Around 3,000 Iowa National Guard soldiers are training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi for a trip to Afghanistan. Men outnumber women on the deployment 15 to 1. Martha Kester is one of those 200 women. She’s the Iowa National Guard’s first female chaplain.
“I don’t see myself as a woman chaplain. I see myself as a chaplain. I don’t see my soldiers as male soldiers and female soldiers. I see them as my soldiers,” Kester said. Those sentiments are echoed by Lieutenant Colonel John Perkins. “Really, they’re just soldiers. I think we’ve gotten past whether somebody is male or female or what race or creed or anything. To me, they’re just soldiers,” Perkins said.
Out on the firing range, women take aim side by side with the men. The military won’t allow women to fight on the front lines and they also have to live in separate barracks. Specialist Eva Dziengel says, other than that, female soldier aren’t treated much differently than the men.
“Being a smaller stature than a lot of the males, it’s generally harder for me to do certain things, but you get it done one way or another,” Dziengel said. Many women, including Private First Class Sarah Bys, faced a lot of questions from friends and family when they signed up to serve.
“A female in the military? You’re going to be a combat medic? What? They didn’t think I could do it. So, I’m kind of proving them wrong,” Keating said. Although women are not allowed to fight on the frontlines, many still end up there as medics and in other supporting roles.
By Mark Geary, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids