ROTC women a vast but strong minority

By ELIZABETH WILLIAMSON

Every Wednesday, Kristen MacBride leaves Bruce Hall at 5:40 a.m. But early mornings do not… Every Wednesday, Kristen MacBride leaves Bruce Hall at 5:40 a.m. But early mornings do not bother her – bad hair days do.

Her hair has to be pulled back low enough so that her flight cap fits on her head and high enough so that no stray strands graze the collar of her uniform.

On those bad hair days, she battles rebellious strands with an army of bobby pins and bottles of hairspray.

At 5:45 a.m. on Wednesdays, MacBride begins preparing for reveille, which starts the day at 6:30 a.m. with the 69 other Pitt students participating in the Air Force ROTC program.

Nineteen students out of that group of 69 are women.

The number of women in the military has increased steadily from 1.6 percent in 1973 to 10.8 percent in 2007. In 2010, MacBride will be one of those women when she graduates and is commissioned.

With a major in German and a minor in math, MacBride is unsure of the profession she will take up within the Air Force.

“A lot of people have career goals in mind when they join, but this is my way of saying thank you to God and my country,” she said.

According to Capt. Marty Carter, Air Force ROTC Admissions Officer, students – women in particular – are drawn to the Air Force because of its distinct environment.

“In the Air Force, we create more of a technical and professional environment,” Carter said. “It’s a different type of combat.”

MacBride began researching the ROTC program in high school, and she joined the Air Force in the spring term of her freshman year.

Though she knew joining would be a challenging responsibility, MacBride felt comforted knowing “the Air Force takes care of its people.”

So far, MacBride says that her experience in the ROTC program has been stressful at times, yet rewarding.

“It’s a time-consuming commitment, but we all find a way to get all of our homework done, have a social life and still be in ROTC,” she said.

MacBride has already received two awards: the Warrior Spirit Award and an award for achieving a score of 100 percent on her physical test.

To reach a score of 100 percent, cadets must run 1.5 miles in 11 minutes, do 42 push-ups, followed by 51 more sit-ups. This is no small feat.

“Men are generally stronger than women,” Melissa Johnson, a Pitt senior with a major in psychology and a cadet in the Air Force ROTC, said. “And when females can reach 100 percent on the physical test, that is a big accomplishment.”

Johnson considers herself a confident leader within the ROTC, and she pushes the other female cadets to be confident as well.

“In the military, women may run into men who believe that women cannot command the same respect,” she said. “That is why I push these women – so they are prepared for every type of situation.”

Johnson said that although she is outnumbered as a black female in the ROTC, she has never felt uncomfortable. And she is not concerned with facing discrimination throughout her military career.

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