Air Force Secretary Heath Wilson made a comment on Tuesday that has stirred national headlines. Making a comment about women’s role in the military, she said they should be viewed as inherently strong “protectors” and thus should receive advancement boosts to enhance recruitment and retention of new women service members.
“If I asked everyone in this room to think, just close your eyes for a second and think about the most protective person you know in your life, someone who would do anything to keep you safe — half the people in this room are thinking about their moms,” she explained.
“We are the protectors,” Wilson said to drive her point home on the true role of women in the military.
“That’s what the military does. We serve to protect the rest of you, and that’s a very natural place for a woman to be,” she continued in a testimony address to the House Armed Services Committee.
Wilson graduated from the Air Force academy in 1982 as a member of the third class to allow women to enter the academy. Her comments are in response to Department of Defense reports that show women are more likely to exit the military at various points in their military career.
Wilson said there is also a problem with the perception of the military and how it appeals to women.
“We’re, I think, trying to change a little bit the way we talk and think about who the protectors are in this country, because I think sometimes the way in which we talk about the services may appeal more to boys than to girls,” she said. “And that’s important, the way we talk about these things.”
Her statements were met with enthusiastic applause from other members of the committee present.
Additionally, Wilson said the military is working on ways to allow service members to leave and start a family or obtain a degree, and return to the military without having their careers thrown off.
Army Secretary Mark Esper added that since the expansion of all combat roles to women in 2016, there has been a large expansion of co-ed combat units.