New Military officers discuss gender inclusive problems

On May 12, several high-ranking officers and military members discussed how to overcome toxicity and lack of leadership amongst the ranks in an online open discussion.

This is not just a simple problem that can go away, and the culture alone starts with its leadership. Many Army service members who are now coming into their roles as officers and soldiers alike are speaking up about needed change.

Second Lieutenant Gillian Longoria said as a new lieutenant in the Army, she has faced many obstacles.  “I was asked, ‘Are you one of those,’ and  ‘has your family or you swam the river?’” she said at a May 12th panel discussion.

The panel also included Second Lieutenant Kaitlyn Abbott, Captain Domonique Batton, First Lieutenant Silver Beaty, Captain Jordan Holmlund, Lieutenant Colonel Scott Stephens, Major Sam Winkler and Major General John Evans — the commanding General for the Army ROTC.

These officers and high-ranking enlisted soldiers shape their units and the overall cohesiveness.

However, with recent national headlines concerning sexual assault, harassment and even murder in the Army, has prompted the conversation for substantial change. 

After Vanessa Guillen was murdered after reporting sexual harassment, the outrage was immense. Her bludgeoned body was eventually found under concrete buried next to the Leon River, 25 miles southeast of Fort Hood. 

This was not the only incident to happen at Fort Hood. During this same time period, other soldiers went missing and at least a dozen deaths were reported. 

The event was put together by cadet Amy Petrocelli with the help of the Washington DC chapter of the rocks. The sole purpose of the event was to bring forward the open discussion about gender inclusion.

“Be the change you wish to see,” said Cadet Amy Petrollini of the University of Maryland. “Your mindset shapes the reality around you so be sure to approach with an open mind.”

The panel discussion opened up with several high-ranking officers and other military members. The Panel titled “Warfighting Isn’t a Battle of the Sexes” included Second Lieutenant Kaitlyn Abbott, Captain Domonique Batton, First Lieutenant Silver Beaty, Captain Jordan Holmlund, Second Lieutenant Gillian Longoria, Lieutenant Colonel Scott Stephens, Major Sam Winkler and opening remarks by Major General John Evans the commanding General for the Army ROTC. 

“Are you going to be willing to open the door to those who don’t look like you, to those who will have different religions, sexual orientation etc.,” said second lieutenant Kait Abbot. “Will you understand that you will not always be right?”

With the overwhelming focus on being inclusive to women  within the ranks of the military, those in attendance agreed on a common sentiment.  

“Allow women to not only be at the table but also let them speak,”Petrollini said.

Less than 17 percent of active duty members are women, raising the question as to why there aren’t many women in leadership roles. 

Some factors include limited opportunities for women to voice their concerns like being allowed to promote and passing the new standardized fitness test called the Army Combat Fitness Test or ACFT for short.

New data shows that women are failing the ACFT at alarming rates. There has been a change of focus to better prepare women and find out how women can pass specific tests like their male counterparts do.

“We are too focused on the T in test and not the F in fitness,” said Major John Evans, Commanding General of ROTC.

Many new ROTC officers  expressed that they are ready to implement change. 

“I have not yet to experience discrimination towards being female or color of skin,” said Sergeant Jamilah Cisse, an Active-Duty soldier stationed at Fort Hood. 

Cisse is originally from Senegal and has been stationed at Fort Hood for about three years. “Personally, I think that Fort Hood is an ok place,” Cisse said. “It’s honestly not the duty station it’s the people.”While I haven’t had to experience those issues yet, I do hope I don’t have to,” Cisse said.