by Brianna Neasham
In this two-part story for Women’s History Month, sisters from California elected to write one another’s story of service. Read their thoughts and insights about how they have inspired one another and where their respective journeys have taken them.
My little sister, Rachel, graduated from West Point in 2009, receiving her first orders to Fort Lewis as a combat engineer with the 617th Engineer Company. Shortly after reporting, Rachel deployed to northern Iraq to meet up with her new platoon.
As a young female officer in charge of a horizonal construction platoon comprised solely of men, Rachel often found herself forced to confront unfounded notions about the capabilities and intentions of female service members. Rachel had to establish her legitimacy with the coalition partners; often her assigned liaisons with the Iraqi Security Forces would be hesitant to speak with her or deal with her directly due to her gender. Further complicating the matter, Rachel assumed command of her platoon after they had already been in theater for several months – a situation that denied her the opportunity to build the rapport and relationships that develop naturally with your troops during pre-deployment training.
Facing these challenges in addition to the normal stressors of deployment in a combat zone, Rachel chose to confront the situation in her characteristic manner – working even harder, focusing on her troops and driving forward. Rachel never made her service about “being a female service member.” Instead, she made it about complete commitment to the mission and excellence in everything she does. Never-the-less, Rachel’s attitude, leadership approach and devotion while in command of 2nd Platoon helped rewrite the script on female service in the U.S. Army. I am proud of my little sister and honored to have served in the world’s greatest military alongside such a patriot.