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The Right Man For The Job
by Army Capt. Neil Penttila - October 8, 2011

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Command Sgt. Maj. Dawn Rippelmeyer, 42nd Military Police Brigade command sergeant major, fights through the pain as she alternates swinging a rope during the Physically Mentally Emotionally Hard Gauntlet April 29, 2011 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Photo by Sgt. Lindsey Kibler
Command Sgt. Maj. Dawn Rippelmeyer, 42nd Military Police Brigade command sergeant major, fights through the pain as she alternates swinging a rope during the Physically Mentally Emotionally Hard Gauntlet April 29, 2011 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Photo by Sgt. Lindsey Kibler
 JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (10/5/2011) - The command sergeant major sits down, flanked by an old drill instructor hat on the wall and a body building trophy staring vacantly across the office. After 28 years of service, this soldier looks the part popular culture expects a senior enlisted adviser to look like; all except the fact that Command Sgt. Maj. Dawn J. Rippelmeyer is a woman.

The Department of Defense restricts women from being members of units whose mission is to engage in direct ground combat. As the front lines of modern warfare blur, the DoD may look to re-examine its policies. The reality is women are no longer just serving actively in combat roles, they are leading.

“Since we've had this persistent conflict, women have shown themselves to be good soldiers, to be up for whatever is thrown at them. Across the board this has helped and enhanced women's stature as far as being soldiers and leaders,” said Rippelmeyer, 42nd Military Police Brigade command sergeant major.

Rippelmeyer would know, she's been a company first sergeant, a battalion sergeant major and is now the command sergeant

major of her second brigade. Simply put, she's had a successful career by anyone's measurement.

Even as women prove their merit daily in garrison, Iraq and Afghanistan, questions still remain. Are women treated as equals by their majority male peers? Is there an equal playing field professionally? What should the role of women be in a world where asymmetric conflict is the new normal?

“People put a lot of effort into making the appearance that there is a lot of equality, at least at surface level no one is being treated differently. I think there's still a ways to go before that is actually true,” said Capt. Joy E. Eastlack, A Company commander, 2nd Striker Brigade Support Battalion.
Eastlack, of Gaithersburg, Md., grew up in a military family and decided to follow in her father's footsteps. As she decides if she will make this a career, one big milestone lies between her and her decision, company command. She's not afraid of the challenge.

“I know I have what it takes to run this company,” said Eastlack.

Then of course there is family. At the point most officers and non-commissioned officers begin to take significant levels of responsibility is around the time many begin families. The physical and time demands of parenthood impact women more than men and often leave them having to choose between a career and family.

“I have a balanced view on military life and family life, I think sometimes that gets lost with our schedules and the deployments,” said Eastlack.

While Eastlack wants a family, she's putting it on hold to take over her new command that will have her in Afghanistan within a year. Afterward, she plans on making her choice on whether to stay in the military based more on her family rather than her career.

With the recent repeal of the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” a policy that allowed for the separation of openly homosexual service members, many advocacy groups have more leverage to push harder for women to serve in units whose primary mission is ground combat.

“Congressional policy on banning women from direct ground combat must change in order to recognize womens actual accomplishments on the battlefield,” according to the Service Woman's Advocacy Network.

Additionally, there are still those serving with a more traditional approach to the DoD policies regarding women in combat. Lt. Col Elisabeth G. Crooks, of Bridgeton, N.J., commander of Rear Detachment Headquarters Battalion, I Corps, comes from a long line of men and women who have served their nation. All four of her grandparents served in the World War II, her father served in Vietnam and she's half of a dual military couple.

Lt. Col. Elisabeth G. Crooks – rear detachment commander, Headquarters Battalion, I-Corps, gives a safety briefing to her soldiers following a battalion run outside I-Corps Headquarters building, Sept. 30, 2011 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Photo by Army Sgt. Austan Owen
Lt. Col. Elisabeth G. Crooks – rear detachment commander, Headquarters Battalion, I-Corps, gives a safety briefing to her soldiers following a battalion run outside I-Corps Headquarters building, Sept. 30, 2011 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Photo by Army Sgt. Austan Owen

“I do not believe women should be allowed in combat arms, I feel pretty strongly about it. You open up the gates of impropriety when you have mixed genders in branches like those,” said Crooks.

Her views are directly in line with DoD policies. Crooks is proud of how the military has embraced women and open opportunities over the years.

“The Army has come a long way to open doors for women and breaking the glass ceiling,” said Crooks.

The debate will take place within the hallways of Congress and not in the barracks, and for some that's just fine.

“I lead from the front, I don't talk much,” said Rippelmeyer.

A hallmark of the military's professionalism is not its politics, but its lack of.

By Army Capt. Neil Penttila
5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2011

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