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Women’s History Month: Women in the military past, present and into the future

(U.S. Air Force courtesy graphic)

(U.S. Air Force courtesy graphic)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- March marks the annual observance of Women’s History Month. This month provides the Department of Defense an opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of women in the past, present and how their contributions set the stage for future opportunities for women.

The DOD has made great strides to integrate women into the armed forces. While you may be accustomed to seeing and interacting with women in your units on a daily basis, there was a time when women were not welcome to serve their country.

Women’s History Month is a time to focus attention on the accomplishments of women. More specifically, let us focus on women in the armed forces; looking into the past often helps one understand and appreciate the present.

Women contributing to war efforts go back as far as the Civil War. Women filled important roles including nurses, spies, abolitionist, civil rights advocates and promoters of women’s suffrage. Surprisingly, women also served as soldiers, yet they were disguised as men in order to contribute to the fight. During the Civil War, nearly 400 women fought as soldiers.

One such soldier was Frances L. Clalin. In order to be accepted as a soldier she cut her hair very short, wore men’s clothing and went by the name Jack Williams. During her military tour she served in both cavalry and artillery units. Some may think her actions were extreme, yet she is one of the women who forged a path for women serving in the armed forces today.

Women currently play a vital role in the military. They fill positions that were once reserved solely for men. There is much debate on the extent of the roles women should be allowed to fill, including whether women should be allowed in combat. If not for the efforts of brave women like Frances L. Clalin, women may have never had the chance to serve in direct combat unit positions.

August 2015 marked a milestone in military history; 1st Lt. Kristen Griest and Capt. Shaye Haver became the first two women ever to graduate from Army Ranger School. This feat has helped create the next opportunity to show a woman’s strength and competency.

No one makes it to greatness alone and the women of the armed services are no different. Various women who have served and are currently serving have one common thread – their appreciation for the women who came before them, affording them the opportunity to obtain and often exceed their goals while serving this great county. These opportunities set the stage for women, in the armed forces to have a bright future and successful military career.

The past contributions of women like Frances L. Clalin helped forge a path for women in today’s military. Many great women helped ensure the opportunities we see today, like the first two women graduating from Ranger School. Their accomplishes show promise to create more opportunity for women ensuring the armed forces remain as strong and powerful as ever.

So during this month, take a little extra time to acknowledge the accomplishments of women from the past and present, and recognize how their contributions set the stage for future opportunities of women in tomorrow’s Air Force.