Feature   Reform

Women in the Military Academies: 40 Years Later

Oct. 2, 2020 | BY Terri Moon Cronk , DOD News

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the graduation of the first women admitted into the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

In 1975, then-President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-106 for women to be admitted to the all-male military colleges. The freshman class began in the summer of 1976 and graduated in spring 1980.

Four women pose for a photo.
Groundbreaking Women
The 1980 charter women academy graduates of 1980 are, from left, Pat Locke, Janet Wolfenbarger; and far right, Janie Mines. In the middle is Army Col. Toya Davis, with the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3 Jose M. Najera Jr.
VIRIN: 200828-D-KT024-001

Three of those graduates remember the atmosphere well – something that has improved since they were surrounded by male upperclassmen's views, many of whom did not favor the idea of women in their previously all-male school. In Washington for a quarterly meeting of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women In the Services on which all three women serve, they spoke with DOD News about their ground-breaking experiences at the academies 40 years ago.

Also known as DACOWITS, the organization is one of the oldest Defense Department federal advisory committees. The committee comprises civilian women and men appointed by the secretary of defense to provide advice and recommendations on matters and policies relating to the recruitment, retention, employment, integration, well-being and treatment of servicewomen in the armed forces.

Here are their stories: