In early 2002, I deployed to Afghanistan with the 21st Military Police Company (Airborne). The infantry was facing issues running combat patrols because the local women were hiding intelligence, weapons and high-value targets. It would have been cultural warfare for the male infantrymen to search these women. They needed a “high-speed female” to go on combat patrols and missions with them — and I was selected. My unit treated me no differently because I was a woman. I was referred to as “Hall.” I was a leader, a paratrooper and I smoked the hell out of some of those men.
A Misunderstood Job
Lesley-Anne Crumpton, Army, 2010-18
In 2015, I assisted with the integration of women into Ranger School for the first time in history. These efforts helped to change the combat exclusion ban on women in direct ground combat and ushered in the opening of all positions for women in the armed forces. My job was very controversial. I was part of a group of servicewomen attached to the three phases of Ranger School and walked the lanes with the Ranger students. Three women completed the course, and I personally got to watch one of them ace her leadership patrol and lead the pack like it was second nature.
Many Days, I Contemplated Suicide
Florence Shmorgoner, Marine Corps, 2014-Present
In 2015, I was sexually assaulted, and I waited until 2017 to report it because I was scared that I would not be believed or, worse, that I would be deemed a “troublemaker” in my platoon. It took about a year for the whole process to end. I was fortunate enough to go to counseling and see a psychologist and was found to have depression, anxiety disorder and PTSD — all stemming from the assault. I struggled with my self-worth more than I would like to admit. Many days, I contemplated suicide. Not because I felt like a burden but because the pain I felt every day was nearly unbearable. To this day, I still have nightmares of the assault. But I have found peace, which I have learned is all that matters.
My Daughter Re-enlisted With Me
Julie Ballard Squires, Navy, 1982-94
The day I re-enlisted, my daughter, Jessica, who was not quite 2, was in attendance and decided that she did not want to sit with my friend. My commanding officer told me to bring her up, so I did. We re-enlisted together, which was wholly fitting because I had recently gotten divorced, and Jessica was the reason I chose to stay on active duty.
My Drill Sergeant Looked Out for Me
Sgt. Joelene Schwebke, Army, 2012-Present
After graduating from college in 2008, I really wanted to serve in the military. Unfortunately, this meant I would have to hide that I am a lesbian. At the time, being openly gay in the service was forbidden. In 2011, my recruiter called me back and told me that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy had been repealed. I joined the Army in late 2011, and I was fortunate to have a wonderful drill sergeant, who made me feel comfortable during basic training and didn’t treat me differently. He made a point to let me know he wouldn’t tolerate any discrimination toward me.