TAMPA, Fla., March 23, 2016 – Samantha Wolff, psychology major from Tampa, keeps an eye on her watch as she continues her 5-mile run before her classes begin at the University of South Florida. Wolff has been dreaming of becoming a member of the elite Army Rangers since she was a kid. Her father was in the Army during the first Gulf War. She has managed to keep up with the minimum requirements to be accepted into the Army Rangers program while keeping up with her college studies.
Every morning, Wolff begins her day with a 5-mile run, a strenuous but standard requirement set by the Army Rangers. Wolff is part of the ROTC program at USF. She says she can conquer any challenge that may lie ahead of her. She is ready and willing to fight against those who say women should not serve in combat.
“I am ready for this challenge, I believe all women should have the opportunity to serve their country in any role that is open to men in the military,” Wolff said. “While I admit I don’t have the full strength to serve as an Army Ranger, I know I will grow stronger as I continue ROTC and serve my time in the U.S. Army.”
Wolff is willing to fight for the opportunity by absorbing all the leadership skills and knowledge she can gain by being part of the ROTC club at USFand being in the Army. She can perform 49 push-ups and 59 sit-ups and can run 5 miles in 45 minutes, just five minutes over the Army Rangers time limit.
In the last few months, several women have graduated Army Ranger School, including Army Capt. Kristen Griest.
America has become divided over what a man and woman should be allowed to do in the military. Should a woman be able to join an elite group of soldiers or should she just follow the status quo? Capt. Griest accepted the challenges and refused to quit, saying, “Seeing others around me sucking as bad as me, helped me stay in the program.”
Having women in the military has been the norm from World War I, but they served only in minor roles such as clerical, mechanical and test piloting certain aircraft. According to retired Air Force Capt. Gerald Smith, who served as an Air Force Deputy for the sustainment support branch in Germany, more than 203,000 women serve in the military. While Smith reviewed the numbers, he noted that among the top leadership of the military, only 7 percent are women.
“As long as they are qualified, they should be allowed into any military position,” Smith said. “That will then also open the door to senior ranks for women, and then we will finally have a true representation of our population in the senior most positions in the military.”
Another strong supporter of women in combat is former Pfc. Jessica Lynch, who was a prisoner of war. She served in Iraq before being captured by Iraqi forces. Lynch said women need to be allowed in combat roles because they have a right to defend their country. In a phone interview, Lynch explained what it meant to serve every day and said that women should have any role because it’s not about gender but pride for your country.
“I remember the first time I put on the Army uniform. I just felt like a totally different person – I felt proud,” Lynch said. “Women should not be forced to stay behind, we have a right to defend our country, whether that be special operations within enemy territory or taking their place alongside the men fighting on the front lines. We are Americans, we all share a nation that we must defend.”
Lynch is urging Americans to support military men and women. Some opponents of women in combat have voiced their outrage over women in combat roles. Despite strong support for women in combat, there are some who are against it, including former Rep. Allen West, who served in the Army. He said that women don’t have the strength to overpower and kill the enemy.
Depsite all the harsh critics, Wolff continues the fight to become one of the few women to be an Army Ranger. Wolff continues to work out and exercise. She remains optimistic that everyone will accept women in combat.
“Women in combat will become a reality, and I hope and believe that Americans will accept that. I’m ready to show my classmates, my family, my fellow soldiers and my country that I can overcome any challenge that a man faces one-on-one,” Wolff said.