Women Veterans Day June 12, 2020

Capt MJ

Serviam.
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Today, June 12, marks the 72nd anniversary of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act, signed into law by President Harry Truman in 1948. It acknowledged the great contributions made by women in the military and finally enabled them to serve as regular members of the United States Armed Forces and Reserves.
(copied from many internet sources)

The key is “regular.” Women had served in an activated reserve type status in previous wars, but were released after the conflict ended.

Some other fun facts:

- In the Navy, women were not allowed to hold flag rank (admiral). There was an admiral who headed up the Nurse Corps, but it was a temporary rank, and she would retire at the rank of Captain. This was changed either late 60’s or early 70’s. This is why RADM Grace Hopper took so long to be promoted to admiral. I believe this was true in other services as well.
- Military women, even if married to a civilian and with dependents, were not eligible for the with-dependents BAH allowance. It took major legal action to get this changed, late 60’s or early 70’s. The reason was the same mumbo-jumbo used by the IRS saying that women could not be heads of households.
- Navy women officers were not allowed to have the gold chinstrap on their covers. This changed in the late 70’s or early 80’s. Being authorized to carry an officer’s sword came some years after that.
- Various warfare communities opened up one by one, starting with surface warfare in the late 70’s, along with aviation. Women could not serve on or fly any combatant ships or aircraft (had weapons).
- Let’s not even talk about the mandatory requirement to wear make-up or wear girdles in uniform. Well before my time, but still in effect longer than you would think.
 
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I can still remember the first, senior female Naval Officer I ever met. It was the 70’s and I was a stash ensign assigned to Officer Programs Office at Naval Recruiting District, San Francisco. Commander Dixie Cook was the Executive Officer and the only female officer in the command. The “Old Man” was an 0-6 and I was a little nervous about wanting to make a good impression. Upon initial check-in CDR Cook welcomed me warmly and put me at ease. There was a lit cigarette in her ashtray and I surmised she was from the south from her accent. I liked her immediately and could tell that the other SWOs and aviators had great respect for her.

Later, I heard from the LTs that Commander Cook liked to host BBQ gatherings at her home that were often followed by some poker. The story and advice to me was, “Don’t ever play poker with the XO, she cleaned the “Old Man” and us out last time!”. I still have the plaque she presented me when I left NRD SF.

Thanks for helping me remember the Exec on this day.
 
Taking the idea from @WT Door , I’ll single out CAPT Margaret Oskam, USN (Ret) whom I first met as an OCS Company Officer as a LT. She was a PT stud and a terror at room and uniform inspections. After I was commissioned, I was stashed at OCS for 60 days. She had me over to dinner, and did a lot of first-duty-station-gouge-sharing with me. Later in my career, she was a captain at Pers-81, the Navy staff home for oversight of disciplinary and punitive actions. I was the XO of a 900-sailor activity at the time, and occasionally had reasons to contact Pers-81. CAPT Oskam always made time to talk with me personally and advise on the pros and cons of various options.
 
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I'll continue with: The HM rating was and probably still is the largest rating in the Navy. Due to the nature of the occupation, we have lots of females. I have served with some great ones through the years both ashore and with the Marines. I took two outstanding female Corpsmen with me to a double CAX now called ITX in 29 Palms where my son is currently stationed. It was early 1996 and not much was happening so I got to hand pick my detachment. I picked these two not because I had to take females with me, but they were among the 15 best in the approximately 100 member Bravo Company of 2nd Medical Battalion. They were clinically proficient as most other HM2s were but they excelled at the field craft aspect of the job. They could do tents, generators, vehicles, and everything else better than most. I always worked hard at trying to reenlist sailors like them but they got out and moved on.

My favorite woman veteran though is my wife. She and i met at HM A school where we were both instructors. We got married not too many months after meeting which is good I guess. She didn't have enough time to find out much about me. She was a much better instructor than I and did her part in the gift that is my two children. I transferred to Independent Duty Corpsman school with a wife and two kids I didn't previously have and she checked in to the Sewell's Point Branch Clinic in Norfolk. She was the LPO of the aviation medicine clinic as she was an AVT, Aviation Medicine Technician. I graduated from the year long IDC school and spent the next four years aboard ship and was gone a lot.

She juggled two young kids and work and duty and the whole nine yards. She even had to go to sea on the Enterprise for carrier quals for female pilots because the ship didn't have any female HMs. That might not be anything special except I was at sea. She had to find somebody to keep the kids and we had no family in the area. The kids were spending more time with babysitters than with us, so she decided to get out. She had 13 years in and orders to AVT school in P-Cola as the senior instructor but she got out anyway. It was a struggle to begin with, due to losing her pay and me being on shore duty with the loss of sea pay and special duty assignment pay I got due to being on a ship without a medical officer. It was a great decision though. Our kids turned out just fine. She was much happier as a full time mom and wife and in November we will celebrate 36 years of marriage.
 
President Truman and some trail-blazers (and no gold chin strap on the officer covers😉):

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My time at USNA was evenly split between two years pre-women and two years with women and then saw the changes as they rolled through the fleet. We had three female plebes in my company in that first year and one was a teammate and then engaged to a very close friend so my respect level was established pretty early. One of her roommates was the real one and only of that class and that is the first (and for a year only) African American female mid and thus quite the magnet throughout the brigade. Janie recently wrote a book which I bought and I am still in awe of all that she endured and accomplished. The women who I got to know at USNA included a flag and an astronaut as well as others who excelled in their profession.
 
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