She graduated from a class of 78, 12 of which were female, and only 6 of who graduated. Although this was over 20 years ago, the ratio of male to female drill instructors is still staggering today. As recently as November of 2015, the Army revealed that there were 2,088 authorized drill positions for men, and only 524 authorized drill positions for women, across the Army’s four basic training sites.
I was in fifth grade at the time, and although there was no way I could have fully understood the achievement, I felt it. I understood the respect I saw in the eyes of people who learned what my mom did for a job. I knew she was one of the only women, and I knew that was special. She earned a strong camaraderie with the men in her unit, and they always treated her like an equal. We would go to their houses for barbeques and go skiing with their families. It was obvious that they valued her. Fostering a support system in your career is vital for success, and even if I didn’t know it at the time, I witnessed second-hand examples of this during my formative years because of the relationships that were important to her.
Something else that was easier for me to grasp was the fact that her choices were affecting more than just her. Her travel and deployment took a toll on our family, as it does for every military family. “What was clearly pointed out to me when I deployed was that the family was being dragged along for the ride and you had no say in it. You had to sit back and be witness to it, and experience the lack of my presence for a year,” she described. She deployed to Kuwait when I was in college, just days after the death of one of my younger brother’s closest friends, and a week before his high school graduation. It was difficult for us but we were proud of her, and that outweighed our negative experiences. My father showed his support by editing her unit’s family newsletter, and we traveled to see her when possible.