Every year a soldier is honored for winning the U.S. Army’s Best Warrior Competition by scoring record times in varied challenges. This year, however, the records weren’t only broken by faster times.
On Oct. 22, Sgt. Sherri Gallagher became the first woman to win the skills competition, which includes 24 male and female soldiers from 12 Army commands, according to a CNN report. Soldiers in the competition were tested on their physical strength with a physical training test. They were also required to write an essay, take a written exam and complete basic soldiers skills, such as first aid, land navigation, convoy and room clearing.
Senior Military Science Instructor Master Sgt. Brian Bruce said there were challenges in recruiting women to the military because of the lack of knowledge of the opportunities for women in the military. Gallagher’s victory shows that everyone has the opportunity to be successful in the Army regardless of gender, he said.
Attempts to reach Gallagher for comment were unsuccessful.
If potential female students were wondering about their opportunities to succeed in the university’s ROTC program, Gallagher’s victory could be used to show the possibilities females have, Bruce said.
“We are a force that is equal, and we provide the same opportunities to everybody,” he said.
Dezi Bennett, a junior international politics major in Army ROTC, said Gallagher’s win should be a source of motivation for women.
“Seeing how well she did will encourage women to know that they can rise above the standard that men in the Army put on them,” she said.
Austin Lindert, a junior criminal justice major and Army ROTC member, has been through basic training and said Gallagher’s achievement would increase the amount of respect women in the army receive.
“Women in the military have very little [respect] right now, and they’re slowly gaining,” Lindert said. “A woman winning the Best Warrior Competition and showing up the guys, I’m all for it because I think anyone can be a good soldier.”
Spencer Connole, junior university Army ROTC member, said women were not always respected because male soldiers sometimes falsely assume women are not capable of performing the tasks necessary to be in the army.
Brittany Turner, a senior member of Army ROTC, said she witnessed this lack of respect firsthand when she went to follow-on training, the equivalent of job shadowing for the military, for a 2nd lieutenant in Colorado last summer. She said she had to inform the lieutenant of the times she achieved in skills challenges before he paid attention to her.
“For [Gallagher] to go there and prove that she could meet the standards that the guys made, and exceed the standards by beating them is amazing,” Turner, a film, television and digital media major, said. “It’s a great way to represent for herself but also for other females.”
Lindert said the skills Gallagher demonstrated in the competition were all basic soldier skills, and the level to which Gallagher exceeded the standards would only motivate her male counterparts to improve.
“For her to go out there and “beast’ the males, it sets the bar a lot higher,” Lindert said.
Connole, a history major, said it was impressive to see a woman overcome the odds and beat male soldiers.
“[Gallagher’s win] is showing that [women] have the strength to do what [men] can do,” Connole said. “They can earn that respect from their peers.”
Turner admitted that women were not always capable of performing certain physical tasks as well as men, but Gallagher’s win showed that women could beat men in a physical challenge.
According to a report from womensmemorial.org, about 13.5 percent of soldiers on active duty in the army are women.
Bruce said there were 56 women out of a total of 160 students in the university’s ROTC program.