If you’ve been on my website, you may have looked at the speaker’s section. I have several topics I regularly present and can tailor a few more. Yesterday, I did a pretty short-notice presentation to the Rotary Club, but since it was about my military time and then into my writing, it was one I can do with about an hour’s warning. The title of, “An Inadvertent Pioneer” is something I’ve mentioned before. After I gave my talk and went into questions, one gentleman asked me to give an example of an “obstacle” I encountered because I was female. Not wanting to get into anything too gritty (didn’t have many of those anyway), I went for something that was ultimately amusing. For those who know this, bear with me as I explain for those who don’t. In the Army, as in some of the other services, there are officers, enlisted, and warrant officers. Warrant officers are highly skilled technicians in their chosen field. Senior warrant officers are as grizzled, opinionated, often prickly, and outspoken as one can ask for. So, here I was, a very junior second lieutenant, the first female officer ever assigned to the 19th Maintenance Battalion in Giessen, Germany.
That was also in the day when we had Officer’s Clubs and we younger folks hung together at one end of the bar and the senior warrant officers tended to be at the other end. It didn’t usually take long for this one guy, “Mr. J” I’ll call him to begin to make loud comments about how the Army was changing, especially the idea that women could be more than nurses and clerks. It wasn’t as if anyone could miss what he was saying, but it also wasn’t worth a public challenge and I simply blew it off for what it was. This went on for the entire two years I was assigned to the unit. Then in my last few days before being reassigned back to the States, I was at the Club one evening and Mr J wandered over. He gruffly said something along the lines of, “Lieutenant, you know I don’t much like the way the Army is changing.” “Yes, Mr. J, I know.” “And I don’t know why they think women should be anything other than nurses and admin (administrative), but you’re okay in my book.” I wasn’t the only one who was astonished to hear him say this in public and we parted if not as friends, then at least with having an understanding.