Women and the National Guard

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Erik Figi
  • 115th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Today, significant social movements for equality, reclamations of dignity, and correcting societal imbalances are pervading throughout the globe. With a simple and honest exploration of societal and cultural history, one can understand and empathize with the victims, or better yet, champions, of these just and noble campaigns. The history of women in the U.S. military, and for the focus of this [article/post] the Wisconsin Air National Guard, are part of this struggle for equality and representation.


During the American Revolutionary War, 1775-1783, women performed work as nurses, seamstresses, and cooks for the camp to which they were assigned. There were exceptions, like Deborah Sampson, Nancy Morgan Hart, and Margaret Corbin, who disguised themselves as men, serving in combat roles, or operating as spies. The Civil War, 1861-1865, witnessed a growth of nontraditional roles for many women, albeit still attempting to pass as men. Over 400 hid their sex, fighting in both the Union and Confederate Armies. The Spanish American War, 1898-1901, saw the creation of the Army Nurse Corps and official inclusion into the ranks of the Army. During World War I, 1917-1918, over 25,000 American women, with ages ranging from 21 to 69, served overseas. The primary occupation was as nurses; however, roles had expanded into administrators and secretaries to telephone operators and architects. World War II, 1939-1945, witnessed 140,000 women serving in the U.S. Army and the Women’s Army Corps and roles had expanded into military intelligence, cryptography, parachute rigging, logistics, and numerous other fields.[1] 


On August 1st, 1956, Captain Norma Parson-Erb became the first woman to join the Air National Guard when she was sworn in as a nurse in the 106th Tactical Hospital, New York Air National Guard.[2] Only two days earlier, Congress enacted Public Law 845 that allowed women to enlist in the Guard. However, females were only allowed to enter service in nursing and other medical career fields. Prior to the Guard, Capt Parsons performed active service to her country with the Army Air Forces in the China-Burma-India Theater and as an Air Force nurse during the Korean War. It would take over a decade before women were able to enlist in the Guard under career fields other than medical.


Then, on July 1st, 1968, Congress made effective, under Public Law 90-130, the ability for women to enlist in the Guard. Since 1967, Congress had authorized the enlistment of prior-service. The first Air National Guard unit to enlist prior service females, due to fiscal constraints of the Vietnam War, was the 146th Military Airlift Wing, CA ANG in 1968 and their enlistee, Technical Sergeant Reannie Pocock.[3] Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, by September of 1970, the first woman, Captain Nanette Groupil, had joined the 176th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, the predecessor to the 115th Fighter Wing. Then on May 25th, 1972, Staff Sergeant Janet E. Hattleberg became the first enlisted female and first female technician later that year.[4] Today, the 115 FW has female ranks that represent roughly a third[5] of the unit’s end strength and all career fields at the 115th are open to women.[6]


[1] Web Page (U), Women in the Army, “History,” 6 Aug 18, SD 1004.

[2] Web Page (U), ANG Public Affairs, “Photos,” 6 Aug 18, SD 1000.

[3] Web Page (U), National Guard Public Affairs, “October—Today in Guard History,” p 10, SD 1003.

[4] Book (U), Rob Grilley and Ed Wanless, “Wisconsin’s Finest, A History of the Wisconsin Air National Guard,” The Wisconsin Air National Guard Historical Committee, Inc., 1991, p 65.

[5] Email (U), TSgt Tiffany Black to MSgt Erik Figi, “Unit #s male and female,” 30 Jul 18, SD 1002.

[6] Email (U), MSgt Tasha Wilson to MSgt Erik Figi, “August History Article,” 7 Aug 18, SD 1005.