For almost two years now, I have had the unique experience serving as a Cadet in Army ROTC. ROTC stands for Reserve Officer Training Corps, and it is a special program offered by most universities to train future military officers while they simultaneously earn their bachelor’s degrees. I stumbled across the program without any real knowledge of the military or how it operates, and I am grateful for that every day. In just the short time and experience I’ve had thus far, I’ve noticed something worth mentioning, and that is the influential role of women in the military.
For as long as time can tell, the military has been “The Old Boy’s Club”, considered by many to not be a place for women. While I understand the skepticism regarding whether or not females should serve in combat positions, it’s important to remember that the military offers countless other career opportunities and that the female soldiers in these positions have been extremely successful and advantageous to the U.S. Military thus far. The long-lasting effects of incorporating women into the military are likely due to the fact that men and women have so many fundamental differences. Both are naturally more adept to certain skills and traits, so when the strengths of men and women are used in collaboration, it makes for a product that is much stronger than either of them could individually be. Women tend to be highly criticized for being more emotional in nature, but in the military, a great sense of intuition and empathy can make for an incredibly influential leader.
"The women I have served with in the Marine Corps are some of the smartest and strongest individuals I know. We are a distinct type of individual embedded within a warrior culture; we bring emotional leadership to an organization where it is greatly needed.”
- Lauren Grigsby, 2LT, Marine Corps
Based on what I’ve seen in my ROTC program, the incorporation of women in the ranks allows for not only a different perspective to be seen, but also a new challenge to be had. It’s no secret that gender-biases are alive and well, and with that comes the stereotype that women can’t compete with men when it comes to physical fitness. I know that it would challenge some of my peer’s egos for me, a girl, to “beat” them. I like to think that as long as these gender biases exist, we may as well make use of them! My motivation is to perform as physically superior to my male counterparts as possible, and their motivation is to not let me. Of course, it’s all in good fun and in an effort to better ourselves. In fact, the relationship I have with some of my male counterparts is one I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. It’s strictly platonic, of course, (this is my career after all) and often times it feels a lot like I have 20 brothers that I'm in constant competition with. Don’t get me wrong – I know that our bodies are built differently. I know that I have limits, but I also know that I have potential, and at my full potential you can bet that I’ll be giving those guys a run for their money.
Being a female in ROTC has challenged me. It has broken me down, built me up, and it has taught me that I am so much stronger than I ever thought I could be. I have met extraordinary women that saw more in me than I saw in myself; women that helped me (and continue to help me) become the best version of myself. Sometimes I step back and get caught up thinking about how little I have really experienced – I’m still just in ROTC (and seeing that I’m only in my second year of the program, I’m hardly halfway done!). I know that commissioning as an Officer will be an entirely different journey with its own struggles and hardships that aren’t even comparable to what I’ve experienced thus far, and I could not be more excited. I can’t wait to keep learning, bettering myself, and to do it amongst our great servicemen (and women).