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    Wingtip to wingtip and shoulder to shoulder

    Women of the VTANG

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Victoria Greenia | U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Tracy Stout and Master Sgt. Jill Bolton pose for a...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Victoria Greenia 

    158th Fighter Wing

    SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. - In the 1940s the typical lady’s uniform was comprised of aprons and oven mitts. So when hundreds of women traded in heels for combat boots in World War II, they were going against deeply ingrained social values.

    As service members we look back in awe at the women who, despite social backlash from within and without the military, joined when it was nearly unheard of a woman to do so. But the real story starts even further back, when determined ladies served their country when there were no laws or regulations to support them and no hope for recognition or status.

    They did it out of pure love for their country.

    One of these paramilitary groups, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), allowed females to take to the skies and participate in non-combat aerial roles during World War II. The program started in 1942 and lasted two years, attracting people who would be pioneering the perception of capable women serving in the military. Applicants had to already possess a pilot’s license – a small fortune back then at $500.

    WASP was supposed to fill in the gap that was created when male pilots were scooped up for combat missions, but was still regarded as a dubious experiment by some.

    During his address to the last class the program graduated, U.S. Army Air Forces General Henry H. Arnold admitted that he had had his doubts that a “slip of a young girl” could handle the maneuvering of a B-17 in nasty weather. But over the course of two years WASP women had proven otherwise.

    “You, and more than nine hundred of your sisters have shown that you can fly wingtip to wingtip with your brothers,” he told them. “If ever there was a doubt in anyone's mind that women can become skillful pilots, the WASP have dispelled that doubt.”

    While the end of the war also brought the end of the pilots’ flying careers, as females were expected to go back to the traditional homemaker status, a door had opened for females in the workplace and it wouldn’t be shut again.

    Though women in the military were still mostly in support roles, the following decades showed a growth of female Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines. With the onset of Desert Storm in the ‘90s, women were placed overseas in a combat environment yet still barred from combat careers.

    Last December Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter crushed that barrier when he announced to the world that the United States military – across the board – will open combat roles to women. Like men, women who met the qualifying standards would be allowed to join any career field.

    This, of course, was met with outrage from people. But despite whatever logic or line of reasoning opposition has given, there are some indisputable facts concerning women and the military.

    One: Some women, like men, feel compelled to the noble calling of serving their country.

    Two: As courageous women brave grueling training in some of the toughest military career fields, America’s focal lens on military women is going to tighten. It already has.

    So today we have a new flood of women risking a windstorm of criticism and scrutiny who, much like the WASPs, are rising to the challenge. No doubt there are people who wonder if a “slip of a young girl” can handle the rigors of combat and heavy machinery.

    So when contemplating the history of women in the military, consider this – it’s being made right now. Can women excel in combat? This question will not go away until women have been given the opportunity to answer it.

    But female military members already know they will not falter and they will not fail. There will be struggles and there will be setbacks; every challenge has them. But in the end they will show that women can “fly wingtip to wingtip” and fight shoulder to shoulder with their brothers.



    Date Taken: 03.06.2016
    Date Posted: 03.07.2016 13:49
    Story ID: 191295

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