In the course of writing for our weekly community paper, I’ve run across some people who’ve done some remarkable things “back in their day”. As time passes, their accomplishments are certainly dimmed, if not forgotten. In a case like this, it was something not locally known. The full article I wrote is here: http://www.southdadenewsleader.com/eedition/page-a/page_95874306-7dde-54f3-841a-d10e560a297f.html
One of the guys on active duty reached out to the newspaper publisher to tell him about Joyce Kutsch, one of two women to be the first to go through U.S. Army Airborne training in 1973. That was during the initial phases of closing out the Women’s Army Corps (as well as the other women’s services) and integrating women into the regular services. Jump school, as it is commonly referred to, has never been easy. Yes, people who sky dive for fun can go out and get a quick lesson, especially if they’re planning a tandem jump of jumping together with a professional. Military jumping is quite different and in Joyce’s case even more so. She was to go to jump school because it was a prerequisite to being a parachute rigger. This was one of the male-only fields (except for necessity during WW II) opened to women in 1973. While the specialty does mean packing parachutes for soldiers, it also involves packing for equipment drops; everything from pallets of supplies to vehicles. Try figuring out how to rig a 5-ton truck for a drop and you get the idea of skill required.
In addition to being a rigger, Joyce was assigned to Fort Bragg in support of the 82d Airborne Division and finding a more testosterone-filled unit would be difficult. Like many “inadvertent pioneers” at the time, Joyce wasn’t looking to make history, but she and the other women weren’t going to let skepticism and derision nor the intense physicality of the training/follow-on duties stop them.
Despite forging the way for other women, Joyce didn’t stay for a career and she wound up here and has been a postal carrier for more than twenty years. Interviewing her was a delight and we’ll be staying in touch.