Archive for December, 2016

Gals in Blue: Finding Each Other

December 12th, 2016

 

“I got a short notice deployment. I am leaving in less than a week. I am missing Thanksgiving and Christmas and everything.”

The call from one of my dearest friends was unexpected but not surprising. This was late 2003, and we were at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was all hands on deck, literally. In the early 2000s, when the standing US military force was at its lowest since World War II, you were either deployed, coming home from deployment, getting ready to deploy, serving in some other overseas location, or in training.

I had no doubt she would be awesome while deployed, because she was one of the most talented officers in the Air Force I knew. The fact that she was female, and was being sent into a combat zone, was never an issue.

No Women’s Only Units

It’s really amazing to think about, the incredible amount of change for women in the military in the 60 or so years since the days of the WASPs. Women in the early days were limited to very few career fields, mainly nursing. Those incredible WASP pilots were dismissed without benefits or even veteran status (that was finally granted to them in 1977). Women weren’t allowed to attend military academies or pilot training until the late 70s and early 80s. And thank goodness there were amazing women that were those “firsts,” because that meant when I got my Air Force commission, I could choose from nearly all available career fields.

But even now, when all career fields in the military are open to women – fighter pilot, infantry, submarines, even Ranger qualification – we still make up less than 20% of the force. The military is fully integrated, there aren’t women-only units, but that means you are sometimes one of the only women in your unit. It can get a little lonely.

A Special Skill

I might never have stayed for as long as I did without my closest girlfriends. It’s a special skill of women in particular, I think, to team up and take care of each other. Sometimes they were in my unit, but usually not. Usually I met them working on some extra duty or at the gym or around base. Some were active duty, some reservists, some formerly active duty that stayed part of the Air Force by either job or marriage. And all were a life raft when I most needed it.

Just like my friend calling me, I have made similar calls to her and to others when a crisis of some kind was brewing. Never a crisis like, “my house burned down,” usually something like “I’ve been selected for this prestigious graduate degree program but it means leaving my husband and children for 10 months” or “I’ve been given squadron command but it’s in Iraq for a year.”

Even the most military supporting friends and neighbors would cringe when I said those things out loud, but not my girlfriends. Because they get it. They get that serving your country means sacrifice, but you should still do it. Not only were they there to answer my phone calls, but they also sent care packages and helped out my family when they needed it and I couldn’t be there. Without their knowing it, they have been and remain great examples to my daughter about serving with excellence, and humor, and friendship.

Informal Mentors

That’s why, as I closed out my career in the Air Force, I started my blog, Gals in Blue. I wanted some way to stay involved as an informal mentor, and to help others connect. I love how blogs and social media are helping women in the military to find each other, to reach out for help, and to celebrate each other’s accomplishments. I had someone ask me recently if I missed being in the Air Force. My answer was an unqualified no, and I could say that because the best part, by far, of my military experience, was my girlfriends. And I get to keep them forever.

 

Author’s Bio: Elisabeth Auld served for 24 years in the US Air Force, including tours in Japan, South Korea, Germany and Iraq.  She currently works in the aviation industry, and resides in Alexandria, Virginia with her husband, also an Air Force veteran, and their two children.

serving-with-honor-women-in-the-military

 

National Women’s History Museum Receives Grant to Rebuild Website with Advanced Content Capabilities

December 6th, 2016

 

Alexandria, Va.— The National Women’s History Museum (NWHM) announced today it will receive a $370,000 grant from the PwC Charitable Foundation, Inc. (the Foundation) in support of the Museum’s efforts to develop advanced content capabilities for 21st century interactive learning modules, revamped curricula lessons and online exhibits and to optimize the content for mobile. The grant will be distributed over two years.

PwC LLP will complement the Foundation’s grant with pro bono technical advice and support. The pro bono engagement team will work to advise the investment in new interactive content, bringing considerable user experience expertise to optimize the platform.

NWHM is the nation’s largest online cultural institution dedicated to women’s history, both past and present, and its online presence is critical to serving its mission and stakeholder community.

“This grant allows us to expand both our technical and staff capacities to create a unique level of engagement with our diverse audiences,” said NWHM President and CEO Joan Wages. “We are excited to work with the PwC Charitable Foundation to make our exhibits and information available to people across the nation and encourage learning and appreciation for women’s contributions to American history.”

”We see the absence of women’s stories from history as a challenge to education that needs to be addressed,” said Shannon Schuyler, president of the Foundation. “This grant and our pro bono support aim to help the National Women’s History Museum engage future generations of Americans with important stories told in a compelling way.”

The new website will feature optimized, virtual exhibits that are mobile-friendly, and increase NWHM’s reach by 35 percent in the first two years of launch. Efficiencies, cost savings and additional staff capacity will allow for more efficient content management and data capture that will improve the organization’s ability to make more data-driven decisions and to maximize its impact well beyond the two-year grant period. NWHM plans to launch the website Summer 2017.

 

# # #

 

About the National Women’s History Museum

Founded in 1996, the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM, Inc.) is a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the general public about the diverse historic contributions of women and raising awareness about the critical need for a national women’s history museum in our nation’s capital. Currently located online at www.nwhm.org, the Museum’s goal is to build a world-class, permanent museum on or near the National Mall that will herald and display the collective history of American women. A Congressional Commission has been established that is charged with producing a feasible plan, which would include the governance, fundraising, location and organizational structure of the museum. For additional information visit NWHM.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Remembering Pearl Harbor Day – Honoring the Bravery of Army Nurse Annie G. Fox

December 5th, 2016

annie_foxDecember 7 is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, when Americans commemorate the 1941 attack that brought the United States into World War II. The Japanese attack shocked a nation that had heretofore resisted entering foreign wars by bringing the conflict to its shores. Dozens of stories of heroism emerged after the attacks, including that of the inspiring courage of First Lieutenant Annie G. Fox (Army Nurse Corps), who received a Bronze Star for her actions. The Bronze Star, when awarded for bravery, it is the fourth-highest combat award of the U.S. Armed Forces and the ninth highest military award in the order of precedence.

Lt. Fox was the Station Hospital’s Head Nurse at Hickam Field. The 30-bed hospital opened in November 1941, with six nurses. Lt. Monica E. Conter described the unit as “the happiest group of nurses anywhere, [under] the grandest chief nurse [Fox] who enjoys everything as much as we do.” Fox had joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1918, at the end of the First World War. While no stranger to military service, the surprise attack landed her in combat for the first time. The 47-year-old quickly took control of the situation as bombs rained down on the base.

Firsthand accounts of the attack by hospital staff described a terrifying and chaotic situation. Enemy airplanes flying so close and low that the nurses could see the pilots talking to each other were followed by explosions and masses of black smoke after each dive. Casualties poured into the hospital within minutes of the first bombing run. Hospital staff leaped into action as the constant noise of aerial torpedoes, bombs, machine gunning, and the American anti-aircraft filled the air.

As the attack progressed, causalities multiplied while bombs fell around the hospital itself. One bomb left a 30-foot crater twenty feet from the hospital wing, and another fell across the street. The smoke and fumes were so severe that the hospital staff, fearing a gas attack, donned gas masks and helmets as they tended the wounded. The casualties suffered from serious shrapnel wounds particularly in the abdomen, chest, face, head, arms, and legs. The casualties were so numerous that nurses had time only to administer pain medication before triaging them on to Trippler hospital. The dead also passed through, their bodies a mangled mass of bone and bloody and charred tissue.

As Head Nurse, Lt. Fox rallied the nurses and organized the hospital’s response to the assault. The wives of officers and N.C.O.s reported to the hospital to help, and Lt. Fox organized the civilian volunteers to make hospital dressings by the hundreds and assist with patient care. Lt. Fox herself participated in surgery, administering anesthesia, during the heaviest part of the bombardment. Afterwards, she, with the other nurses, tended to the wounded.

On October 26, 1942, in recognition of her efforts, Fox became the first woman in American history to be awarded the Purple Heart medal. Her citation read in part:

“During the attack, Lieutenant Fox in an exemplary manner, performed her duties as head nurse of the Station Hospital. . . . [She] worked ceaselessly with coolness and efficiency and her fine example of calmness, courage, and leadership was of great benefit to the morale of all with whom she came in contact.”

Four other Army nurses were also recognized for their performance during the attack. Captain Helena Clearwater, First Lieutenant Elizabeth A. Pesut, Second Lieutenant Elma L. Asson, and Second Lieutenant Rosalie L. Swenson each received the Legion of Merit “for extraordinary fidelity and essential service”.

Though at the time the Purple Heart award was most commonly awarded to service members wounded by enemy forces, it was occasionally awarded for any “singularly meritorious act of extraordinary fidelity or essential service.” The Purple Heart Award criteria changed in 1942 to be limited to wounds received as a result of enemy action. On October 6, 1944, Lt. Fox was awarded the Bronze Star Medal in replacement for her Purple Heart, which was rescinded. The Report of Decorations Board cited the same acts of heroism as for the Purple Heart.

The Army Nurse Corps had fewer than 1,000 nurses on December 7, 1941, the day of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Eighty-two Army nurses were stationed in Hawaii serving at three Army medical facilities that infamous day. By the end of World War II, more than 59,000 American nurses had served in the Army Nurse Corps. Nurses worked closer to the front lines than in any prior conflict, providing invaluable service at great personal risk. Nurses received 1,619 medals, citations, and commendations during the war, including sixteen medals awarded posthumously to women who died as a result of enemy fire. Lt. Fox and her thousands of fellow nurses exemplified the courage and dedication of all who served.