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The Navy also established institutions to particularly cater for women wishing to enter the service. It recruited women into the Navy Women's Reserve, which was known as
Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES), in 1942. More than 80,000 such women served the military in occupations relating to communications, intelligence, supply, medicine and administration. The Marine Corps Women's Reserve was created in 1943. Women in this establishment held jobs such as clerks, cooks, mechanics, and drivers. An increasing number of women served in these positions, among others in nursing and the Coast Guard -- there were more than 400,000 American military women serving both in the United States and overseas during the Second World War. Although many of these women served close to combat stations, the work of the majority involved non-combat duties.
After the World Wars
The Korean War
When the Korean Conflict broke out in 1950, President Harry S. Truman ordered the country's air and naval forces to the Republic of Korea. This included members of the WAC, whose officers were involuntarily recalled to active duty. These women served in direct support in hospitals, communicators, supply specialists, record keepers and administrators. In Europe, WACS served as cryptographers, supply, intelligence, and communication specialists, as well as hospital technicians. Clearly the type of work that women were recognized for expanded to more technical areas. Still, the duties of these women were predominantly in the non-combat capacity. The Korean Women's Army Corps was formed in 1950, beginning with a group of policewomen under the leadership of former WAC Alice A Parish (Women in Military Service for American Memorial Foundation, Inc.).
In increasing recognition of the role of women in the military, the Army initiated the establishment of a permanent training center for the Women's Army Corps on Fort McClellan. The center was built and opened in 1956. It includes a headquarters with supporting personnel, a basic training battalion, and a WAC School for training in typing stenography, and clerical work.
The center also served as a basis for the further evolution of women's roles in the military. An Officer Candidate School for example trained women to serve as officers, while a WAC Officer Basic Course was implemented for women with college degrees. The first foreign women officers entered the WAC Officer Basic Class on August 1, 1956. The first commander to work at the center was LTC Eleanor C. Sullivan, who also held a position as Commandant at the WAC School. In addition, increased military pay and reenlistment bonuses were awarded to leadership positions occupied by women at this establishment.
A step towards greater equity for military men and women was marked by the approval of women's green winder service uniforms and a two-piece green cord uniform for the summer.. The first of these uniforms were issued during 1959 and 1960.
WAC officers were assigned to Vietnam for the first time in 1962, while WAC support personnel were only sent to the country in 1965. Clerical, secretarial and administrative work was common for these women. During 1966, a WAC detachment was assigned to USARV Headquarters, where they lived in difficult conditions. During the preparation of their barracks at Long Binh, for example, they lived in a building with openings between outer wallboards and no windows. They were intermittently covered with red dust or soaked with rain, depending on the humidity of the season. Although not involved in direct combat, WACs were frequently the victims of minor injuries while fleeing incoming artillery fire (Women in the U.S. Army).
In recognition of an increasing sense of gender equality in the military, as well as the reality of the evolution of women's role in the profession, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Public Law 90-130 on 8 November 1967, which effectively removed promotion restrictions on women officers in the Armed Forces (Women in the U.S. Army). This meant that more than one woman in each service could hold the rank of colonel and women could achieve general officer rank.
In 1970, Colonel Elizabeth P. Hoisington became the first to be promoted to brigadier general. Several other promotions followed, and opened the way for women to occupy increasingly powerful and important positions in the military. Other changes during the Vietnam era included the first promotion to Command Sergeant Major for SGM Yzetta L. Nelson, which is the highest enlisted rank. In 1971 Army regulations were modified to allow WAC members who were married and pregnant to request waivers for retention on active duty. In February 1972 enlisted women were allowed to take part in Drill Sergeant Courses at Fort Jackson, S.C.
After the Vietnam war, many more advancements took place, mostly focusing on the expansion of women enlistments (Women in the U.S. Army). In August 1972, for example, military occupational specialties were all opened to WAC officers and enlisted women. Those requiring combat training or duty were however still not included. The All-Volunteer Force in 1973 also resulted in a significant increase in women enlistments in the Army. The number of women in the military increased from 12,260 in 1972 to 52,900 in 1978.
Changes also occurred in specific military divisions. Women were for example not allowed to take part in the Parachute Rigger Course, on the grounds that they were not "jump-qualified." This however also changed in 1972. The 43E was added to the WAC active duty list. The first women entered the course and were ready for jumping with their own chutes within months.
The All-Volunteer Force led to the aggressive recruitment of women for the Reserve components, and all military opportunities improved for women. In 1978, the Army Reserve included 25,000 WACS and the Army National Guard had more than 13,000. On 1 May 1976, the South Dakota State University pioneered the graduation of women in the college ROTC program. By 1981, the program included as many as 40,000 women throughout the United States. Even women as young as 14 were catered for by means of the Junior ROTC in 1972. The number of these high school units increased to accommodate more than 32,000 recruits.
As part of the increasing inclusion of women in military duties, weapons training became mandatory for women in June 1975. The same weapons training as men was provided to women officers, warrant officers, cadets, and officer candidates. In 1977 basic training was combined for men and women, and became policy after a test to determine its viability.
The rapid advancement of women to higher and more equal positions to men in the military during the late 1960s and 1970s was strongly impacted by social elements such as the Feminist Movement at the time (Women in Military Service for American Memorial Foundation, Inc.). This brought a new era for women in the military.
From the 1980s- A New Era
With the start of combined basic military training units for men and women, the WAC was disestablished. This brought a new era of growth and increasing importance for women in the military. The first women cadets for example graduated from the United States Military Academy West Point in 1980. Since then, all military classes have been open to women recruits.
In the field, similar advances were made. The Secretary of Defense for example ordered the increase of enlisted women from 65,000 to 70,000 and officers from 9,000 to 13,000. Women were allowed to undergo the same defensive weapons training as men, but were still not assigned to direct combat positions. They were however trained as combat pilots. Otherwise, their main function at the time was various support positions for paratroopers, the infantry, and mechanics. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the U.S. Army has been repeatedly required to respond not only to conflict situations, but also national and humanitarian efforts. Here, the roles of women were especially important in terms of their expertise in support positions (Women in the U.S. Army).
In 1989, 770 women deploy to Panama as part of Operation Just Cause. Here two women are assigned to command Army companies and three women pilots receive nominations for Air Medals. It was also during this year that the U.S. Military Academy names a woman as its Brigade Commander and First Captain (Women in Military Service for American Memorial Foundation, Inc.).
Women now serve almost on the same level as men in the U.S. military. From their humble beginnings, where women were recognized only for their capacity to support and care, they are now also recognized for their prowess in combat situations, although they are still not allowed to be assigned to ground combat units. According to Norris, women's roles however continue to expand, even as they are assigned to support positions for combat units in Iraq and other war-torn regions. The nature of these situations often require women to indeed see direct combat, blurring the line between front-line and rear units and duties.…[continue]
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