Dear Female Servicemember




Dear Female Servicemember,

I see you.  I see what you’re doing.  I see you “Liking” that picture or that status on that mean-spirited Facebook page.  I see you putting military spouses down as a way to “bond” with others during shop talk.  We might wear the same uniform, but I don’t stand united with you in this fight.

You see, I was and am a military spouse too.  I was “just a spouse” for four years before I enlisted, and long before I commissioned.  Did you judge me then too?  Little do you know, my status as a military spouse is a strength.  While others around me without any close military connections struggled to hold back the tears at BMT during that first phone call, I was gushing to my husband about the leadership role that I’d been assigned.  I knew that the sacrifice was worth the results, because I am a milspouse.  I knew hope to cope through the separation because I am a milspouse.  I am a better servicemember because I am a milspouse.  I will be a better leader to my Airmen because I am a milspouse.

Chances are, Female Servicemember, that you’re like me and only responsible for one financial budget – your own.  So then, why are you judging the milspouse who stays at home?  Why are you judging the purchasing rights of that family, of that milspouse?  It is not my job to tell people how to spend their money or to question what they do all day while I’m at work.  Our families have different priorities, and I can respect that.  If they have budgeted for a one income family and for those fancy material goods, more power to them.  If they have scrimped so that one spouse can stay home and care for (or home school) the kids, more power to them.  It is only my business when the servicemember needs financial counseling assistance or if they are failing to meet their obligations and I’ve been notified as a commander.  At that time, I can help connect them with the resources they need to be successful.  Until then, live and let live.

I don’t even want to use the “D” word in this post, and it frustrates me to see you using it – spitefully, and towards people you don’t know.  We serve in a voluntary force.  Even if you’re a servicemember and a milspouse, you are no more better than the milspouse who doesn’t wear a uniform, and you’re not helping anything by putting that spouse down.  Your comments will fizzle after a momentary smirk, and only that negativity will remain.

Female Servicemember, you have every right to the freedom of speech that you’ve fought for, no one is denying that.  As a commander, I can’t stop you from speaking in this manner.   But what I can do is take another look at your package when you hit the promotion roster.  Do you promote the sort of culture that I want as a leader in my organization?  Do you exemplify the sort of role model I want my junior Airmen to emulate?  Do you live the Air Force Core Values of Excellence In All We Do, Service Before Self, and Integrity?  Do you recognize that if a family feels welcomed, they are more willing to support their Airman’s service and therefore contribute to the mission?  If you don’t, can’t, and won’t, then I can’t and won’t support the furthering of your career.  Your attitude is a key factor in the whole person concept, don’t forget that.

Female servicemember, it’s time to let it go.  Let’s build bridges.  Let’s foster an environment that truly supports our Airmen and their families.  Let’s make this an organization worthy of The World’s Greatest Air Force.  Live the Core Values, like we’ve asked of you and like you’ve pledged to do so long ago.  That’s the sort of Airman than I can stand by, and be proud to serve alongside.

V/R,

AHE

14 thoughts on “Dear Female Servicemember

  1. AiringMyDirtyLaundrysaid

    Love your post! Thank you so much for your service. My Mom was in the military and dealt with all sorts of nonsense.

    Reply
  2. Jo MyGoshsaid

    Thanks for linking up with us! I've never experienced this side; unfortunately, I've only seen milspouses tearing down female service members. Unacceptable…And that's a whole different topic…

    Reply
  3. Lauren Tammsaid

    Great perspective. Never thought about it that way before. I think no matter your role in the military community that being kind towards one another is so, so important. Thanks for linking up with us!

    Reply
  4. Tutors By Basesaid

    I love your commentary on how the denigration of military spouses is a reflection of one's integrity and their ability to lead as such. I really appreciate your insights as a servicemember as well as a spouse. Thank you for your service, Erin!~ Karina

    Reply
  5. Heather Wsaid

    As an Air Force Brat, this literally brought tears to my eyes. As a Navy Wife I nodded 'yes' all along the way. I love this. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Reply
  6. Erinsaid

    Thank you everyone for your thoughtful comments and responses to the post! I am so thankful I took the time to post about such an important topic!

    Reply
  7. Cammy Albertssaid

    As a 14-year female service member and as a spouse myself (my current husband is a civilian, my prior husband served with me in the USAF, I don't understand why this post was directed towards FEMALE service members. I mean, shouldn't all Airmen stop and take a look at their actions and how they treat the spouses of other Airmen? My current husband is a civilian who's never served in the military. Imagine how alienating that is when all the support groups and predeployment briefings are for the "wives" of deployed members. I know that you're not saying all Female Servicemembers are dependent haters, but I have lost count of how many mil-spouses hate me and scowl at me and exclude me and my husband from shop parties simply because I work with their spouses. Unfortunately, the mistrust and animosity is not a one-way street. As a female servicemember, I'm sick of mil-spouses hating me simply because I work with their husbands. If you expect respect from me, please respect me in return. And also, I'm not only responsible for my own budget… Female Service members have kids and spouses too. We also have to balance home and work. We have a budget… We are no different than you.

    Reply
  8. Erinsaid

    @Cammy Alberts – I agree that all Airmen should stop and re-evaluate how they treat the spouses of other Airmen. I aimed this post at female service members, as it was for a blog link-up that was targeting milspouse-to-milspouse shaming. While I obviously recognize that there are male spouses out there (including in my own home), the majority of the readers and blog writers in this demographic are female. Oversight on my part, but I was tailoring my post to that crowd.I can imagine how alienating it can be, even for WOHMs like myself, let alone male spouses.I know there's a strong percentage of female service members who feel animosity from spouses. I have not experienced such behavior. Again, this was not the focus of the post, but I understand that it does occur and I sympathize with you.As for the "own budget," I did mean that in the sense of a family unit, not an individual family member. Respect does work both ways, without a doubt. Again, if you don't fit the mold of the individual this letter is targeted at, please don't take it to heart. While you might not act in such a manner, I have definitely experienced female service members who do.

    Reply
  9. Cammy Albertssaid

    @Erin – I appreciate your perspective and your position on the topic. I definitely think this is a subject that should be explored and talked about more openly, and I applaud you for giving the issue the forum and visibility on your popular blog!I guess I just don't understand the need to identify the issue as a "female" issue… we have so much girl-on-girl hate in the military, in my opinion, it feels like it's just segregating the force even more… we don't have "female service members" in the Air Force… we have Airmen. Airmen who should be treated as equals regardless of their gender. I'm a loyal follower of you blog and I know that you're a new Officer… Do you recognize that if a "female servicemembers" feel welcomed within your unit, and doesn't feel like their package is under additional scrutiny at promotion, they are more likely want to serve under you and contribute to the mission?The last thing a "female" Airman needs is have to worry about her promotion package before their commander not being approved simply because of her gender. As I'm sure you've learned in OTS, perception is reality. If your Airman that you command perceive you to be gender biased, they "won't support the furthering of your career", as you so eloquently threatened in you blog post, because we all know that Commanders are only as effective as their Airmen they lead.

    Reply
  10. Erinsaid

    @Cammy Alberts – All good points. Again, I had a particular Airman/demographic in mind when I wrote the post, and it is not my intent to segregate anyone, or to hold a particular group under additional, unnecessary scrutiny. I chose the words "service member" as I wasn't thinking exclusively of the Air Force, but all branches. The blog link-up was not limited to Air Force blogs, so I chose that particular phrase to make it applicable to all branches.That being said, I will address the rest of your questions, but they are now somewhat irrelevant to my point. Yes, I understand and recognize the importance and power of rapport-building in both my classroom and in my section. That is a huge part of how I teach and lead. I live that on a day to day basis in the classroom – building that relationship is key to having students do tasks that are otherwise undesirable and a challenge.I gather that my post struck you in the wrong way, as though I am overly critical of Airman dependent on their gender. Words don't mean much here, but know that is not the case. You're right, I am a new officer, and therefore I am doing a lot of observing and learning right now – learning about the Airmen in our section, learning about our missing, and awaiting my future training date. I come from a squadron that didn't have an active leadership component between officers and enlisted Airmen, so I am learning how that plays out in my new squadron.As for my "eloquent threat," while it sounded harsher than reality for the point of hammering it home, it is no different than the superintendents in my unit sitting down at our conference table and going around discussing whether or not an Airman should be promoted. We consider their leadership skills, their attitude, and their relations with subordinates. All of those factors are taken into consideration (as well as TIG/PME/Time in Training) before our team recommends someone for promotion.Again, thank you for taking the time to dialogue with me and provide a counterargument to this post. I appreciate your perspective and the thought-provoking nature of your questions.

    Reply

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