The last Wednesday of every September is Women’s Health and Fitness Day. This is a day to encourage women to take control of their health, learn about making smart health choices, and focus on regular exercise and healthy living. The day also highlights available women’s health resources for living happy, healthy and productive lives each day.
Fitness is a major component of serving in the military. The Army requires passing its Basic Training Physical Fitness Test to graduate boot camp and continue on to Advance Infantry Training. The three-part test for both men and women includes two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit-ups and a timed two-mile run.
Without a doubt, there are few women stronger than those who serve in our country’s military. Less than a century ago, it was rare to find women serving in significant roles in the military. Now it’s common for women to fight in combat, command air strikes, pilot fighter jets and oversee medical operations.
So who are some of these women? And what makes them amazing examples of military excellence? Here are just a few of the examples of the inspiring and driven women in the military.
General Ann E. Dunwoody
Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody broke barriers as the first woman to serve her country as a four-star general in the Army. She is also the first woman to serve as a four-star general in the U.S. Armed Forces. After joining the Army in 1974, she served for 38 years and retired in 2012. She made her impact in the Army as commander of the Army Material Command (AMC) – one of the largest commands in the Army with more than 69,000 employees spread across 145 countries. According to Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno, Gen. Dunwoody maximized the efficiency and services the AMC provided, which included supply, maintenance, contact support, research and development, base and installation support, and deployment and distribution. At her retirement ceremony, Gen. Dunwoody said, “Today, women are in combat, that is just a reality. Thousands of women have been decorated for valor and 146 have given their lives. Today, what was once a band of brothers has truly become a band of brothers and sisters.”
Sergeant Sherri Gallagher
Sgt. Sherri Gallagher enlisted in 2008 and completed Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood. She went on to serve as a competitive shooter and instructor on the Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, GA. Sgt. Gallagher beat out 11 other competitors for the title of Soldier of the Year in 2010. The events, where she competed against both men and women, included hand-to-hand combat, urban maneuvers, detainee operations, casualty evaluation, weapons familiarization and night firing. In 2010, Sgt. Gallagher was also the first woman to be named the Army Soldier of the Year by the Military Marksmanship Association.
Lieutenant Colonel Lauren Edwards
In 2003, then Lt. Col. Lauren Edwards was leading a company of combat engineers during the invasion of Iraq when her unit’s convoy was attacked. Despite it being the first time she had ever been shot at, Lt. Col. Edwards was unfazed, leading more than 150 Marines and several vehicles through maneuvers around obstacles. She earned an award for valor for her strategic and heroic efforts under fire. Beyond her bravery, Lt. Col. Edwards boasts unparalleled strength for a man or woman in the military. In 2013, when the Marines were examining new physical standards for women’s Physical Fitness Test, Maj. Edwards challenged herself to not just meet the minimum men’s standard but complete a perfect men’s Physical Fitness Test. And she did just that by running three miles in 18 minutes, completing 20 pull-ups and performing 100 sit-ups in two minutes. Later, when she took command of the 8th Engineer Support Battalion (ESB) at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Lt. Col. Lauren Edwards made history again in 2015 when when she became the first woman in the Marine Corps to command an ESB.
These women have raised the bar for women in the military – rising to new heights, performing under pressure and setting new standards. This is a small sample of those who are proving that women will forever have a place alongside men in the military.
Want to train like one of these amazing women in honor of Women’s Health and Fitness Day? Regardless of if you’re a man or a woman, everyone needs cardiovascular exercise, resistance training, flexibility, and core strength training. Check out these circuit fitness routines to take your fitness routine to the next level.
To give yourself a goal, aim for these minimum standards for entry into BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) Training:
Remember: it’s important to have a fitness plan and stick to it. Women’s Health and Fitness Day serves as a reminder about the significance of regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle. Learn more about the health screenings recommended for women in the military from Military Health.