Women have only been officers in the U.S. Army since the 1940s, but the female cadets in the USC Trojan Battalion Army Reserve Office Training Corp, which consists of UC Irvine’s, CSU Long Beach’s and CSU Dominguez Hills’ ROTC programs, say differences between men and women in the army have become less prevalent.
In the USC Army ROTC Company there are only four female cadets out of a total of 30, but their presence is strong.
“We are one army; we aren’t separate,” said MS4 cadet Hannah Stryker, a graduate student studying social work. “It is so important for women to feel like soldiers.”
Stryker said she learned all she knows from a previous drill sergeant who taught her how to be successful as a woman in the army.
“Drill Sgt. Trada was really hard on us but she really showed us all the ropes and she expected us to excel and to be as good or better than any of our male counterparts,” Stryker said. “As a result we learned to do a lot of things, we have to do it differently, but we are just as good or just as capable and just as competent as anyone else here.”
The Army Physical Fitness Test is different for men and women in the ROTC program, but most other obstacles and tests are exactly the same. Stryker said the differences in the test just means the females must learn to adapt according to their body types and physical differences.
At USC Army ROTC’s fall training exercise at Camp San Luis Obispo, female cadets are able to complete the obstacles on the confidence training course, only in a different manner than their male counterparts.
“The guys try to tell the female cadets how to get up these obstacles and it won’t work for them, so seeing them struggle with it and having gone through this obstacle, going back and being able to show them the way I was taught, that’s the only way that they are going to be able to learn,” Stryker said. “It is seeing other women be able to get up there and do it.”
Just as Stryker learned from women before her, the younger cadets look up to Stryker and follow her example.
“When I see Stryker I think, wow, I can do that,” said MS1 cadet Faith Duyan, a freshman in the Trojan Battalion from CSU Dominguez Hills. “They’ve done so much and gotten so far. I want to be like them. They are motivating for me.”
Other female cadets said despite the physical differences, life in the army is relatively the same for male and female cadets.
“It’s the minor things that set us apart, the fact that we have lower standards for push-ups,” said MS1 cadet Julianna La Luzerne, a freshman majoring in political science. “But I don’t think any of the cadets see that as a burden. What matters most is leadership and being a woman has nothing to do with [that].”
The U.S. military is still in the process of accommodating the increasing presence of women, but ROTC students at USC are hopeful that one day gender differences will cease to matter.
“We are all soldiers, we wear the same uniform,” said MS3 cadet Rosanne Truong, a junior at CSU Dominguez Hills. “Hopefully we can get over our differences; as long as there is mutual respect, we will be fine.”
At the end of the day, the most important thing is that all cadets learn how to work together, according to Laura Morales, an MS4 cadet in the Trojan Battalion.
“Never has my gender made me feel less than [anyone], never, not once,” Morales said. “That is part of the reason why males and females get along so well in the army now. We are the same.”