Widgets Magazine


Op-Ed: ROTC and Women

The six female ROTC cadets and midshipmen at Stanford are baffled by news that the Women’s Coalition (WoCo), a body that claims to represent a wide swath of women’s student organizations, is actively opposing the return of ROTC to campus. Like the WoCo, our small female cadet contingent at Stanford is made up of strong women who actively and passionately support female advancement, rights and opportunities, especially in the male-dominated institution in which we’ve chosen to serve. We know from history and experience that Stanford women thrive in the military, and we earnestly hope for ROTC’s return to campus so that more women will have the opportunity to benefit from this program.

Personally, the military has done wonders for my growth and development. Far from advocating that I learn to think and act like a man, it has encouraged me to bring my feminine perspective to various challenges, such as how to mentor a struggling cadet or how to engage with female civilians in a hypothetical deployment scenario. I have grown tremendously in confidence, knowing that I can jump from planes, compete on a co-ed marathon team or command a battalion of 90 cadets as easily as my male counterparts.

Far from discriminating against females, the military holds us to the same standards as male soldiers, except where physical capabilities are a serious consideration. We don’t receive special treatment, a fact that continually reinforces my confidence in my capabilities. When I make a mistake in training, I do push-ups. When I am struggling to get to the top of the rope, I receive loud shouts of encouragement rather than discouraging comments like, “Oh well, you’re not expected to do that.” Discriminatory attitudes are simply not tolerated in today’s military.

The females I know and regularly read about have proven themselves up to the military’s challenges. In 2005, Sergeant Leigh Anne Hester received the Silver Star for her heroic actions during an enemy ambush on a supply convoy in Iraq. In 2009, two females were at the top of their class at West Point and were both named Rhodes Scholars. Amongst female Stanford cadets, Aly Gleason ’13 has worked as the Physical Fitness Officer, planning and implementing workouts for her entire Detachment at San Jose State. Captain Diana Clough Benton ’07 received her commission from the President. Lieutenant Ally Ha ’09 still holds the all-time highest physical fitness score for my Battalion. And during my time in Army ROTC, three out of four cadet Battalion Commanders have been women.

The Army also does a great job of accommodating us when necessary, providing women with separate quarters, appropriate grooming standards and free child care assistance, for instance. It takes issues of equal opportunity and sexual assault very seriously. According to The New York Times, “since 2004 the Defense Department has radically changed the way it handles sexual abuse in the military, including encouraging victims to come forward, expanding access to treatment and toughening standards for prosecution.”

The modern U.S. military needs the positive contributions of women, and Stanford has a tremendous opportunity to help train future Officers. Stanford-educated officers can uphold military women’s rights, as we go on to influence soldiers in the units we command. We will make conscientious and ethical decisions wherever we serve. We will influence the current debate on women in combat. My dream job is to work on a Female Engagement Team, a small group of women attached to dismounted patrols, whose mission is to provide community-based humanitarian assistance and engage with local women in a culturally sensitive manner. The military is making tremendous strides toward developing and utilizing women’s unique capabilities. It’s an exciting time for any Stanford graduate to be involved in implementing these developments.

Stanford women also have much to gain from an ROTC program on campus. Not only will more females be able to take advantage of valuable leadership training, but the broader women’s community will also benefit from increased dialogue with future officers on stated issues of concern to the WoCo: transwomen’s rights and sexual assault within the military.

Four years ago, as a shy but curious freshman on the Farm, I decided to try Army ROTC. Countless commutes, classes and training events later, I’ve attained greater confidence, stronger values, closer community, more opportunities and a nobler sense of purpose than I ever imagined possible in the military. As this year’s Army ROTC Battalion Commander, I’ve found that the sky is the limit for female soldiers today in our chosen profession. Now, as I prepare to commission as an Army Second Lieutenant in June, I couldn’t be more satisfied with that initial decision or prouder of the fact that I’ve completed the challenging program. I’ve spoken with a number of talented Stanford women who are also genuinely interested in participating in ROTC but are sadly unable to do so, due to our frequent, long commutes to other campuses.

Please join me in supporting these Stanford women who desire to serve, lead, and impact by voting “yes” on ROTC.


Ann Thompson ’11

  • Danny Colligan

    “My dream job is to work on a Female Engagement Team, a small group of women attached to dismounted patrols, whose mission is to provide community-based humanitarian assistance and engage with local women in a culturally sensitive manner.”

    Has anyone told you what the military actually does yet? They must have skipped over that in these incredibly informative classes I keep hearing about from ROTC supporters. Never forget that in the military “leadership” is a euphemism for organized violence.

  • Robin Thomas

    Danny, you seem to be under the impression that the military is composed exclusively of bloodthirsty gunslingers. In fact, rather paradoxically, it’s one of the nation’s largest humanitarian aid organizations. Look at the efforts by servicepeople in response to the earthquakes in Haiti, Japan, Indonesia…

  • @Danny

    Please stop ruining the discussion of daily articles with your nonsense. Have you ever served in combat? I doubt you know more than she does…

  • @@Danny

    Please stop ruining the discussion of daily articles with your ad hominem attacks.

  • Kristin

    Danny, you are so annoying and your views so out of touch with reality.

  • Scotty

    The truth of the matter is, the U.S. military was the reason that America was able to unite as a nation. The U.S. military was the first group to stop the one-sided civilian massacres in Libya. The U.S. military stopped Saddam Hussein from terrorizing the middle east for another several decades. Where the military goes and how its deployed is not the military’s fault. It’s the fault of the politicians you elect. The efficiency and power of the U.S. military is something to be proud of. The world looks to us for peace-keeping missions. Getting mad at the military is like getting mad at the hammer of a carpenter who builds an ugly house. It’s…well…frankly, it’s stupid. Naive. Short-sighted. It’s embarrassing.

  • Danny Colligan


    No, I don’t think that at all. I think the military is (mostly) composed of well-meaning people, like the author of this article. However, people don’t act according to their own moral impulses when they are inside an authoritarian institution like the military. They follow orders. The same could be said for any other authoritarian institution. I’m not sure why everyone, including yourself, seems to be missing this very fundamental point.

    Yes, the US military provides aid to various parts of the world on occasion. I wish it did more of this.

    However, to invoke Haiti, Japan and Indonesia as evidence of the US military’s humanitarian impulses really is, to borrow Kristen’s words if I may, “so out of touch with reality.”

    The US military has been in Haiti many times, not the least of which was participating in the 2004 coup against Aristide.

    Japan has the honor of being the only country which had nuclear weapons dropped on it. Plus a lot of firebombing — between the two, that’s a whole lot of dead civilians.

    In Indonesia, the US military has had a great relationship with Kopassus in the past (and Obama wants to resume it).

    That’s just for starters. To that list you could add others. For instance, Pakistan, where the military is currently destabilizing the country through drone strikes and special forces operations when they are not magnanimously providing earthquake relief.

    So yeah, the military helps foreign civilians out sometimes. But on the whole, the scales really aren’t in its favor.


    Rest assured, I have just as strong words for other elements of destructive US foreign policy.

  • To Ann

    “Discriminatory attitudes are simply not tolerated in today’s military.”

    Really? Because last I checked, they still discriminated against transgendered students.

    I don’t expect males to understand the intricacies of gender, but I would think that a female would understand the realities of discrimination based on gender. But you apparently don’t care. You’d prefer to see the discriminatory institution return, for YOUR benefit, screw everyone else. I mean, after all, the discrimination is hurting them, not you, right? So why should it matter to you?

  • @To Ann

    Don’t attack Ann. You’re extrapolating way too much for the article. For her own benefit? Why would she care if ROTC comes back other than looking out for future ROTC cadets? She’s graduating, after having already completed ROTC at Santa Clara.
    On a different note, one of the things that has confused me about transgender people for awhile is why they feel the need to advertise that they’re transgender all the time. I honestly wouldn’t know if they didn’t constantly advertise it via the daily (see the transitive property column), facebook, etc. It’s a sad attempt to get attention that they were denied at some point in their lives. People have their own lives to live and generally don’t give a shit if you’re confused about your gender identity.

  • Cristopher Bautista

    @@To Ann:

    There’s a difference between advertising and educating people about a largely marginalized community. If I didn’t write my column, I doubt you’d ever think about transgender issues. We might be a small minority within the Stanford community but that doesn’t mean our voices don’t count.

  • @To Ann Comment deleted

    I think the @To Ann comment should be deleted for inappropriate language and comments. Please remove it.

    @To Ann – you’re ignorant. It’s called advancing ones rights and voice in society, read history for a second and realize that’s what minority groups have to do to progress and EDUCATE the population.

  • @@To Ann

    The others say exactly what I was going to, but I’ll add that you seem to think that trans people are the only ones with gender issues. Newsflash: everyone is struggling with gender. Everyone. Whether it’s latent biases against a gender, or a feeling that you don’t like your gender role (even if you are completely comfortable with your biological gender and are 100% straight), or a general sense that gender is stressed too much in society–everyone is grappling with gender issues. IMO Stanford should require everyone to take a class that fulfills the “gender” requirement for education for citizenship, with the hope that people like you don’t leave this school without becoming a better informed human being–shit, Stanford should be happy if it made just a decent person out of you.

  • Appreciative reader

    This article illustrated to me the potential benefits of ROTC training. I wish Ann and any other graduating cadets the best of luck.