Their Story

Their Story – The Personal Stories of Women in the Armed Forces

I’m currently pregnant with twins and dual military and plan on staying in until retirement (another 9ish years). My BN CDR spent my entire OER outbrief telling me I should get out and “tend” to the family because that’s what his wife did. He continued to say that I would be okay since my husband would stay in and make money etc. What in the actual f**k?! I’ve literally never had a BN CDR try to convince me to get out. If roles were reversed and he was talking to my husband, no such bullshit suggestion would’ve been brought up.

At LDAC when it was heat CAT 5, the females were forbidden to take off their blouses because we were “too distracting.” The males were all allowed to de-blouse. Upon receiving a date to report to flight school that was a couple months earlier than a male counterpart, being asked by another officer in front of other soldiers what kind of sexual favors I performed to achieve that was told by numerous instructors in flight school that women didn’t belong in the military and couldn’t drive, let alone fly. These same instructors would carry around pornographic pictures in their aircraft publications and checklists was asked by an instructor while flying with him what kind of underwear I was wearing had an instructor joke about how many women he has personally sexually assaulted, and that even though he has to sit through all these SHARP briefs, he hasn’t learned his lesson. In any sort of briefing when someone asks a question and I give an answer, they repeat the same question again, and I answer again. The questions are repeated until a man gives the answer, even if it’s the exact same thing I said being told that I cannot walk or work out alone on deployment, that I always need to be with someone “for my own safety,” but then when I am the only female pilot and consequently have to go places with a man, being told that “perception is reality,” and that I am giving off the wrong image by going to the gym or the DFAC with males. Being forbidden to wear clothes that are “too tight,” as it is just me asking for unwanted attention and my curves are too distracting to the men sharing with other servicemembers about an instance of sexual assault, and being asked “well how loud did you scream?” “How many times did you say no?” “What were you wearing?”

I have been a nurse for 10+ years, even when my husband was AD USMC and through the NG transition. The SECOND he got a seat at Rucker, the first thing the “leadership” said was that i needed to quit my job because our family was not issued to my husband by the army, and our family couldnt be an “issue” during flight school.

Begging leadership to not make you have a promotion or award ceremony because you’re sick of hearing “She only got that because she’s a female…” I came in at the age of 28 and worked my ass off to progress quickly. I made E6 in just under 6 years. I’ve been chosen above my peers on many occasions to take charge in positions or given responsibilities solely due to my work ethic, but I cannot ever be proud of that due to the above mentioned. I’m tired of the stigma and often wonder if this is all worth it. Also being hated by your peers and Soldiers’ spouse just for being a female and having to work along side them. Won’t even give you the time of day to get to know you. I am dual military and happily married, if you would just be open to speaking with me at any of our company events you might get to know that. I’ve seen your spouse at their worst and think they’re disgusting creatures, you have absolutely nothing to worry about! Lol

I’m a woman and a Marine captain, just switched to the reserves after 6 yrs active. On a deployment to Iraq, the O6 Army Chaplain told my all male SIGINT team while I wasn’t around that it was selfish for women to deploy because they should be home taking care of their families. He said many other things along the lines of this, leadership did nothing. Was easier to just ignore it in their eyes bc it didn’t affect them. Had to sleep in a coed tent during an exercise as a Lt and the first night it was just me and another Capt. His wife comes up to me at a command event months later mouthing off about it – as though I would want her loser incompetent husband who had to ask how to make a signature block in an email. I was really blindsided by being treated differently bc I was a woman when i first joined. I naively expected to be judged by my character and my performance. I worked so fucking hard at everything I did – physically, intellectually, always showing up for my Marines and peers, always getting the job done, friendly to everyone. Didn’t matter. Felt like I was constantly defending myself and other women from small and big sexist comments. Felt like I was way too smart and had too much to offer the world to continue to waste it on petty sexist bullshit that will never change. Couldn’t do that shit another day. A friend sent me your message, and I was actually really surprised by how emotional it made me feel. Like the thing you said about how we serve our country just to be treated like shit and made fun of constantly. Idk just not used to guys even caring about that perspective bc again, it doesn’t affect them or they think we are exaggerating. Final story, I had a woman O4 S2 who was the OIC of our intel shop. During pre deployment work up, she brought in the 2 women Lts and 2 male Lts and said we needed to be careful about how we interacted with each other bc people may start rumors. I always failed against this shit, and told her that I refuse to play by some crazy unwritten rules. We could only control if we did the right thing, and I would rather focus my energy toward doing the job. She came up to me the next day and apologized and said she shouldn’t have said what she did. It’s all so exhausting. Yea, I definitely don’t lie about any of it when younger girls ask me about joining the Marines. I don’t regret doing it, but it was starting to turn me into a person I didn’t want to be. I really expected better of the institution, to live up to who they said they were.

The first piece of advice I ever received was “you can either be a bitch or a slut so choose wisely.” I then spent the next two years being called Cadet Shoe Shopper, LT Cupcake, Small Brain. I was told to do “my womanly duties and scribe for the men.” I was sent on coffee runs. And then I commissioned. Since I’ve commissioned I’ve had commanders suggest it “would be hot” if I hooked up with other female soldiers in the company. 1SGs have told my female soldiers not to smile too much because it makes them look like sluts. The commander did nothing when he was informed. I interviewed for a job and the discriminating question was how I would handle men who hit on me… the list goes on. The important thing to remember is that this behavior will continue if we do not call it out and demand more seats at the table. Do all things in appreciation of those that came before and to care for those that come after. Our job is to lessen their struggle.

I had a cadre member tell me (didn’t even know his name) that I should get a c-section when it comes time to give my husband (the one that doesn’t exist) babies so I didn’t mess myself up “down there”. A few months later, day 1 with a new IP (CW4R), he opens the convo with “it’s not that I don’t think women should be in the military, it’s that they bring too many feelings into the cockpit.” I could be wrong, but I don’t remember asking either of them for their opinions. Normal things that you nod to and continue about your day…

I just want to echo the sentiment of this one. Most females do despise nothing more than unprofessional females using their gender to get ahead or make excuses. Not that that is ever an excuse for the kind of rampant toxicity these testimonials describe, but it seems that many males don’t understand that piece of female psychology. Most of the females I’ve worked with in my albeit short experience just want to do their jobs and be held to standards and get equal treatment. That small subset who don’t hurt the female case more than they realize and I hope male leaders start realizing that more. also thank you for posting these. I’m a new LT in an all male unit and thankfully I have had no issues yet as so far the unit seems very professional. But this definitely helps with some situational awareness of what goes on.

A woman’s perspective: On deployment in a combat zone – expected (and willing) to sleep in a co-ed tent when it’s convenient for leadership. But then being told you can’t do normal everyday activities such as go to the defac, gym, or just sit and have coffee with a peer of the opposite sex because “perception is reality.” Looking the other way when men workout shirtless around the platoon compound, but causing a fuss when a woman works out in a sports bra and shorts. Banning leggings / spandex / tank tops from on post gyms and outdoor PT. Implying normal fitness attire in the civilian somehow makes me a slut that was asking for inappropriate attention in the Army. Using “perception is reality” as a threat to victim blame instead of actually fostering an environment where sexual harassment and assault “isn’t cool or funny.” Holding women to an unachievable standard within career milestones, yet easily signing off your male buddies as a pass. In companies/platoons when I’ve been the sole woman participant, I’ve often been left out of important meetings and briefings because they “forgot to tell me” as the announcement happened inside the male barracks. This is frustrating because now when you show up you’re already behind and left out yet expected to be caught up. “Watch out for her, she’s trouble.” Has been said by my previous commander about all of the non openly homosexual women in the company.
I call it the Army’s War on Pretty Women within the ranks. They’re uncomfortable in their own ability to control themselves, specifically in an austere environment, and thus feel threatened by our presence. The response is to make our lives hell as if we did something wrong by just existing. I’ve found I’ve had to fight so hard to just exist and be proficient in my MOS. You would have thought I was gunning for someone’s job. Nope, just trying to exist. But when you fall back on your proficiency than you suck because you’re a woman. Basic training, 2011, Ft Sill. Drill Sergeant pulls all the women down to the drill pad in formation, and berates us for an hour on how we are “worthless, disgusting females. No man will ever love you. You are trash. You all smell bad. You know you’re supposed to wash your pussy? No one wants to smell that. You are all nothing and will become nothing. You should quit now and go home. You all would be lucky to even find a man to please. Get your disgusting female selves out of my face.” Now in the moment, I thought it was hazing gone too far. After graduation I had learned he was showing the women in his platoon pictures of himself naked but he called them “bodybuilding pictures.” He would judge their response and choose which women to have in his office “after hours.” One girl reported him. He huddled us all up and said we were trying to ruin his career and marriage with our petty lies. He was likeable, persuasive, manipulative. He got one of the girls in his PLT pregnant. Unbelievable. And that’s initial entry basic training. Where most of the people are barely adults.

I’ve had a CSM tell my 1SG he needed to do a “better job controlling your PL” when I fought him about forcing a soldier to go to NTC after we had already granted him paternity leave. However the same CSM favored another PL because he was “assertive and fought for what he believed in.” Males will look for any excuse as to why you are succeeding more then them. I got the highest APFT score (male standards) in my group and was told it was because the APFT favored females because “sit-ups are easier for short people.” I know someone previously said it, but, missing out on important information because you’re in the female barracks is huge. I was an hour late for a meeting once because the males changed the departure time and drove to the meeting once without me because they “forgot about me” and I had to walk there in the Irwin heat. Being targeted by a major sexually as a brand new LT and when I asked who I should tell about it I was advised to not say anything because I don’t want to be the “new female filing sharp complaints to get people kicked out” (I never said anything and regret it to this day- SAY SOMETHING). Being hated by your Soldiers wives strictly because you’re a female that’s in shape and not completely hideous. Trust me honey, I don’t want your short, out of shape, husband. I can go on about bad things that have happened and set backs to being a female in the military. But it’s not all bad, not everyone’s a bad person or a huge sexist and I think we need to acknowledge/ recognize the positives as well. Soldiers sometimes are more comfortable talking to you about issues they’re having because you’re a female. I’ve had a lot of Soldiers with problems come to me because they said they felt like I was more welcoming then my male counterparts. I’ve helped a lot of struggling Soldiers this way. You may have to work harder to prove yourself at first but once you do you’ll earn more respect then a lot of males a lot of times. It’s easier to make a name for yourself when you stand out and work hard and are good at what you do. Being a white male in a unit of all white males must be super difficult!
It’s easier to get things done quicker when civilians are more willing to help you because you’re a ‘small cute female in uniform.’ There’s a lot wrong with the how the Army operates with females but there is also SO much progress being made and I think we need to recognize that. While frustrating sometimes, I’ve never felt like I was at a disadvantage because I’m a female. I’m good at my job and my Soldiers know they’re my priority and that I will work as hard as I can to help them out. Everyone else can go fuck themselves. Oh! And female bathrooms in garrison are always cleaner and you never have to wait in line! Oh! Last thing!! Flight uniforms do NOT fit females correctly and it drives me up a wall! My ass barely fits in ‘small’ but medium is too big on my waist even cinched. The tops are the same way. I swim in the medium but the small is so awkward because it’s huge on the top but the bottom is tight.

Being a woman in the Marine Corps:
There are many examples as to why it’s a challenging environment, even if I love it and I feel like I fit in. I’m an assertive and aggressive person naturally, and this often is used against me. As a second Lieutenant, I have the same leadership development and authority as a 1st lieutenant. They’re almost exactly the same. So my XO in my company has only been in the fleet for only 6 months longer than me, but believes he is better than me and constantly cries to our Company Commander when I challenge him. He consistently attempts to correct me by saying: “I’m XO, and I’m carrying out the Company Commander’s intent.” He completely disregards my decision making at my platoon level, and micro manages me in front of everyone. Everyone knows that he treats me worse than any other lieutenant in the unit. Not only that, but he slammed my office door in the face of one of my Sergeants as I was speaking to him and I told him to get out of my office if he is going to disrespect my Marines. He immediately ran to our Company commander and told on me.

I’m just a civilian spouse, but the same (female!!!) BN commander who wanted me to run FRG implied to my husband that if he wanted a long term career in the Army then it would be best if I didn’t work. I make good money and work for a Fortune 500 company where I have real career growth. Heaven forbid a female spouse want to have a real career and not have children before 30. He’s getting out as soon as his commitment is up.

I was one of the very few females in my previous battalion. My BN CDR ranked me #1, and I told no one, because frankly it is no one’s business. The word got out anyways, and I was confronted by the other men on staff, asking if I was fucking the BC for my rating. Others told me I received that rating only because I was cute. I purposefully wear very loose clothing if I ever have to go to work in civilian clothing. If I don’t, people will talk about my body. They will make uncomfortable comments and find it okay to do so. I have to consciously think about these things because the way I look is consistently a topic of conversation. I have been sexually assaulted multiple times in my career and harassed even more. Nearly all of my female peers can attest to similar experiences.

I got out 10 years ago, and I’m both glad to be out, and disheartened to see that several of these stories are what contributed to my choice. So much has not changed. Being a bitch for being assertive, check. Dual military and my husband never being allowed to leave for the kids, but also being chastised if I had to go, check. Sexual assault and harassment, check. Wives assuming I’m only there to sleep with their husbands, check. I also was targeted for marrying outside my race by 2 SNCO’s (actual racist comments were said to me, at times with witnesses) and despite reporting it to EO, nothing was done. I also had great leaders at times, and wonderful peers and subordinates at times, but not enough to make up for the toxic leaders who were allowed to ruin morale of everyone beneath them. It’s tragic that this is still seemingly so prevalent.

I’ve been told by a DAC at Rucker that females shouldn’t be in the military. Having to stop coworkers from spreading rumors about a fellow female sleeping around, based on speculation and who she hangs out with. Then being told I’m a “stick in the mud” for standing up for her. I’ve been confronted by multiple wives asking if I’m sleeping with their husbands that I barely talk to at work. Noticing other females that are dual military have to sacrifice their flights and their time to take their children to appointments, because it’s expected for them to instead of their husbands. Bringing up valid points in briefs and being ignored, only for a male counterpart to say the same thing 5 minutes later and get praised for it. Being the briefer and having someone ask a male coworker a question, when I’m the one giving the presentation. And the always favorite “wOw YoU aCtUaLlY lOoK LiKe A girl FoR oNcE” comments are EVERY org day.

Entered AD 2008. 25Q to 89D to 153M. Been sexually assaulted and harassed early in my career. Lucky enough to have had supportive leadership at that time. Blocked it out of my mind and focused on career progression. Came to terms with those incidents over the years the more I talked about it during SHARP classes. Guess I could mention I’m a minority female but that never mattered once in my career. I just go to work, do my best, and then I go home. Except now I’m getting out for major depression, can’t imagine why.. after 3 MOS’s I realized it’s not the job, it’s the Army. Ready to move on. I’m tired, boss.

I was support for an SF group before I got to Rucker and females were known by numbers. They had only just allowed females to start supporting their battalion and we were referred to as whatever number female we were in the battalion. If I was 15 then the next female to PCS to the battalion was known as 16 and so on and so forth. We were called everything from cunts to bitches to cum dumpsters….you name it. No females were allowed to go to NCOPDs. We were denied schools that the same male support personnel were allowed to go. 1SGs wouldn’t let females go to boards month after month even though their performance was the same or greater than their male counterparts.

Wow this one is pretty spot on. Had a senior CWO day that “women just get too much in their own head” when it comes to operating an aircraft. Also had multiple wives reach out or retaliate against their own spouses because they were insecure about a female being in their unit on deployment. Can’t even count how many times I had to stomp out sexist bullshit like “so have you guys synced periods yet” in reference to the only other female soldiers cohabitating. Women just want to do their jobs, period. And yet, we have to fight to be part of the group because a lot of our counterparts believe that we can’t be included because they can’t behave professionally. Every single woman can take a joke but it shouldn’t always be at the expense of demeaning our gender. The living situation is super frustrating too. Having to live separately in an entirely different area from the rest of your soldiers for an entire deployment is super isolating. It automatically sets us apart as “all work no play.” You miss out so much more on getting to know your Soldiers as people, not just subordinates. It doesn’t make sense to keep us separated from everyone else but expect to be treated equally.

When I went to my first unit, the males there had already Facebook stalked me and had bets placed on who would “get” me first. When it came time for deployment, I was the only female in the shop and I got a deployment slot, a male grad below me with less experience in our job said he “hopes I get fucking pregnant” so he could take my deployment. I’ve had a first sgt pull me aside and tell me that I’m very pretty and if he needs something done and influenced in the unit he’s going to come to me and I’m to influence it. Also before I switched to aviation I was told I would end up alone forever, that I would have no family or husband. But these are a couple of examples.

I have very little experience in an operation environment as I am a fresh LT and have a very strong personality that most people don’t counter. Of course to most soldiers that means I’m “a bitch” or “damn you don’t take any shit do you.” Which aren’t things that are said to men in my same position. A male superior tells you what to do and you do it, a female superior tells you what to do and you giggle cause she talked sternly and “geez!! Yes ma’am” But some bullshit I’ve noticed thus far is that females always have to defend each other and stick together because of the current environment. And that’s seen as “segregating” ourselves or we get comments like “well you’re always hanging out with the other females” ooorrr “are you gonna go talk to (random female) for female support???” And I am not one to mingle with girls very often, yet I find myself NEEDING other female support and always getting negative comments about it. Of course females will always need other females because we are some complicated people let’s be honest… but the point is a guy goes to a guy for support and it’s fine. A guy goes to a girl for support and it’s fine. A girl goes to a guy and it’s either fine or she want to fuck him. BUT a girl goes to a girl and all the sudden we’re a damn gang and can’t be trusted.

Thankfully I was raised to hold my damn ground and with a very strong personality. I can usually spread my no bull shit vibes just by making eye contact and not putting myself out there asking for trouble. My husband and I keep each other super active in each other’s lives as well so I think that helps fend off and kind of bull shit before it comes up. I’ll be interested to see how things go once I get to a unit. In total honesty, I hope to spread my personality/vibes to other females so they can be strong as well. It’s not just an army thing, it’s a worldwide culture thing. And I hope to show other girls that they can defend themselves and still get attention (that they want) without compromising themselves. Girls are a little part of the problem too but I think it’s because they just want/need attention. As usual, we appreciate what you do. Guys, girls, everyone. You’re making a difference for everyone. One last thing I just though of that I think gets the guys riled up is when a girl get something cause they’re girls. Like an under qualified girl gets an airborne slot cause the unit needed to send a female and a guy in charge is afraid to speak up because “she’s a girl” and he’ll get backlash for being sexist even though she’s under qualified. So yes, that pisses the other females off as well. They’re not alone in thinking that that’s bull shit but the army does as the army does and that’s how they think they can solve the equal opportunity issue. Girls need to step up and be qualified soldiers, guys need to be part of the better change and the army needs to fix its methods… we have to be better individuals and show the army what it needs to be instead of the army showing us what we need to be.

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