Women serve in the military yet, we know so very little about them. The upheaval of war is the concern of both men and women in uniform.
The American Revolution and the Civil War opened for women new paths, allowing them to take on roles previously held largely by men. When the United States joined the war to defeat Nazi Germany and its allies, men took off to fight abroad and women filled their jobs at the home front.
In Israel, the nation’s army is made of the people and women are conscripted to serve just as men. Israel is one of only a few countries in the world with a mandatory military service requirement for men and women alike.
But the Israeli women fighters have decided to take their military service a notch higher, and thus breaking barriers, to become combat pilots. The odds of successfully graduating from the Israeli Air Force’s pilot training course are one in nine, and that’s even less for women. But the Israeli women broke the training barrier and gradually are proudly serving in the nation’s air force, flying the most sophisticated military aircraft.
Women have been involved in Syrian Kurdish Resistance fighting since as early as 2011. Women’s Protection Units or Women’s Defense Units, in Kurdish, Yekîneyên Parastina Jin (YPJ) is an all-female militia actively fighting in Northern Syria.
Today, women make 17% of the USA military. The Arlington National Cemetery and Women’s Memorial commemorate and honor women in service.
Throughout war’s history women took a pivotal role when serving in the military. My fascination is with the almost untold story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, acronym WASP.
The other day I was watching the History Chanel and got edified about American female pilots, members of the WASP unit. I did not know about the WASP service-women and I was fascinated.
Apparently, during World War Two, in 1942, the United States was faced with a severe shortage of pilots. The leaders of that time took a gamble with a unique and experimental program to help fill the crucial pilots’ slot void. The program trained women to fly military aircraft so male pilots could be released for combat duty overseas.
The group of female pilots was called the Women Air Force Service Pilots, acronym WASP.
As part of the WASP pilots’ program, some 1,100 young women, all civilian volunteers, flew almost every type of military aircraft – including the B-26 and B-29 bombers. These brave women, who broke the dogma-normative barriers, transported, new planes long distances, from factories to military bases and to departure points across the country; they transported equipment and non-flying personnel.
They were also assigned to test for flight’s aptness newly overhauled planes before the men were allowed to fly them again, also towed targets behind their planes to give ground and air gunners’ live ammunition shooting training.
For over two years, the WASP went on to perform a wide variety of aviation-related jobs and to serve at more than 120 bases all over the United States.
The man who championed the WASP program was the Army Air Forces Commanding General Henry Harley “Hap” Arnold, who was revered by the U.S. Congress.
In 1944, during the graduation ceremony for the last WASP training class, Commander Arnold said that when the program started, he wasn’t sure “whether a slip of a girl could fight the controls of a B-17 in heavy weather.” He was wrong.
Regrettably, in June 1944, when Commander Arnold sought to officially designate the WASP as members of the United States military, Congress did not approve the sought after designation. The WASP band of ladies-pilots expected to become part of the US military during their service but instead, sadly, the program was canceled after just two years.
After a lengthy fight, in 1977, thanks to a law signed by President Carter, the WASP were finally granted military status and official recognition. These 1,102 Women Air Force Service Pilots flew wingtip to wingtip with their male counterparts and were just as vital to the World War Two efforts.
The National WASP WWII Museum, located in Texas, is dedicated to honoring the life and legacy of the Women Air Force Service Pilots. The mission of the museum is to educate and inspire all generations with the story of the WASP-the first women to fly America’s military aircraft-who forever changed the role of women in aviation.
Nonetheless, it is still hard to typify the female pilot. When one boards a civilian aircraft, to take a flight across country or abroad, and the pilot is a female the surprise and apprehension sentiments appear.
To this day, the public in general do not know how to characterize the profile of the female pilot as they do that of the male pilot. The progression of it is much slower.
However, if the women of the 21st century can carry the job of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in a multi-billion dollar corporation, surely they can fly the friendly and not so friendly skies just as well.