Military women celebrated

Gender discrimination, camaraderie and the effects of service on family life were just a few of the issues discussed at WILL’s (Women in Learning and Leadership) Women in the Military Panel on April 15.

Part of the WILL senior capstone project titled “W.A.R.” (Women Accurately Represented), the panel featured women who have, are and will serve in the military, including representatives from the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and the College’s own ROTC program.

Each woman shared her stories, experiences and life lessons learned during her time enlisted.

When asked why each woman joined the military, the panelists’ answers differed as much as their experiences.

Lack of direction brought Air Force Master Sgt. Megan Parrott far from home.

“I had no direction,” Parrott said. “My father decided I needed to do something with my life. My first choice was I could go home and join the military. I wanted to do something that was bigger than myself. It gave me direction.”

Another influence that can persuade someone to join is pride. With a father who served in the Navy, Leslie Rice, a retired Army nurse who served for 27 years and an assistant professor of nursing at the College, enlisted to gain the pride her father achieved.

“I knew I had a skill I could serve my country with,” Rice said.

Aside from skills like leadership and discipline, other benefits of service include the sense of companionship between enlistees, according to Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Antoinette Koleshikov.

“Camaraderie,” Koleshikov said. “There is a bond just serving in the military. We take a great pride in teaching, mentoring and leading.”

The panel discussion also raised issues of gender in the military.

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Monica L. Rochester said any female biases were not present in the military.

“Whether you’re a man or a woman,” Rochester said, “there’s a degree that you have to prove your value.”

Agreeing with Rochester, Air Force Lt. Col. Kathryn S. Dyson said she never found being female a difficulty.

“You do really develop camaraderie within the unit,” Dyson said. “You don’t think about separating.”

With big shoes to fill from her fellow panelists, the College’s own ROTC member, sophomore Debbie Cho, biology and women’s and gender studies major, shared her secret of success.

Saying she does not worry about gender issues or discrimination, Cho explained that she simply accomplishes her goals by attacking them.

“It’s never about discrimination,” Cho said. “Once you put on your uniform, you’re a soldier.”