Bridging Generations of Women in Service

Bridging Generations of Women in Service

Publication Date
Monday, December 18, 2023

Bridging Generations of Women in ServiceBy Brittany Raines, AUSA Fort Leonard Wood Mid-Missouri

With many female veterans in the community, the Association of the United States Army Fort Leonard Wood Mid-Missouri Chapter is working to provide the opportunity to bring their stories and the stories of those currently serving to the forefront. 

Bridging Generations of Women in Service, moderated by Lynn Richardson who served as Military Police from 1980-2000, began with an overview of women in the armed service and introductions of the 11 women present and their time in service. 

According to the Department of Defense Annual Demographics Report from December 2022, females make up around 17 percent of the active duty military and 21 percent of National Guard and reserves—a dramatic increase since the Vietnam War, when Cheryl Boothe served when just 3 percent of the armed service was female. 

CSM(R) Freddie Brock, Vice President of NCO and Soldier Programs for the AUSA Fort Leonard Wood Mid-Missouri Chapter, spoke about the motivation behind the panel discussion. “Your stories matter,” he stated, “and providing a generational connection is important to understanding what is needed for women to continue to succeed in their service.” 

Richardson discussed some challenges for women serving and asked the group to reflect on their time. Boothe, a Vietnam-Era Veteran, spoke about her experience and choosing to get out of the service when she became pregnant, framing the discussion of the development of regulations surrounding women and familiesto include increased allowances for parental leave as we have today. Though more work needs to be done, military culture has shifted and progressed—lively discussion from the panel surrounded women’s contributions through their skills and service as well as perception of their peers and those outside the military.

Ferguson spoke about her choice to join as a nurse in the Women’s Army Corps in 1976. She stated, “I can remember working in a civilian hospital as a nurse and hearing others talking about a new nurse—a military nurse—and how respected they were.” Ferguson said, “where I was from was so anti-military during Vietnam, I was fascinated.” Ferguson joined the Army and saw her pay and benefits double which was lifechanging. Additionally, the schools provided by the military was the opportunity of a lifetime.

There is a steady increase of female leaders that hasn’t been seen before. Cathy West, who served from 1978 to 1992, stated the lack of female mentors available to her during her time in service. She stated, “I was the only female most times.” Those active duty members in the room agreed and said they are seeing other women like them rising to high places and high levels of responsibility, paving the way and giving them someone to look up to. 

Listening to the stories of female veterans and active dutymilitary personnel is critical to the pursuit of truth and understanding, as well as continued engaged discussion about policy and best practice. Women’s stories in history are essential. Military women’s perspective is critical to focus on female service members’ desire to serve and capitalize on the talent and skill female service members bring to the table.