Osan Women Leading the Charge

by Airman 1st Class Gwendalyn Smith, 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Stripes Korea

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- “Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”  -Amelia Earhart

Women have not only left their mark on our history, but they also continue to shape the world we live in today, including in the armed forces.

One of the ways we honor these pioneers is Women’s History Month.

Empowered women such as Deborah Samson Gannett, one of the first female American soldiers, paved the way for women to excel in ways that were once thought impossible. In 1782, Gannett enlisted into the Army under her deceased brother’s name and disguised herself as a man. She was wounded twice while fighting in the Revolutionary War. Almost 200 years later in 1948, a law was passed to make women a permanent part of the military services.  

Women now dominate various career fields including nursing, teaching, counseling, psychology and veterinary services. Over 60 percent of college degrees awarded in the U.S. every year are earned by women.   

“When I came into the military, I was in the 10th class of women at the Air Force Academy,” said Col. Krystal Murphy, 51st Medical Group commander. “Women in science, engineering and technology, in particular, which is really what the academy is, are still underrepresented in those fields. It was still not normal for a female to go into the military. To want to be an engineer as a women was considered absurd, but I’ve seen that progress.”

Although women are still a minority in some career fields, they continue to make strides and perform alongside their male counterparts.

“Women went from about 10 percent to about 20 percent of the graduating cadet class,” said Murphy. “I was only the 4th woman in my career field to [promote] to O-6, but there was a whole class of women behind me. In one generation the amount of women doubled in the academy and my very technical career field.”

Each year during March, women are celebrated across the nation for their economic, cultural, and social contributions.

Team Osan wrapped up Women’s History Month by hosting a luncheon to look back on the history and progress made by women in all facets, particularly the military.

The guest speaker for the event was Republic of Korea army Warrant Officer Jung Eun-hee, the first ever female helicopter pilot instructor for the ROK army. Eun-hee has more than 1,500 flying hours, including aerial assault and combat support missions. She joined the ROK army in 1999 as an air traffic controller and began pilot training in 2004 after three years of applying for entry into the male-only career field.

“I called the ROKA and told them this is the age of gender equality and they should let me into the program,” said Eun-hee. “I [tried] for three years [before I was accepted]. I did my best to fulfill my duties as a soldier regardless of my gender. I believe I am just one of many Korean soldiers protecting their country.”

Eun-hee’s dedication and self-belief earned her a role many viewed as unobtainable. Her accomplishments are just one example of steps taken forward by women and won’t be the last.

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