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Reflections of times gone by: Women in the military

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mareshah Haynes
  • 16th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
The women of the Air Force Enlisted Village shared stories of their experiences in the military at a brown-bag luncheon held at Eglin Air Force Base March 8 as a part of their Women’s History Month observation.

The group of 20 ladies shared smiles and snacks, while the women of the yesterday’s military reminisced about the challenges they faced while serving their country.

“I was 18 years old and I had to ask my father to sign me up because I was a girl,” said Hazel Dewes, who served in the Navy nurses’ corps for four years during the Korean War. My brothers were 17 years old when they joined and they didn’t need permission.”

Today both males and females can join the armed services at age 18 without parental consent.
The rules for women in the military who wanted to have a family were more stringent than they are for women in today’s military.

“In the Navy you had to get out if you wanted to get married,” said Mrs. Dewes.

“In the Air Force you had to get out if you got pregnant,” said Rusty Froberg, who served in the Air Force for one year as a supply record specialist. She married her husband, Robert, in 1956 and they were assigned a permanent change of station to Alaska.

There were even limitations on the assignments and jobs women were allowed to take. Most women served in secretarial or nursing jobs.

“I had to get out of the Air Force because there was no unit in Alaska that I could be assigned to. It wasn’t fair that we (women) had to get out even after we had been trained. I would have liked to stay in,” said Mrs. Froberg, with traces of the rusty-colored hair of her youth still visible. “Jobs in the Air Force for women were limited.”

“Women weren’t allowed to be stationed overseas back then,” Mrs. Dewes said. “It’s hard for me to think about the women who are serving in the war now.”

Things were a bit different for Muriel Burge who served in the English Air Force for four years as a barrage balloon operator during World War II.

The barrage balloon was a blimp-like device with a wire attached that reached back to the ground.

It was used to bring down enemy aircraft that flew into the wire.

“I was in an all-female crew of 14 women,” said Mrs. Burge, her British accent still detectable.
“In the beginning, there was a man with us and then we were on our own. We lived in prefabricated shelters called Nissen huts in the field with no bathrooms. We would go to a neighbor’s house once a week for a bath.”

Today there are many more opportunities for women in the service.

“It’s a different era,” said Burge. “I can see the change.”