Women in the United States Military

Master Sgt. Tracey Jo Jagger - Air Force 1977-2004

Master Sgt. Tracey Jo Jagger - Air Force 1977-2004

During the Civil War, volunteer nurses courageously left their homes to go to the battlefield to tend to the wounded. Seen as a nuisance by many of the Army doctors, they worked selflessly to bring comfort. Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross, was given the right to be present at the battles so she and her nurses could aid the wounded—both Confederate and Union.

In World War I U.S. soldiers were cared for at home and abroad by both the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) and the Navy Nurse Corps. By 1918 there were 1,386 nurses in the Navy Nurse Corps. Many nurses worked aboard "moving hospitals," trains that could evacuate as many as 400 patients from facilities near the front lines in order to move them closer to the point of embarkation back to the United States.Rosie the Riveter emerged in World War II, when women replaced men who had left for the war. The factories continued to produce military vehicles and materiel. Women in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) flew new planes from the factories to airfields , freeing up male pilots for combat service. The WACS, opposed by many men, became Gen. Douglas MacArthur's "best soldiers," working harder, complaining less and being better disciplined than men.

Women served in Vietnam in many support staff assignments, in hospitals, crewed on medical evacuation flights, with MASH Units, hospital ships, operations groups, information offices, service clubs, headquarters offices, and numerous other clerical, medical, intelligence and personnel positions.

The one consistency between all these conflicts is that women, though important, were often not valued or were considered to be outside their acceptable role. Harassment, a problem for many women in traditionally male bastions, still existed for 1st Sgt. Tracey Jaeger in 1977. The older guys, those who from the Vietnam era, resented her presence on the flight line. The younger guys treated her like a sister… and expected her to hold the flashlight while they repaired the plane. Tracey developed a thick skin and learned to make a quick come-back when faced with raunchy comments. For the first six years of her 27 year Air Force career she took up the extra space in her boots with padding and a second pair of socks until women's sizes of boots were introduced. Attractive maternity uniforms are now available to women soldiers. But during her pregnancy Tracey was issued a smock to cover the fact that she needed to unbutton and unzip her uniform as the months passed.

Women possess the same patriotism as men, and gradually they are being allowed to do the same military jobs.

JoAnne P. Miller