Growing through change from WAC to U.S. Army

By Pfc. Leah R. Burton
Staff writer

Spc. Teresa L. Morris, born Teresa L. Stokes in Indianapolis, Ind., of the 138th Personnel Services Battalion has firsthand knowledge of the growth the Army has undergone in the past 30 years, as she answered the call of duty and enlisted in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps Nov. 30, 1973.

This was when women were not allowed in the U.S. Army. WAC and the Army were two separate entities, and the woman's role was purely in a support capacity.

Morris attended six weeks of Basic Training at Fort McClellan, Ala., followed by eight weeks of Advanced Individual Training at Fort Jackson, S.C., to be a clerk typist.

"Back then the women trained separate from the men. The only men you might see on post were maybe a cook or a [military police officer], because even your command was all female," Morris said. "We had our own esprit d'corps."

Morris' AIT class was one of the first classes to train on the new electric typewriter.

"We didn't even have computers. We had just switched over from manual typewriters to electric typewriters, and we were very excited," Morris said.

Upon her successful completion of AIT, Morris was assigned to Headquarters Brigade Combat Team Committee Group in Fort Dix, N.J.

While she was serving with HQ BCT Committee Group, the Army absorbed the WAC and for the first time men and women trained at the same installations. Prior to the dissolution of the WAC, women only attended Basic Training at Fort McClellan.

"The transition was smooth, except that now we worked with men," Morris said.

The Army mandated separate floors for the males and females with Charge of Quarters Soldiers posted on the floors to keep the opposite sex from entering the wrong area.

According to "The Women's Army Corps, 1945 to 1978" by Bettie J. Morden, women could be stenographers, linguists, military police, clerk-typists, nurses, doctors and many others starting in 1972. Still several career fields were exclusively male.

In Dec. 1977, Secretary of the Army Clifford L. Alexander announced the Army's exclusion policy, which opened 14 new career management fields to women.

Women could now be crewmembers for long-range missile and rocket sites, smoke and flame specialists, field artillery surveyors and others.

In addition, women could be assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, a previously all male unit.

Even with the dissolution of the WAC, the Army still decreed that women were not to wear the Army fatigues, and the women's pay was not made equal to men's until 1975.

"They believed in keeping the women looking feminine," Morris said. "It wasn't until 1974 that we were allowed to start wearing the old green fatigues with granny shoes."

Effective June 1972, the authorized women's uniform consisted of the light green, two-piece form-fitting suit for summer or warm weather.

The Class A uniform consisted of a green dress with a beige shirt with a black collar, low quarter shoes or black dress pumps and a shoulder bag.

Later, women were allowed to wear the green fatigues, with the low quarters and a black belt.

The physical training uniform consisted of light green shirts with a skirt (wraparound skirt, with shorts underneath). The uniform was worn with white bobby socks and Army issued white canvas tennis shoes.

In 1974, Morris got married. She was on orders to move to Germany when she found out she was expecting their first child.

When Morris gave birth to her first son in 1975, she got out of the Army.

Morris spent her time earning her associate's degree in Theology through her Vietnam-era Government Issue Bill and raising her children.

In 1992, Morris joined the Indiana National Guard. Because of her previous service, she didn't have to attend Basic Training or AIT again.

"I was 36 when I came back in. I felt like since it was for the state, it was pretty safe. My kids were still in school, and it was a way to get my [bachelor's degree in Religious Studies]," Morris said.

Since enlisting in the National Guard, Morris has been assigned to Company A, 38th Infantry Division, HQ State Area Command-Indiana and HQ, 138th PSB, where she was for only 30 days prior to deployment.

"Really, it was exciting. It was a once in a lifetime experience," Morris said about deploying here. "I felt compelled. I feel I've come full circle. I've gotten to finish what I started."

In her spare time, Morris enjoys going to bible study and her gospel women's group and working out at the gym.

 

Spc. Teresa L. Morris
Spc. Teresa L. Morris, once a Women's Army Auxiliary Corps Soldier and now an administrative specialist with the 138th Personnel Services Battalion here, types on her computer June 11.

Spc. Teresa L. Morris
Spc. Morris concentrates as she develops an organizational matrix for her unit.