On May 4th, Jessica and I went to a World Affairs Council (WAC) event at the Glade Gallery in The Woodlands to hear from retired Lieutenant Colonel Kyleanne Hunter and Senior Fellow and Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), Katherine Kuzminski, speak about women in the military. Interestingly, we had previously met the CEO of CNAS, Richard Fontaine, at a previous WAC event.
The Glade Gallery, as usual, had stunning artwork adorning its walls and upon viewing them all we were able to determine our favorite art piece.
After a brief introduction by the sponsor of The Woodlands’ series, Champion X, one of our favorite moderators, Ray Cunningham, gave us a brief introduction of who Lt. Colonel Hunter and Mrs. Kuzminski are. Kyleanne Hunter served in the Marine Corps as a Lt. Colonel and has multiple combat deployments as an AH-1W “Super Cobra” attack pilot and is now a Military and Strategic Studies assistant professor at the United States Air Force Academy. Mrs. Kuzminski was a Political Scientist at RAND Corporation where she researched military personnel policy before joining the Center for a New American Security.
Mrs. Kuzminski and Lt. Colonel Hunter discussed how it was believed that women were formerly unable to perform “manly” tasks. To begin with, there weren’t many women in the military, and those that were had limited job opportunities within. Mainly because many of the equipment and uniforms were designed for men. Although, women have served in ever-increasing capacities in support of the US military in every war the country has faced whether it is as combat nurses or four-star generals and admirals. Making up approximately 3% of those serving in the military when the draft ended in 1973.
In 2015, all combat positions were made available to females which allowed Lt. Colonel Hunter to be an AH-1W “Super Cobra” attack pilot. Prior to 2015, women in the military could not sign up to do any combat positions which is part of the reason why our “team Mom,” Ms. Stephanie, went into Linguistics despite her interest in a combat position. Both Mrs. Kuzminski and Lt. Colonel Hunter, believe that there are not enough women within the high ranks of the military.
There are multiple reasons for this such as (1) their want and desire to start a family of their own, (2) it is a male-dominated career, and (3) the occurring sexual assaults. All of these are factors that make it difficult to “recruit and retain” women in the military.
They often just serve their time and retire to start their family, which is why we are starting to see daycares available through the military for the children of those who serve.
As a male-dominated career, it used to be difficult and occasionally still is for women to move up the ranks due to the belief that a man is a better fit for those positions. However, this has started to shift with the implementation of tests that target the skills necessary for the specific ranks to help determine who is most qualified with both men and women having the same standards.
Sexual assaults in the military have been a “hot topic” on the news recently, not because there was suddenly an uprising but because women are now finding they can confide in higher-ups to follow through with a consequence for the accused. Part of this is because the most qualified are moving up and those tend to be the ones used to get overlooked but were the most trusted within their squadrons. However, there are efforts being taken to reduce the number of sexual assaults within the military like the committee that Lt. Colonel Hunter is on.
I found it most interesting when Lt. Colonel Hunter mentioned hygiene and protection as the two most important aspects of being a woman in the military. I am currently in ROTC and am considering my options within the Army, so I was curious in knowing how she dealt with these aspects. She revealed her personal choice of shaving prior to her deployment, including her hair, to be most hygienic.
Following the presentation, I had the opportunity to ask Lt. Colonel Hunter more about her experience in the military, including how she managed to withstand the long hours of field training, ruck marches, and other arduous tasks as a woman. We are grateful to the World Affairs Council for hosting Lt. Colonel Hunter and Mrs. Kuzminski, who flew down to Texas from DC!