Though Janet never had the opportunity to deploy to Vietnam, she answered her nation’s call to serve. She was ready to go overseas to serve, but never had the opportunity. Instead, she worked across the country and talked about the struggles she faced as a woman in the military married to a non-military member.
My name is Janet Appling and I retired from the Army as a Captain. I decided to join the military services after I had graduated from Northern Illinois University. I had been teaching 6th grade for a year before joining. This was in 1966 during the Vietnam War. When I first decided, I think it was more for the adventure that patriotism, but that soon changed.
Due to the fact that I had a college degree, years of work experience, and my age, I was 27, I was a direct commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant.
My basic training was at Ft McClellan, Alabama from Aug 1966 to Dec 20, 1966. The officer basic training involved a lot more classroom and book training than the enlisted women had. But we did learn how to shoot a weapon, experience the gas chamber, and bivwac out in the field.
Women in the military have always faced a problem with certain reputation
Women in the military have always faced a problem with certain reputation. Whether it pertained to you or not, by both civilians and the men that we worked with. During this period in our history a large number of military male Officers and NCOs didn’t really want us there and made it known. It was through their attitude and the sexual harassment handed out. Unfortunately, it wasn’t reported because we were accused of asking for that type of treatment. And if you spoke up it only made your life worse. I was lucky in a sense because the experience I was faced with was just before graduation. So, I was able to leave the post and not have to deal with it on a daily basis. It also sort of prepared me for future encounters of the same sort. These encounters have left me with PTSD/MST.
I was never deployed. I left officer Basic with an assignment to recruiting women from universities. First, I was assigned to the RMS at Ft Des Moines, Iowa. I was responsible for Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota and supervise a 2nd Lt assigned to Neb. In this job, I spent 3-5 days on the road traveling to all the colleges, setting up displays and talking to women. I also did TV spots and went to combination recruiting days with the local NCOs. One of the neatest opportunities I had was when I had the honor of sharing a TV interview with Col Hoisington (she retired as Brig Gen Hoisington), the director of the Women’s Army Corp.
From there I went to Ft Leonard Wood, MO as CO of the WAC Det.
I was responsible for the supervision and well being of 150 women. My detachment contained the female cadre for the post and was the holding facility for women that had gone AWOL or deserted. It was here that I was directly affected by military life. To this day I miss the camaraderie and military way of life. I miss revelry and retreat and living with people that love their country and feel an obligation to serve it. I miss people that are disciplined and know what responsibility is and know how to follow directions when they are given. And I learned that I was a much stronger person than I thought I was. I also learned that approaching a problem directly with senior officers was not always the best way when it came from a woman.
What I would tell any girl that is considering the military that it is a challenging career with untold opportunities. And even an opportunity to travel worldwide. She has to be able to follow orders without question in certain situations and be disciplined in her thinking and actions. Along with this she will have fun and acquire lifelong friends and always belong to the huge family of the military.
I have lots of favorite moments from my service.
I was honored to be a survivor assistance officer while in MO. And I taught horsemanship to dependent children and I loved retreat and taps at night.
I got married while I was in the army but my husband was not in the service. He has always been a civilian and as a civilian, he was my dependent. This drove some military officers crazy. In reception lines for the general, the adjutant would get all tongue-tied when it came to introducing my civilian dependant husband. And I went round and round getting him his dependant ID card.
I got out of the service just before my first son was born. The Army did not want mothers on active duty and made it very difficult to stay. I remained in the reserves and was the first female non-medical officer in the WI National Guard. I retired in 1992.
You can listen to here recorded interview on the Women of the Military podcast! Check it out here!