The role of women is expanding in the military, yet gender stereotypes remain. Today on Veterans’ Voices, we hear from Army veterans and Wright State students Loghan Young of Huber Heights and Ericka Carter of Dayton who pursued career paths in the military that defied expectations.
Ericka Carter (EC): So how I became a diesel mechanic is on my ASVAB I scored highest in administration, second highest in cooking, and third highest in mechanics. And I was so surprised, I don’t have a mechanic bone in my body. So I thought I already know how cook and I know how to file. I’m very good at those things, so I don’t want to do those because I know how. Oh, and they said I shouldn’t. That was a big one.
Loghan Young (LY): The recruiter said that you shouldn’t?
EC: Everybody said, “Don’t be a diesel mechanic. That not for you. That’s not for girls. No, don’t do it.” Sign me up! So I get a lot of oh? uh-uh! and you lying’. But I still have a tool box just as big as me.
LY: That’s exactly… I scored high in administration and cooking. And I was really good at mechanic stuff, so they were like, “Well, you can be a cook or you can be a truck driver, and you should probably be a cook.” And I said, “I’m good. I don’t want to be a cook. Sign me up for the truck driver thing.” And they said, “Well, you’re’ kind of small and won’t be able to see out the windows.” And everyone said you can’t female and a truck driver in the Army and I said that’s exactly what I want to do.
EC: So, in basic they take away all your stuff, right? So they took away my curling iron and took away all that other stuff and you got to be just your uniform and what they give you. When I finally got all my stuff back I was like, oh my gosh! Curling iron, we’re about to be doing it again. Make-up and so forth and so on. I kept my nails and would wear gloves. I would wear a hair net over my hair and still kept it done. I still would wear my make-up everyday. I was still going to be me. I was still gong to be fun. Because I like being the opposite of the stereotype. Like yes me in my heels under trucks. If the auto part didn’t weigh more than forty pounds, I wasn’t playing with it. I was a girl who got to play with the big boy toys, and that was amazing.
LY: Definitely. Every time I see a woman, I wonder if she was in. I wonder which branch. I automatically assume someone was in, rather than not.
EC: I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences where you walk in with your husband and they turn to him and ignore you.
LY: I used to have that problem a lot. My husband and I were dual military, so we were in at the same time. And they would call to make my appointments and they’d say they needed the sponsor’s social. And I’d say, “No, I’m giving you the sponsor’s social. I am the sponsor.” And they’d say, “No Ma'am, we need your husband’s information.” And I’d say, “No! I’m the veteran myself. I’m the active duty service member. This is my social. I need to make an appointment for myself” And they’d say, “Oh, okay, I’m sorry.”
EC: It’s crazy.
LY: Describe what a veteran looks like to you.
EC: A veteran to me is short, tall, thin, a little thick… a woman.
Veterans' Voices is supported by Wright-Patt Credit Union. Will Davis produced this series as part of Community Voices.