The nation will observe Veterans Day on Sunday, November 11th. All week long we’re highlighting local veterans. Monday, we wanted to shine a light on how far women have come in the U.S. Military.
It was just two years ago female soldiers were granted full rights in the U.S. Military. Only in 2016 did the U.S. Department of Defense lift all restrictions on the roles women can perform. A local veteran said to serve as a woman has been a privilege, one she hasn’t taken for granted.
“I had the opportunity, the morning after the inauguration, to go shake the president’s hand,” said Retired Lt. Col. Claudia Foss.
Lt. Colonel Foss is a storyteller. After a 20 year career with the U.S. Air Force, spending the bulk of her time in public affairs, she has a lot of stories to tell.
The decorated veteran and Bronze Star recipient grew up in a military family.
She knew early on she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps.
“My father had a 20-year career in the Air Force, so I grew up traveling the world, primarily in Europe, and I just love the traveling part of the military, seeing new people and cultures.”
Lt. Col. Foss got her start at the Pentagon working in the Air Force television studio.
Sixteen years later, she ended up in Baghdad,Iraq and Afghanistan, educating Iraqis on the steps towards democracy, and teaching and training Afghans on their own security. She said she left with lessons of her own.
“I’ll tell you having been in Iraq and Afghanistan, having lived in other countries, there’s nothing like our culture overall. And, that’s the freedom to choose our life.”
Probably the biggest story she has to tell is a story she didn’t even know she was help shaping; paving the way for more women in the U.S. Military, free to follow any path they choose.
“In my father’s era, when women weren’t, women still had to leave the military when they got pregnant, or when they got married, so, yeah, I grew up in a totally different era.”
Today, approximately one in five enlisted members and officers in the Air Force and Navy are women according to the Council on Foreign Relations. That’s up dramatically since 1974 when women represented between 8% and 11% of service members in the Air Force and Navy.
We asked Lt. Col. Foss if she was treated any differently in the military because she’s a woman.
“Short answer is no. I was not treated any different.”
She knows not everyone’s experience was like hers. She said she’s so grateful for her time serving. So is a grateful nation.
“I think the thing I’m most proud of is simply serving, simply serving.”
Historically, the Air Force has had the highest percentage of enlisted and officer women. The Marines bring up the pack. Today, less than 8% of Marines are women.