The National Guard’s lineage extends further back in history than the formal existence of the United States of America. However, it was not until late 1956 that the movement to allow women to join the National Guard gained strength and eventually succeeded.
Prior to the Second World War, women were only permitted to serve in the military’s medical field as nurses. After America entered the war, women’s role in the war effort both on the homefront and in the service was realized. In May of 1942, the Women’s Auxillary Army Corps (WAAC) was established. From this point on, women were able to fulfill certain support jobs that did not require direct combat experience.
Each branch of the US military maintained its own program similar to the WAAC, yet the National Guard never received authorization to accept female recruits. That is, until the 1950’s. The 1956 bill allowed women to join the National Guard as officers to fulfill a variety of medical positions. As the years progressed, more and more women joined the National Guard ranks and in 1978 numbered in the thousands. As a result, the WAAC was deactivated, and all its members were assimilated into the conventional military branches.
An even greater number of women continue to serve in both the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard today, many currently serving in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Although they are not allowed to serve in combat positions, many women have ended up in combat due to sporatic battlefield circumstances. In 2005, Specialist Monica Beltran was awarded the Bronze Star for her actions after her convoy was ambushed in Iraq. In Afghanistan, the National Guard is utilizing Female Engagement Teams, which are comprised of female Guardsmen. The country’s culture forbids communication most between men and women, so majority of US soldiers have a difficult time communicating with local women. These female engagement teams allow female Guardsmen to break these social barriers and promote good relations with the local women.
The above are only a few of many stories showing how women are distinctively serving their country in the National Guard. They continue to live up to President Dwight Eisenhower’s praise that “their contributions in efficiency, skill, spirit, and determination are immeasurable.”
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