The military gives opportunities to many Americans. Military service provides money for college and healthcare benefits. The estimated average active duty service member receives Army benefits and is paid a compensation package worth $99,000. Lt. Kathryn Whichard is one woman who has taken advantage of these opportunities and had enviable experiences while in the military.
To get a sense of what it is like to be a woman in the military, the Oracle interviewed Lt. Whichard. She wanted to serve since the eighth grade. Thinking that it would be “fun” and “cool,” she participated in many army training services that were offered to minors. She attended the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps while in high school and participated in summer programs at the Naval and Air Force Academies. Quite driven at an early age, she enlisted in 2006 for Naval Basic training and graduated in 2010. She then joined the United States Marine Corps as a 2nd lieutenant; in the summer of 2012, she was promoted to 1st lieutenant.
Lt. Whichard has traveled to nine different countries during her service. When first commissioned, she was an Admiral’s personal aide and speechwriter. She then attended six months of infantry platoon officer command training. As an air liaison officer, she was deployed to Afghanistan where she “experienced combat both from behind and outside the wire.” After leaving combat she became a flight student for about a year before becoming a public affairs director.
The Oracle asked Lt. Whichard if being a woman in the military was difficult. She replied that when she first entered the service the “gender differential was less noticeable” to her, but she added that she had always been a “tomboy,” and she and her peers were all on a “level playing field.”
She said that the men of newest generation are “used to women who are career-oriented and driven. Many of them have been raised by single moms and were competitive with girls in the classroom.” However, she shared that the older marines were “less akin to the presence of women in the workplace” and that “the gap is more pronounced” in the operational forces.
Lt. Whichard was inspired before entering the service by the few military women she was able to meet, saying she was impressed by their, ”self-confidence, self-reliance, and general toughness.” These qualities also translated to her fellow soldiers, Saying her colleagues are “confident, reliable and tough as nails” with “Type A personalities,” her daily interactions are interesting.
Lt.Whichard shows that the military can be a viable career option for women, but according to a recent Oracle survey, Archer girls don’t seem to see it that way. Of the 192 people who took the survey, 83 percent said that they have no interest in joining the military and have never considered it. Only 14 percent of the respondents have a family member currently serving, but 73 percent said they have older relatives who served in past wars like Vietnam. The data suggests that the Archer community is distanced from the military, as most students only connect to it through older generations.
Another possible reason for girls’ reluctance to serve could be a history of sexual abuse problems in the military. While the Oracle survey suggests that this isn’t the main thing that keeps Archer girls from enlisting, it is still an extremely prevalent issue. According to NBC News, women make up an estimated 20 percent of the armed force population, and approximately 12,000 women experienced sexual assault in the year of 2013 alone. The military is male-dominated, and women already struggle to gain equal footing in the average workplace today.
But despite the many odds that seem to face women in the military Lt.Kathryn Whichard has succeeded and had “an experience in the military has been more diverse than [she] could ever have expected.”
Featured Image: 1st Lt. Whichard at work. All photos provided by Lt. Whichard.