillowcases.

At the onset of the United States’ entry into World War I in April 1917, the U.S. Army Nurse Corps (ANC) — formally established in 1901 — had only officially been in existence for less than 20 years, and only had 403 nurses in its active-duty ranks. By June 1918, just over a year later, there were more than 3,000 American nurses deployed to British-operated hospitals in France.

In total, nearly 350,000 American women served in uniform during World War II.

  • Army: The Army formed the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs), Women’s Army Corps (WACS) and Army’s Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS).

  • Navy: The Navy formed the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES).

  • Marine Corps: The Marines enlisted women in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve.

  • Coast Guard: The Coast Guard formed the Women’s Reserve (SPARS), which stood for the Coast Guard motto, Semper Paratus — “Always Ready.”

The list continues through the Vietnam War, Korean War, and modern days wars as well.

At the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, there were a lot of “firsts” for women in the military.

the first woman to become a Navy fighter pilot

the first female four-star general in the Army.

the first female rescue swimmer in the Coast Guard

the first Silver Star awarded to a female soldier since World War II.

As more women broke through barriers and established themselves as capable service members working in defense of the nation, the list of “firsts” slowly became less noteworthy in comparison to the sheer number of women serving, as well as their significant contributions to their respective branches.

2013 saw the long-awaited announcement that the ban on women in combat would be lifted entirely, and that female service members would be allowed to serve in direct ground combat roles.

Over the past few years, 50 women have graduated from the Army’s Ranger School and successfully completed Navy SEAL officer assessment and selection, proving their capabilities in even the most rigorous and challenging of assignments.

Women continue to make history in the military today, pushing boundaries and taking on more roles — and more prestigious roles — than ever before. More than 300,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, more than 9,000 have earned Combat Action Badges and today, women make up 16% of our nation’s Armed Forces, serving in every branch of the U.S. military.

Despite all of the challenges, women still say that it is rewarding to be a part of the proud line of women who have served in the military, whether as a part of the WAVES, WAGS, and SPARS of WWII or today as sailors, soldiers, Marines, coasties, and airmen.Women make up around a fifth of the U.S. military.

Stats according to the Military Leadership Diversity Commission:

  • The United States Air Force: 20% female

  • The United States Army: 13.5 % female

  • The United States Coast Guard: 12.4% female

  • The United States Navy: 15.9% female

  • The United States Marine Corps: 6.3% female

Women have served in the military in various roles and throughout history. Women are no longer excluded from some types of combat mission such as piloting, mechanics and infantry officer, in many countries.

From the battlefields of the American Revolution to the deserts of Kuwait, women have been serving in the military in one form or another for more than 200 years. They have had to overcome decades of obstacles to get to where they are today: serving in greater numbers, in combat roles and in leadership positions all around the world.

Even though women were not allowed to join the battles early on, some found ways to join the fight for independence. From cleaning cannons to disguising as a man, women fought alongside men. Women’s roles in the military became even more crucial during the Civil War.

History.com stated, “Thousands of women in the North and South (during the Civil Way) joined volunteer brigades and signed up to work as nurses. It was the first time in American history that women played a significant role in a war effort.”

With the outbreak of war in 1861, women eagerly volunteered to fight for the cause.

Women organized ladies’ aid societies to supply the troops with everything they needed, from food to clothing to cash.

Women organized fundraising campaigns, fairs and performances of all kinds to raise money for medical supplies.

Additionally, women baked, canned, and planted fruit and vegetable gardens for the soldiers. Some laundered uniforms, knitted socks and gloves, mended blankets and embroidered quilts and pillowcases.

At the onset of the United States’ entry into World War I in April 1917, the U.S. Army Nurse Corps (ANC) — formally established in 1901 — had only officially been in existence for less than 20 years, and only had 403 nurses in its active-duty ranks. By June 1918, just over a year later, there were more than 3,000 American nurses deployed to British-operated hospitals in France.

In total, nearly 350,000 American women served in uniform during World War II.

  • Army: The Army formed the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs), Women’s Army Corps (WACS) and Army’s Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS).

  • Navy: The Navy formed the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES).

  • Marine Corps: The Marines enlisted women in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve.

  • Coast Guard: The Coast Guard formed the Women’s Reserve (SPARS), which stood for the Coast Guard motto, Semper Paratus — “Always Ready.”

The list continues through the Vietnam War, Korean War, and modern days wars as well.

At the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, there were a lot of “firsts” for women in the military.

the first woman to become a Navy fighter pilot

the first female four-star general in the Army.

the first female rescue swimmer in the Coast Guard

the first Silver Star awarded to a female soldier since World War II.

As more women broke through barriers and established themselves as capable service members working in defense of the nation, the list of “firsts” slowly became less noteworthy in comparison to the sheer number of women serving, as well as their significant contributions to their respective branches.

2013 saw the long-awaited announcement that the ban on women in combat would be lifted entirely, and that female service members would be allowed to serve in direct ground combat roles.

Over the past few years, 50 women have graduated from the Army’s Ranger School and successfully completed Navy SEAL officer assessment and selection, proving their capabilities in even the most rigorous and challenging of assignments.

Women continue to make history in the military today, pushing boundaries and taking on more roles — and more prestigious roles — than ever before. More than 300,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, more than 9,000 have earned Combat Action Badges and today, women make up 16% of our nation’s Armed Forces, serving in every branch of the U.S. military.

Despite all of the challenges, women still say that it is rewarding to be a part of the proud line of women who have served in the military, whether as a part of the WAVES, WAGS, and SPARS of WWII or today as sailors, soldiers, Marines, coasties, and airmen.

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