Deployed Officer in Afghanistan Recalls Days of Being a WAC
(June 25, 2011)
Afghanistan, (ANS - June 22, 2011 -- The 1970s probably seem
like a long time ago for today's new Soldiers, but for one
officer serving in Afghanistan, the era is still a vivid
memory of when women Soldiers were treated differently than
For Lt. Col. Kimberly Marlowe, the time of
segregation between the sexes is something she sees every
day -- on her left hand symbolized by a ring. The 14-karat
gold ring means she was a member of WAC, or Women's Army
Corps. It's something she's proud of despite the separation
of the times.
“We are a dying breed,” said Marlowe,
53, who is deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, serving with
the Regional Support Command-South, NATO Training
On the ring is the head of
Pallas Athene, who was selected as the insignia of the
Women's Army Corps. Athene is a Roman and Greek Goddess
associated with a variety of womanly virtues. Athene, along
with the traditional “US” was selected for lapel uniform
insignia, cut out for officers and placed on discs for
When not deployed, Marlowe is an
environmental quality analyst, Department of Military and
Veterans Affairs, in Grayling, Mich., which has the largest
National Guard training camp east of the Mississippi River
with 147,000 acres.
Deployed, she is now serving as
the transition officer for geographical and institutional
functional areas for RSC-South. Her deployment to
Afghanistan first started with the 46th Military Police
Command in July 2010 where she served as the G-2 officer
(intelligence) and linguist coordinator. Then Marlowe
extended in theater for one more year and went to work for
RSC-South beginning in March 2011.
worldwide web could not produce the answer on how many WACs
are still in uniform. But as Marlowe points out, you would
have to be at least 51 as 1978 saw the end of the WAC.
WAC first started out as the Women's Auxiliary Army
Corps in 1942 in the early part of World War II, but was
shortened to WAC within a year. Its first director was Oveta
Culp Hobby, a prominent society woman from Texas.
physical training manual was published by the War Department
in July 1943, aimed at bringing the women recruits to top
physical standards. The manual begins by stating their
responsibility: “Your Job: To Replace Men. Be Ready To Take
While most women served in the States, some
did serve in Europe, North Africa and New Guinea. Records
show that nearly 96,000 women served at the height of the
war and that number naturally declined after its end. In
June 1946, nearly 18,000 WACs were on active duty.
The 150,000 women that did serve during World War II allowed
the equivalent of seven divisions of men to fight. Gen.
Dwight D. Eisenhower stated that "their contributions in
efficiency, skill, spirit, and determination are
Women mainly served in administrative
and nursing positions. And, during the Vietnam War --
1964-1973 -- women could only be in their 20s to serve in
theater, Marlowe said.
Numbers rose again to 56,000
in 1972, during the Vietnam War. After the conclusion of
that war, much had changed in American society -- civil
rights, music, women's rights, voting age, and the Supreme
Court's landmark decision “Roe vs. Wade” regarding abortion.
The Army had changed too and recognized that females
played a crucial role in the success of those two wars and
the Korean War in the early ‘50s. Hence, the idea of having
a separate women's corps seemed outdated and women had
proven themselves to Soldier with the best of them.
Even the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., ended a
long tradition of banning females in 1976. That year 119
women were admitted. Four years later, 62 graduated and
paved the way for more to follow.
“It (WAC) dissolved
because of equal opportunity,” Marlowe said. “The ‘60s and
‘70s were huge in women's equal rights.”
October 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed into law the
abolishment of the WAC, which meant that females and males
would now train together and be treated as equals regarding
promotions, assignments, and military protocol.
was a little disappointed,” Marlowe said. "I had a lot of
pride in being a WAC.”
Now, Marlowe said, she was
just another Soldier.
“The WAC had a lot of
history," she said. "It just felt like that was being taken
Like most big changes, there were pros and
“Something was lost and something was gained,”
“In some respects [ending the WAC] was
a good thing -- men and women started training together.
Women were taken more seriously. The men got to see them
doing the same training they did,” Marlowe said.
Marlowe, enlisting in the Army was something of a final
resort. After completing 11th-grade, Marlowe said she was
sick of school and quit in 1975. Her mother told her to
finish school or join the military. After getting her GED,
that's exactly what she did in November of that year.
“When I came in, I was a 17-year-old kid who hated
school,” she said. The Army “pushed me to go farther than I
thought I was capable of going.”
Marlowe decided to
become a military policewoman and went to Fort McClellan,
Ala., to become one.
“I just thought it would be
fascinating,” she said.
Marlowe's first three years
in the Army were in the WAC. Her military occupational
specialty was military police where Marlowe served in
Wurzburg, Germany, when the Army's mode of transportation
was still the quarter-ton jeep.
After three years of
active duty, she opted for National Guard duty serving in
the engineering field where she worked for nearly two
decades. Then she left engineering and joined the 46th
Military Police Command.
It was this command and
state that eventually saw its first female general officer
in the Michigan Army National Guard -- Brig. Gen. Mandi
Murray, who took over as the deputy commander in November
“It's about time. It's difficult for women
still,” Marlowe explained. “To attain the rank of general,
most officers have to have commanded combat units such as
the infantry, which is something not open to women, and
because of this, it is very hard for women to achieve the
rank of general across the military not just in the state of
Michigan or the 46th MP command. There are still few female
officers at this level.”
In 1989, Marlowe enrolled in
Officer Candidate School after it was suggested to her.
“Are you nuts, I hate officers,” she responded. But,
after thinking it over, Marlowe opted for it.
officer, maybe I could do more,” she said. Fifteen months
later she was commissioned as an officer in the Army's
engineer branch. She took basic engineer course in 1991 and
the advanced engineer course in 1998.
went onto earn a bachelor's degree in fisheries and wildlife
management in 1998 from Lake Superior State University and
in 2006 received her master's degree in organizational
management from Spring Arbor University. Both schools are in
In 1999, Marlowe was named the first female
to command an engineer company -- an Assault Ribbon Bridge
company -- in the Michigan Army National Guard. “I learned a
lot. I had great Soldiers working for me.”
Marlowe branch transferred into Military Intelligence. She
even taught Officer Candidate Scool for three years as well,
and deployed to Iraq in 2008 serving in Mosul, Baghdad, and
Taji as a combat engineer adviser.
career, Marlowe said she has felt some discrimination for
being female, but remains steadfast that the military
overall is committed to equal opportunity.
will attest to, things are very different in today's Army.
And she is concerned that today's female Soldiers may not
understand how things evolved to where they are today.
When Marlowe isn't Soldiering or working as an
environmental quality analyst, she spends her free time
running a 20-acre farm breeding horses. She currently has 13
horses and 2 donkeys.
And, she plans to stay in the
National Guard until 2015 and then retire with 40 years of
Looking back, Marlowe knows she's
come a long way -- a private running a traffic control point
in Germany to a lieutenant colonel traveling the world
meeting its people.
Her experiences have shown her
that the people of Iraq and Afghanistan are some of the most
generous people she has ever met. Like any country, there is
a small pocket of bad people who seem to get all the press.
“I've had a wonderful ride with this," she said.
"There's a lot of pride in this for me.”
“For a kid
coming up now, the opportunities are endless,” Marlowe said
of the Army. “Is it an easy life? No.”
kids, Marlowe has three of her own. Two are in their 20s and
one who is 31. In fact, she has a son in the active-duty
Army serving in Hawaii as a utilities equipment repairer
making sure the heating, ventilation, air conditioning
equipment is properly working. He was deployed in Bagram,
Afghanistan, when Marlowe was in Iraq.
She recalled a
saying her dad used to spout that fits her Army career: “Somedays
I wouldn't take a nickel to do it again, but I wouldn't take
a million dollars to have never have done it.”
Despite extending, Marlowe said she is looking forward to
the end of her deployment.
“I am absolutely looking
forward to getting back to my job. My true love is being out
in nature,” she said.
But her choice of making a
career out of the Army through the National Guard and
working as a civilian has allowed her to experience the
“best of both worlds,” Marlowe said.
“Once you're a
Soldier. You're always that Soldier.”
Article and photo by Jon Connor|
NTM-A Public Affairs
Army News Service
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