For much of America’s history, women weren’t allowed to be members of the armed forces protecting our nation. Now, women make up over 14% of enlisted ranks in the military, according the figures from the Pentagon. As that number rises, more women have signed up for Reserve Officer’s Training Corps, also known as ROTC.
Hopefully, with more women in training to become officers, the military will become more equal with the passing of time. As of 2013, only 7 percent of officers in the military were women. Today, women account for 20 percent of Army cadets alone.
Jackie Page is one of only three women in Syracuse University’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps training and learning how to protect the citizens of America.
The program allows for college students to train to become commissioned officers of the United States Armed Forces following graduation. While open to both men and women, Page, a sophomore, notices the difference in levels of participation between the genders.
“It’s so easy to get drowned out by the male voices in the class,” said Page.
Jordan Burke, a freshman at Ball State, echoes that sentiment, saying that it isn’t always easy in the ROTC boys’ club. While she doesn’t feel any mistreatment from the program, she has noticed that she is treated differently by other cadets because she is a woman.
Before beginning her education for a degree in nursing at Ball State, Burke took a year off to enlist and complete basic training. Had she not come in with the level of military knowledge that she did, she feels that she most likely would have been discriminated against because she is a woman.
“The guy cadets don’t really get it yet,” said Katharina Beliveau, a junior in Army ROTC at Louisiana State University working towards a commission as an officer in the National Guard.
Beliveau said that, while the men in her program could stand to be more welcoming to women, the program is largely equal for men and women, looking at the person rather than their gender. She said is “lucky to be in a program that really values the women it has.”
Beliveau, Burke, and Page all said that the main way inequality is manifested in their programs is in the physical training (PT) and physical tests that all cadets must complete. For example, men must complete over 100 percent more pushups than women in a set time and run a set distance in less time.
The difference in physical standards is meant to be accommodating and welcoming to women, rather than unfair, said Beliveau. No matter their gender, the tests are meant to push the cadets’ limits, like most other aspects of training for the armed forces.
Page said that her training makes her feel more accomplished and motivated in the rest of her life. She also added that her time management skills have had to improve a ton since starting ROTC.
Burke said that, as a freshman she has yet to find the balance that Page has. She said “it’s frustrating sometimes because I know that I have to get up at five in the morning but I also know that I need to study. A normal college student can pull an all-nighter, take their test, and nap, but I have a lot more to do.”
As a junior, Beliveau has had a bit more time to figure out how to make it all work. She said that, other than waking up so early in the morning, ROTC isn’t a hindrance to her everyday life. On top of being a cadet, she is a sister in the Delta Gamma sorority and working towards a degree in interior design, a very demanding major at LSU.
“It makes you think if you want to go to that party or not, but as long as you’re not being stupid and getting arrested or showing up drunk, you’ll be fine,” she said when asked how she balances it all.
Other than some micro-aggressions from other cadets and the crazy commitment, the three women believe that ROTC is the best place for them.
“Maybe on occasion I feel like it’s holding me back, but it’s not to the point where I would ever change my decision,” said Burke.
Page said that “the biggest defining factor in me is my decision to commit to the military… I think without it, I wouldn’t be at all the same as I am now. If I didn’t go to Syracuse and wasn’t a cadet, I don’t know how I would define myself.”