Military careers offer opportunities, challenges for women


Growing up in the LDS culture, most young women have been taught that building an eternal family is the most important goal in their life. As a result, some BYU students, especially female students, focus on getting married and starting their family while in school.

However, some women are taking a different route as they chose to serve their country and a family.

[media-credit name=”Photo courtesy of the Cougar Battalion” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]
Cadet Shauna Butt and a fellow cadet are rehearsing combat maneuvers for a Situational Training Exercise (STX) lane.
“I thought about being in the ROTC before,” said Cadet Claire Larson, a sophomore majoring in international relations. “My dad was in the Navy. My grandpa and a lot of my great uncles also served in the military.”

Larson said being in the ROTC and choosing the military career is kind of a family thing for her. Besides the usual classes at BYU, Larson also has to participate in training and other activity and classes at the ROTC.

“I don’t feel like ROTC really conflicts that much with my social life,” she said. “I think of it more like extracurricular activities or a club.”

Being a woman in the military definitely is a challenge for anyone, Larson said. When a female cadet graduates and becomes a commissioned officer in the military, she will be 22. That is the age when many BYU students and graduates are starting a family.

“It’s hard to be a commissioned officer, be pregnant, having children and being able care for them in the way you would want to,” Larson said.

She said even though it is hard to serve the country and have a family at the same time,  it does not mean it’s not worth it to choose this path.

“I think it’s a challenge,” Larson said. “But I think it’s also a great honor to serve your country.”

She said getting married to another commissioned officer in the military is helpful because the spouse understands her schedule; however, different schedules can cause problems when taking care of family.

“Family is our first priority but so is our country,” Larson said. “You have to set your priorities straight and then make your decision based on that.”

Shalay Watford, an ROTC tech sergeant, said the number of female cadets in the ROTC is much smaller than the number of male cadets. The Air Force ROTC usually has about one female cadet who becomes a commissioned officer every year.

“It’s not too often that they are actually commissioned,” Watford said. “Because they usually get married and they want to start their family. So they don’t think it would work to raise their children and be in the military as well.”

However, Watford said there are many benefits to being a female in military. Female officers have more time off every year. The military also supports medical costs, so having children is almost free.

“They also give you a choice if you feel like you want to get out before your time is up,” Watford said. “While you’re pregnant, you have that option to get out without any penalties.”

Derek Rose, second lieutenant at the Army ROTC, and his wife both graduated from the BYU ROTC program. They got married while they were both in the ROTC.

“In BYU, most people are members of the Church,” Rose said. “So generally, [women] at BYU don’t want to do military. They want to marry a good guy and have a family.”

He said military is not really attractive to most LDS women. However, his wife loves being in the Army.

“[Both husband and wife being in the military] is easier in some things and may be more challenging in other things,” Rose said.

Since both Rose and his wife are in the Army, he doesn’t have to explain much about his job to his wife. However, he said different work schedules is a challenge for them.

Amy Record, a senior majoring in theater education, decided to join the ROTC program after she had tried it out. However, her family did not support her decision at first.

“My parents did express the concern that it would be more difficult to have a family while in the military,” Record said.

She said the ROTC program is challenging for her and while being a woman in the ROTC sometimes it is hard to keep up with the program.

“It was just challenging, but what I am doing makes me feel good,” Record said.

Her plan, after graduating, is to serve in the National Guard. She said being in the National Guard would be easier and allow her to have a family life.

Like Record, Alicia Betancourt, a sophomore majoring in athletic training, did not receive much support from her family.

“They were … freaking out,” Betancourt said. “And my dad thought I was wasting opportunities in my life.”

Betancourt also chose to serve in the National Guard. She said that requires the officer to serve just one week per month but that each soldier or officer will be deployed at least once.

“The way I think about that is the amount of time I’m out in deployment is nothing compared to my family time,” she said. “That’s my take on it.”

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