FORT MCCOY, Wis. – “When I tell people I am in the Army, they’re like 'oh that’s really cool'; when I tell them I am in the band, they’re like 'oh, you’re just in the band,'” said Sgt. Camille Kleparek. “They don’t always understand that yes, we go through basic training like everyone else and we have to do all of the warrior training like everyone else.”
Although times are changing, being a bandsman isn’t the only prejudice Kleparek, a member of the 191st Army Band, based out of Camp Parks, Ca., has to overcome; she also faces the stigma given to women in the military in general.
“I think the Army has made a lot of good advancements as far as women in the Army goes,” Kleparek, a Pleasant Grove, Utah, native said. “They have recently opened the doors for women to go into more fields and I think that’s a positive thing because if a woman wants to do a job, and she is capable of doing it, she should be allowed to do it.”
So how does Kleparek, a drummer with the 191st, plan on attempting to defeat any preconceived notions given to her? Well, she is one of only two female participants in the 2013 Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition for starters.
“I am incredibly honored to have made it this far and to be here with the competitors that I have met,” she said. “It’s a lot of impressive people and to be named as one of their peers- there’s a lot of weight to that.”
Kleparek said she is also the first female in her family to join the military. Her husband, father, both uncles and both grandfathers have all served, or are currently serving, in the Army.
“It just goes along with the times; the world is changing. All the countries are experiencing women in more broad fields, and my family, they’re proud of me,” she said. “When I told my dad I wanted to join the Army, he almost tried to talk me out of it because he was in the Air Force and then he transferred to the Army and he said the Army was more gentlemanly and he wanted his daughter to not have to go through the hard core things of the Army.”
Kleparek, who is also a full-time mother of two, said that she hopes to pursue a full 20 years in the Army. She would also like to go back to school for her Master’s degree and said she would like to go back to being a music teacher once her children are in school themselves.
“I think that’s the very nature of being a Reservist. We all have this other life that we lead most of the time,” she said. “Everyone here is a student or working or there are other parents that are here. It’s kind of the conflict, but it’s also the beauty of being a Reservist. We all have something that we have to find a way to fit beyond the unit. But the Army also lets us be the part time Soldier so we can serve our country and still pursue other careers and other paths in our life.”
Kleparek hopes herself and the other female competitor can prove that women are more than capable of working alongside men in tough situations as she finishes up the 2013 Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition at Fort McCoy, Wis..