Army ROTC women at MU train for lives as soldiers
Female cadets prepare to dedicate their lives to service
April 12, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
12:14: Cadet Victoria Cox, 21, moves her gear to readjust her unit’s security during an ambush situational training exercise on Saturday, Feb. 25, in Macon. Cox is in the simultaneous membership program with the Army ROTC and the National Guard. She joined the military when her father lost his job, and she had concerns about paying for college. 07:14: Cadet Morgan Vazquez, 19, talks with two other cadets on the bus after arriving in the early morning for a field training exercise. The bus left Columbia at 6 a.m., and their training ended at 11 p.m. Vazquez is from a military family; she is the fourth generation to serve in the armed forces. “I grew up watching it, and I wanted to be a part of something that I think really changes a person and brings out some of their best and worst character qualities,” Vazquez says. “I wanted to know what my freedoms cost, and I didn’t want to go through life oblivious of some of the sacrifices our military makes.” 07:38: Cadet Elise Balzraine, 19, walks to another starting point in Macon to continue individual movement techniques. The cadets execute low crawls, high crawls and bounding moves to practice getting from point A to point B in the safest way possible. Balzraine recently graduated from Mountain Warfare School in Vermont. She was one of four cadets in the country to attend. 14:00: Victoria Cox adjusts her hair during a break. Both females and males must comply with standards on hair length, and females are not allowed to have their hair touch their collars. A favored hairstyle among female cadets is the sock bun. The cadets cut off the toe of a sock and roll their hair around it. The finished product looks like a donut on their heads. The sock bun fits the most comfortably under a helmet, Cox says. 18:07: The women in the battalion sit together for a Subway dinner as they prepare for their night land navigation, and Joy Ellis, 22, exchanges her wet socks for dry ones. Ellis and Cox are both military science third-year-students. During this year in the program, cadets are evaluated during exercises, which help assess their leadership abilities. 18:49: Cadet Amanda Nickoley, 21, plots points on her map at twilight before a night land navigation course. Instead of white light, red light is used in flashlights and head lamps because it doesn’t interfere with night vision and is less detectable to enemies.
The women of the Army ROTC battalion at MU train and succeed alongside their male counterparts with the same strength and endurance workouts, drills, situational exercises and uniforms. Once they enter their Army careers, however, they are limited in positions such as combat roles, combat engineer groups and are faced with frightening statistics of sexual assault by fellow soldiers. They blend in with the uniforms tailored for a man’s body, and their tight regulation hairstyles under their camouflaged patrol caps set them apart from the many shaved heads.
In 2011, 13.6 percent of the women in the active Army were female. This number is the second lowest female involvement of all military branches. The Air Force topped the list with 19 percent, and the Marine Corps is the lowest with 7 percent. The women in the battalion at MU are twelve of the 100-person ROTC group. These featured women pursue future Army careers for various reasons: for discipline, a stable career path or to follow in the footsteps of their parents who also had military careers. They are the minority, but they have the same ambitions and goals of their male comrades — to serve their country.
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