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Rose in No Man’s Land

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Turaeza Hose
  • 379th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron
Typically in historical times, the conventional mindset was war is a man’s fight. However, there are more than 250 documented cases of women who served in the ranks of both the Union and Confederate armies dressed as men. An act once considered rebellious and patriotic. Women used this assumed male social identity to claim full status as citizens of their nation and access independence in an age when neither was available. These sacrifices were at times patriotic, and at other times were out of love to remain close to their husbands. These amazing women encountered intolerable conditions to change a society without suffrage and to give us the rights we are afforded to at this moment. And to date, the total numbers of women who serve in the Department of Defense only make up approximately 14.5% of the total force.

As a proud woman serving for almost two decades in the Air Force, I have come across a variety of women serving. I would tell all who read this to never judge a book by its cover. Treat a woman as an individual first, and allow them the opportunity to prove their dedication to the mission. Being a self-proclaimed “girly girl” myself, I have been misjudged many times over my career. However, of all that have been honest with me about judgment, informed me later on that they judged me first on gender and personality. However, after earning their respect for my style of leadership and professionalism, exclaimed they would stand behind me any day in any battle. I tell you this because it is honest, and many times we avoid honest facts as to not offend another individual. I say instead of fearing judgments, be yourself, embrace your personality and characteristics you were born with, and show all those who work with you or for you what a “Jet Packing” lady looks like.

I know it’s not easy. Our upbringings often dictate our behaviors and mentalities on many subjects. Having worked with a “tribe” of women on the USAFE Inspector General, I have seen how many women adapt to the environment they work in to achieve success due to working in a male dominated career field. This comes through in many forms, such as blending into a culture, acquiring a masculine mindset, and or fearing to express your honest opinion. While I know this is a norm, and there is technically nothing wrong with these actions, I would preach to the young women in the Armed Forces to embrace your confidence and the characteristics that you carry as a woman. One of these characteristics, my strongest and by far my favorite, is empathy. Empathy is the ability to recognize and share people’s feelings and one of the most important tools in a leader’s tool box. In Simon Sineks latest bestselling book, Leaders Eat Last, he states, “the lesson I’m learning is that I’m useless by myself. My success hinges entirely on the people I work with, people who enlist themselves to join me in my vision.” Know your people, show them you care, and in the end, your people will take care of you regardless of gender.

Lastly, I would ask you contribute to the cycle of history. Make our military a better place for all. Understand that success and ideas are placed in your heart for a reason. It is up to you to take a plan, put it into action, and be willing to stand behind it whether it succeeds or fails. Ultimately, if your passion fueled a program, you succeeded regardless. Our predecessors and our passions are allowing women to continually grow in our armed forces and acquire higher positions. As the number of positions filled by women increases, the direction of our Armed Forces will change with broader understandings and innovative changes. Areas of focus will further you, and your capabilities in the military. For example, when I joined the Air Force, GI Jane was once just a movie, but in my short time, women are now allowed to serve in active combat roles.

With each of my female Airmen I share one of my favorite poems called “Rose in No Man’s Land” writted by Jack Caddigan and James Alexander Brenna.

An excerpt from the poem reads,

"It's the one red rose the soldier knows,
It's the work of the Master's hand;
Mid the War's great curse, Stands the Red Cross Nurse,
She's the rose of "No Man's Land."

The story of a Rose in No Man’s Land was written for our Red Cross nurses who supported men in combat, but I say we broaden this mindset to all women in the Armed Forces now. Because, while just a flower, a Rose withstands life in some of the harshest environments, yet stands strong with beauty throughout all seasons.