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Women join the military for many of the same reasons men do, but they frequently face challenges that male soldiers do not have, including balancing female family roles and privacy. Despite these challenges, women can benefit and contribute in many ways and improve and strengthen our nation's fighting force.
The military will pay the entire cost of tuition for an enlisted soldier, regardless of rank. It's possible to enroll in online classes or attend classes during off-duty hours. The GI Bill also allows you to take advantage of free tuition once you finish your active duty. This is excellent for those who do not want to accrue student loans and for those who do not have the financial means. If you get your degree when you are on active duty, once you leave the military you will be ahead of many applicants by having the education and experience you need.
The military offers some of the best health care because it is always available to you regardless of where you are living. If you have a family, it can be a huge relief knowing their health care is taken care of and you will not have large medical bills to pay off. The military will pay for most of your doctor's visits, including medicine and wellness visits.
One downside to being a woman in the military is you must perform the same tasks as your male counterparts. A 120-pound woman will need to carry the same weight as a 210-pound man. If your job is to load tanks and you have to lift 50-pound containers of shells, you will have to increase your strength and not complain about the task. In some instances, women do not have the same body strength to perform heavy tasks, especially when you are half the size.
Women often have a more difficult time with separation from their families than male soldiers do. According to a 2009 Pew Research Center Survey, a nonpartisan think tank that informs the public about current issues, more than 60 percent of women with families would prefer to work part-time. For this reason alone, time away from family is one of the main reasons women decide to leave the military. The Department of Defense continues efforts to develop policy initiatives to address this problem, including childcare programs and more flexible career options. However, retention remains a problem. For example, in 2017 the attrition rate among female Army officers is still twice that of male officers.
Harassment and Sexual Assault
Women deal with sexual assault and harassment far more than male soldiers do. According to Pentagon data reported by U.S. News & World Report, there were a record 6,172 reported cases of sexual assault in 2016, up from 3,604 in 2012. Many of the instances go unreported because women service members fear retaliation. About 58 percent of women making sexual harassment claims also reported experiencing some form of retaliation. Harassment and assault can come from fellow soldiers and soldiers from other countries if you become a prisoner of war.