Leveling the playing field for women in military

Lt. Colonel Kelley Keating, Military Science Department chairperson, said as a woman in a male-dominated field, you have to learn to be less sensitive and be competent in your chosen field. 

“At the same time, you’re entitled to your feelings, and people have to learn how to deal with you too,” Keating said. “So I think it’s a double edge kind of sword.” 

Keating leads UTA’s Military Science Department, which was established as a private military academy in 1902 known as the Carlisle Military Academy. 

The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC, arrived on UTA’s campus in 1965 when UTA was known as Arlington State College. 

The Military Science Department aims to prepare enrolled cadets to become officers and lead soldiers in the U.S. Army. Cadets study self-development, dismounted infantry tactics, leadership techniques, planning concepts, interpersonal skills and critical thinking, according to the department’s website. 

Keating said she’s willing to be a role model for those who need to see women in leadership to know they can achieve their goals, she said. 

Keating is not the only woman in a leadership position in the department. Three women hold the top student cadet leadership positions as well. 

The top three students within the Corps of Cadets are Cadet Lt. Jenna Lawrence, graduate student and Cadet Battalion Commander; Cadet Major Jeannie Lee, civil engineering senior and Cadet Battalion Executive Officer; and Cadet Major Emily Thompson, English senior and Cadet Battalion Operations Officer. 

“I feel like this is pure coincidence,” Thompson said. “The Army doesn’t really look at your gender or any of the differences about people. It is purely based on merit, which I really like.” 

Corps of Cadets are leadership positions assigned to individuals according to their demonstrated progress. It provides individuals with a structured organization, mentorship and coordination. 

“The three people that were most qualified were selected,” Keating said. 

Thompson said the three cadets bond over being women in leadership roles and their different backgrounds. 

As a woman, she said she adds something new to the conversation with her own experiences. 

Military science courses instill Army values including loyalty, duty, respect, selfless-service, honor, integrity and personal courage.  

It is something cadets live by, Lawrence said. 

Military science involves taking courses where students study theory, principles, techniques and review leadership from a historical perspective, while ROTC is more hands-on training. The ROTC program helps men and women learn military skills from upperclassman cadets and guest speakers with real-life experience. 

After four years in ROTC, cadets get commissioned and enter the military as officers in respective branches. There are six branches of the military including the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Space Force and Coast Guard.  

In the past, many military programs didn’t allow women to participate. As of  2016, the combat ban for women was lifted, allowing women in all areas of the military. 

As Cadet Battalion Commander, Lawrence oversees the entire battalion, she said. 

Lawrence became a 12 Bravo Combat Engineer, which is a combination of a combat fighter and an engineer. 

Now women can participate in all jobs, Lawrence said. 

She said not everyone can do every job, but the standard isn’t lowered and some women can compete with men. Steps are being taken in the right direction, she said. 

“I think just by the fact that we’re now backed up by the government, and there’s so many things put in place, it’s definitely headed to a much better direction,” Thompson said. 

Different parts of the armed forces require specific training, like the U.S. Army Ranger School which is a difficult program to complete, Lawrence said. Since 2015, about 54 women have graduated from Ranger School and earned their Ranger tab. 

Gender equality in the military is getting better, especially at UTA, Lawrence said. 

“It doesn’t matter what gender you are,” she said. “If you do your job well people are going to recognize that.” 

Programs such as Equal Opportunities and Sexual Harassment Assault Response Prevention help make the military more open and equal for minorities and women.  

Previously, Thompson said she experienced a toxic culture against women and minorities at her former four-year university before transferring.  

A cadence, a traditional call-and-response work song sung by military personnel while running or marching, about saving a male cadet over a female cadet caused Thompson to speak up. She talked to a trusted adult regarding her discomfort in the situation, she said. 

Army culture can be sarcastic and mean, Thompson said. But it makes officers and cadets grow thick skin, Lawrence said. 

She said people do make negative comments about women in the military. 

The military culture of picking fun and joking amplifies this issue, but it happens to everyone, Lee said. 

However, the Army and ROTC are like a family. 

Men and women have physiological differences, so the Army does have a challenge, but they’re trying to make things gender neutral, Keating said. 

“A lot of the things come down to desire,” she said. “Not every woman desires to be an infantry officer, not every man desires to be an infantry officer.” 


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