In 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter opened more military jobs to women, specifically combat arms roles. Last year, the first two female officers made it through the rigorous Army Ranger School, in Fort Benning, Georgia.
Woman are striving for equal promotion to the highest echelon of the military. Some savvy go getters have succeeded, standing shoulder to shoulder with their top brass male counterparts. The few females who succeed in reaching those levels have found opportunities for receiving the mentoring and career experiences available to their male counterparts early on in their career.
Nevertheless, most of the top military advisors today are males who have been to infantry training and combat leadership schools, and have been entrusted with important leadership positions that have catapulted their advancement. It’s interesting to note that 25 years ago, in the early 90’s, women made up barely 11% of the total force. Today, women still only make up less than 15% of the total military service, which statistically affects the number of women who are actually able to compete for these leadership positions.
When Secretary Carter expanded the roles for women, he certainly opened a Pandora’s box of questions, nightmare scenarios, and harsh objections from military service members. Low grumblings of an impending deterioration of U.S. military forces due to the lowering of performance criteria in allowing women to serve in infantry roles was heard throughout the force. There are reasonable questions and concerns. How does the military maintain the level of proficiency while still offering males and females equal opportunities in career advancement? What are the effective measures of success in a traditionally male-dominated culture, and should that culture change for females? The military responded by opening all combat arms career billets to females, as long as they could meet the long established performance criteria, just as the males have to.
Having spent close to 20 years working for the Department of Defense, previously serving on active duty in the Army, later transitioning to civilian roles in DoD, I’m left with a mixed bag of perspectives on this topic. Today we see women performing roles that have traditionally been left to males. Women find themselves stepping outside of traditional gender roles more and more.
On one hand, we’ve come a long way, but a long way from what?
In the first Gulf War and then during the second 20-year stint in the Middle East, the DoD was challenged to delineate combat from noncombat roles. Women have been fighter jet pilots, manned machine guns, patrolled outside the “wire.” With the quickly shifting boundaries of “hot zones,” at anytime, they could have found themselves in combat. To this point it would be prudent to ensure everyone is adequately trained for combat readiness, regardless of gender.
Even so, I’m not sure we are taking the most effective approach by opening previously all-male infantry occupations to women. Maybe we should be asking different questions about how to fully utilize the talents of the female workforce?
Promotions to the highest level of military leadership should be open to men and woman alike. Surely we want the most qualified and experienced individuals advising the Commander in Chief on important military world issues. But how does a person become the most qualified? They are given opportunities, groomed, mentored, and relied on. They are scored against criteria in which they exceled and their talents are identified, exploited, and cultivated. Our nation’s military makes great leaders; we have the formula down pat.
However, we are on the cusp of major changes in our country and still working on a legacy leadership model. With an evolved leadership model, we could learn to maximize potential of a diverse work culture. Putting everyone into the same box and measuring them with one set of established criteria leads to optimization of one type of skillset and cultivation of one type of leader. This limits our success. For example, women are allowed to compete for infantry positions, but success is measured with decision criteria based on areas where males tend to excel. Certainly, there are exceptional women that can and have competed under that criteria, bypassing their male counterparts. However, they are outliers. So what about the rest?
Moving toward a more innovative leadership approach would require us to ask how we cultivate the talents that women inherently bring to the work force. Right now, women are measured against a criterion that is akin to asking a cat to act like a dog. You can train a cat to act like a dog, but a dog will always be the best at being a dog, and nothing is better at being a cat than a cat. That idea may infuriate some women, but as a woman, I personally want to be judged for who I am, and not be shoved into a matrix of male qualities that I have to exhibit to compete for leadership roles. At the same time, I don’t want to be marginalized to less important roles based on my gender. What if the training and mentoring cultivated all the best of what women bring to the table in leadership?
Robert Sherwin, the former COO of leadership consultancy Zenger Folkman, did an interesting three-part series for Business Insider on why women are more effective leaders than men. The first part of the research was published in the Harvard Business Review in 2012.
In the 360-degree review of 16 measured competencies, women scored higher than men in 14 of the 16 categories. Women outscored men in areas such as taking initiative, building relationships, collaborating, championing change, motivating others, developing others, driving for results, and integrity and honesty. Men outscored women on technical or professional expertise and developing strategic perspectives.
To make the biggest impact with the total workforce, it would be beneficial to learn how to leverage and develop the skills women naturally possess. I fear we are missing the point by trying to equate equality of opportunity with open participation to combat arms roles. The real opportunity to meet our greatest potential is in recognizing the over looked and unused talents that are lying dormant within a culture that sees the male infantry officer as its biggest leadership asset.
As a woman, I appreciate the bold move Secretary Carter made as a leader in an attempt to level the promotional playing field for men and women. Would the organization, country, and women be better served if the leadership would stop trying to make women more like men and learn to embrace the difference and use the skillsets of men and women to our advantage like other countries such as Israel has done? We definitely need the balance of both attributes to fully utilize skillsets and be completely successful.
Equality isn’t about letting women be combat engineers, as much as it’s about optimizing their strengths and making real investments in the potential that women bring to the work environment. We do that by adopting more acceptable criteria of what success looks like for a military leader, not by lowering standards.
For optimizing diversity and the use of innate talent, recognizing the natural roles for women, and making a shift in promotion criteria is in the best interest of the nation and the force.
Darcy Hotchkiss, a U.S. Army Veteran, is the author of Life in My Hands – Healing Myself, Healing Others.
Photos from Bigstock
Darryl Haley, born in 1961, grew up in South Central L.A. where just walking to school each day required a combination of courage and smarts. “You begin to realize that every day you walk to school, there’s a 75 to 80 percent chance that you’re not going to make it back home,” he said.
Still, Haley said that the neighborhood was like a family, filled with love. “It wasn’t just my mom in the house,” he said. “As long as you were in your neighborhood, you could go to anyone’s house for dinner. If you’re doing something wrong, just about any parent was going to reprimand you.”
Haley excelled in the classroom and on the field and when he graduated from high school, he won a scholarship to play football for the University of Utah. He would go on to be drafted by the New England Patriots where he played for five years, followed by stints with the Cleveland Browns and the Green Bay Packers. Since 2000, Haley has been doing health and fitness reports for Howard University’s radio station, WHUR. He’s used that platform and his contacts and experience in sports for a cause near and dear to his heart – helping the military, veterans, and their families. Last May he launched “Music at the Monument,” an event that not only raises funds but also helps to put veterans in touch with the services they need. And from the bed and breakfast he operates in Luray, Virginia, Haley bakes more than 200 cookies a month, collecting donations to help women veterans and the wives of veterans.
Haley promoting his “Fitness Friday” event
Haley is an imposing presence, and not just because of his size (6-6, and more than 300 pounds), his deep voice (perfect for radio), and his booming laugh (frequently punctuating his conversation). At a time when there’s so much talk about helping veterans, Haley is actually doing just that, staging his events on the mall, steps from the monuments commemorating those who have served in wars. “You begin to understand that freedom is not free,” Haley said. “The opportunities that I’ve had to play sports, get an education, all these things, somebody had to watch the gate.”
He credits one of his teachers – Miss Peters – for pushing him to succeed when he was nine years old. “She was the first teacher who challenged me,” he said, emitting one of his hearty laughs. When Miss Peters asked the students what they wanted to do for a living, Haley said he wanted to study the solar system. “What I didn’t know was that we had to write a report about it,” he said. Soon, that school project became larger than life. After he came home crying, his mother went to school to plead his case. “Miss Peters convinced my mother that I would get it done.” He went to the library, did the research, wrote the report and constructed the solar system out of Styrofoam balls he bought at the store. He earned an “A.” “From that point on, I realized education is going to be key – sports and school – and then I don’t need anybody to tell me what I can do because I just put together the solar system!”
Haley was a natural athlete and he began first by playing baseball. Then he learned that a young man in his neighborhood was going to college with all his expenses paid. “I had no idea what a scholarship was, but I knew I had to get one,” he said. “That’s when I started to take the football thing seriously.”
Haley knew he also had to succeed academically. “I didn’t learn about the SAT until three weeks before it was time to take it,” he said. “I turned over the paper, started looking it over, and by the gift of God, it made sense to me,” he said. “I got a good score.”
Haley, No. 68, offensive lineman for the University of Utah
Haley was scouted by a number of California colleges, UCLA and USC, as well as football power houses in the Midwest and the South. When the University of Utah came into the mix, he decided to visit the campus in Salt Lake City. “I had never been there,” he said. “The Mormon religion? I had never heard of it. But when I went to visit, I started looking at the mountains, at rivers and streams.” Growing up in South Central L.A., Haley said he spent most of his time in his house, not willing to risk the dangers that lurked out on the street. Looking at the wide open spaces in Utah, he thought: “You mean to tell me I can stand outside in the middle of the quad, walk down the street, or just stand in this green space as long as I want? I’m good here.”
With only seven or eight black players on the team, the culture shock was great and racist statements were often made. One white teammate refused to speak with Haley, invoking the “n” word, while one young woman told him that she had heard black men raped white women. “I was like, wow, OK, I get it,” Haley said, “but that’s your problem. I was never supposed to make it out of high school, so the fact that I’m here, I’m good. I beat the system.”
Graduating from high school earlier than usual, Haley was only 15 when he began college. “When you have [Mormon] teammates who have been on missions, they come back and they’re in their 20s,” he said. “I was ten years younger, so my focus was on books and ball. I’m learning things that are mind-blowing.”
The offensive line coach who had recruited him, Pat Hill, “a great guy,” left to go to the University of Las Vegas. His replacement told Haley flat out that he would never play him. Haley’s response was to keep working hard both in the classroom and on the field. Haley majored in human kinetics, computer science, and marketing. “I loved the human body, the science of it,” he said. “Computers were really coming into play, so I wanted to know how to program and then I would have a job for life. Then marketing, because you go into a college stadium and you’re seeing these advertisers.”
Haley, No. 68, with the Patriots
By senior year, the coach had to play Haley if he wanted the team to win. At season’s end, when the rankings came out, Haley was one of three top offensive linemen in the country. He got invites to exhibitions in Tampa and Dallas where scouts from the NFL came to assess the talent. He was asleep in his dorm room when the phone rang. This is Dick Steinberg (director of player development) for the New England Patriots and you’ve just been drafted in the second round. Haley thought it was a joke and hung up. Steinberg called back. Haley had to consult a map to figure out where the Patriots were located. Eventually, he found someone to negotiate his contract and moved to Boston. In the off season, he would come back to Salt Lake City. “You understand the science behind high altitude and training,” he said. “But I also liked that Salt Lake was manageable for me.”
Haley approached pro football the same way he approached college, eschewing a social life to stay focused on his future. When traveling with the Patriots, he would check into his room, turn up the heat, stretch to get his muscles loose, and have dinner in the hotel before retiring for the night. “I’m still only 20,” he said. “I was also keenly aware that I’m able to do something in my life. I’m not interested in blowing it.”
On the sidelines during a Patriots game
Haley had been with the Patriots for several years when he was called into the coach’s office. “When I played, I was a really lean 273,” he said. “I liked to run, the speed of it. I was told that I needed to get bigger. At the time, performance enhancing drugs were pretty popular.” Haley refused to use PEDs. “After that point, the coach and I never saw eye to eye. I played one more season under him and then the trade came.” Was there was a connection? “There was absolutely a connection.”
Haley was traded to the Cleveland Browns and then to the Green Bay Packers. “I enjoyed the game, I enjoyed playing, but I’m ready to get out. My plan was to get four, and if I get four I get vested. I wasn’t that person who was going to live and die football,” he said. “I would always say that I was a Patriot at heart. I really loved Boston. I loved the history of Boston, I loved the atmosphere of Boston. Cleveland was nice you know, but by that time, my heart wasn’t there.”
Does he think about the lasting effects of injuries, specifically CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, resulting from blows to the head? “You do think about it. I constantly try to test my own faculties. I had a couple [of bad hits.]” Haley believes that the dangers in football begin with Pop Warner, involving children from ages eight to 13. “You never see a kid in Pop Warner where the helmet fits right,” he said. “They don’t know how to brace themselves. They fall, the helmet hits the ground. The head hits the front of the helmet. The brain hits the front of the skull.” (The Pop Warner League recently settled a lawsuit brought by a family whose son played in the league, committed suicide, and was found to have CTE.)
After leaving football, Haley went back to Utah for a year and then moved to Washington, D.C. “We used to come to D.C. and play the Redskins and I always thought that it was fascinating, that whatever happens in the world comes through D.C. at some point,” he said. “I always said that once I got done playing, I was going to come to D.C.”
Haley swimming in the Iron Man Triathlon
Haley’s time as an athlete, however, was not over. Watching sports with friends one day, there was a segment about an Iron Man Triathlon to be held in Hawaii. He came up with the idea of doing it, something that so amused his friends they made a bet. After registering online, he received a call from the triathlon’s PR people. He needed to complete two other events, then he would be entered as a celebrity and have stories written about him. Even for an NFL player, a triathlon is a grueling event – a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run. “I went to the pool and tried to swim,” he said. “I thought I was going to die. Reality met fantasy.” But he trained hard and became the first person weighing more than 300 pounds to finish the triathlon. “Unbeknownst to me it was a big thing,” he said. “Being that size, being from a mainstream sport, being a man of color, all those things came into play.” And his friends had to pay up.
Haley (left) at WHUR interviewing Eddie Levert from the musical group The O’Jays
Haley was now well into health and fitness. An avid radio listener, he called WHUR’s general manager and suggested doing those segments. “I had a couple in my head,” he said. The GM asked him to record a few and Haley was off and running. He’s been doing the tips ever since. How does he keep it fresh? “I stay in the streets,” he said. “I talk to people who are doing some really cool stuff.” He defines health and fitness in the broadest sense which allows him to do features on restaurants, chefs, clothing, politics, anything that might interest his listeners.
Haley’s love for food and cooking began when he was a boy. “I remember making my first breakfast, my first steak when I was eight or ten,” he said. His mother, who was from Louisiana, began to teach him, not only to cook, but that people’s personalities and emotions go into the food. “She said if somebody’s having a bad day, I don’t want to eat their food.” It was advice that her son took to heart.
Haley’s B&B in Luray, Virginia
Learning from many of the chefs he interviews, Haley continues to work on his cooking techniques. When he travels, he educates himself on the local cuisine. He also takes cooking classes to hone his skills. In 2002, he found a way to combine his love of food and his dedication to health and fitness when he bought an impressive home in Luray, Virginia, and began operating it as a bed and breakfast. “It’s a pretty fabulous place,” he said. The nine-room mansion has a perfect location, close to the tourist attraction, Luray Caverns, the artistic community in town, local wineries, and a lake where guests can catch catfish and bass.
Baked goods by Haley served at his B&B
On weekends, breakfast and dinner are prepared on site by Haley. “Fitness Friday,” which he also promotes on WHUR, encourages guests to take advantage of the many physical activities the area offers, from hiking and cycling, to tubing and golf. Haley even plans overnight camping trips for those who are interested in a true outdoor experience.
The idea for Music at the Monument came after Haley’s partner, Judy Xanthopulos, suggested that he do something for himself. Except for Haley, doing for himself meant doing for others. Living in Washington, he had developed an appreciation for the military. For the veterans coming home, the issues are complex – fitting back into the family and the community, getting or resuming an education, finding employment, and, in some cases, dealing with depression, drug use, and even homelessness. Haley conceived an event that could provide entertainment by Grammy-nominated musicians, raise money, and also put veterans in touch with officials to help with their issues.
Now in its second year, Music at the Monument, will take place from May through October on the first and third Friday of each month. The Veteran Employment Services Office (VESO), within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), supports the event by providing a veteran “Honoree” for each show and marketing the event to its networks. The National Park Service, Healthy Parks, Healthy People, some branches of the Office of Professional Management (OPM), and Quantico also support the event. Having worked in sports, Haley uses those skills to enlist others who believe in the cause. “You just build a team so it’s not all you,” he said. In 2015, attendance ranged from 100 to 400, but Haley plans more publicity this year to increase the crowds. (VESO publicizes the event on its VA for Vets website and Facebook page.) Also, working with the Park Service, Haley will be able to get additional support from corporate sponsors.
Billy W. Wright on stage during one of the Music at the Monument events
One official who has been with Haley from the beginning is Billy W. Wright, National Program Manager for VA’s Disabled Veterans Affirmative Action Program, organized under VESO. Wright and his co-workers attended the events, handing out brochures and making themselves available to the veterans. “It’s a great venue for veterans to get out and enjoy themselves and socialize,” said Wright. “A lot of the veterans brought family members, kids, neighbors, and even co-workers. It turned out to be a great time to unwind after a busy week. Relaxing and listening to really good music. That really is a great idea.”
Often it’s the veterans themselves who reach out to help others. “Last year, a lot of veterans gave their testimonies,” Wright said. “Donald Brooks, who was a homeless veteran and now works in the military services department for Easter Seals, shared his story about being homeless and the way he’s helping homeless veterans find jobs.” Another veteran showed up with his uncle, also a veteran, who had become a recluse. “The uncle’s spirits were lifted,” Wright said, after he came to Music at the Monument.
“We like what Darryl is doing,” Wright said. “A lot of folks know him in the D.C. area from his radio show. He had already worked with a lot of programs supporting veterans.” As word spreads, Wright said more veterans services organizations are contacting the VA asking what they can do to help. Music at the Monument, Wright said, will continue to grow.
With the Military Intelligence Readiness Command (MIRC)
Haley’s research – he spoke with officials at the Military Intelligence Readiness Command, at Ft. Belvoir, the Department of Defense, and others – revealed that while the military takes care of soldiers when they are deployed, the families left behind are the bigger issue. He came up with the idea of raising money by baking cookies and he decided to focus on women veterans and the wives of veterans. Often the need is to handle everyday chores – replacing a broken window, repairing the car, cutting the grass. “Basically life maintenance,” he said. “They shouldn’t have to fill out an application and wait for two weeks. So if I bake a batch of cookies, I get $100, then we can go fix that.”
Haley’s cookies along with some of the many thank you notes he receives from women veterans and wives of veterans
Requests for help come in from a variety of sources – several members of the D.C. City Council, a medical center, friends, or just someone who has heard about Haley’s project. Many of the cookie deliveries are made by Haley in person (photos can be seen on his Facebook page), unless the recipient is too far away. “Hawaii was the farthest,” he said. Haley also accompanies the repair person or service provider if the woman who has made the request lives in the D.C. area.
Since the baking began in January, Haley has turned out 450 cookies at his B&B in Luray. “Some people have the impression this is a full bakery,” he said, with a laugh. Haley bought a machine to shrink wrap the cookies to keep them fresh in transit. He offers chocolate chip, chocolate chip with walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, and coconut, and oatmeal raisin. He covers all costs for the ingredients and shipping. The recipient makes a donation and receives six cookies. So far, Haley has raised $2,500.
High on Haley’s agenda is refurbishing the Carter Barron Amphitheatre in D.C.’s Rock Creek Park. “It was originally put there for the arts,” he said. “It’s still being utilized for the arts, but it’s not being taken care of. It just needs some assistance to bring it back.” In October, 2015, Haley staged a concert there to benefit the Amphitheatre and provide trail maintenance for Rock Creek Park. Starting in June, he plans to hold concerts in the Amphitheatre the first and third Saturday of each month to raise more funds. “If you get 3,500 people [coming in], paying $15 or $10 a ticket, you could begin to do some serious refurbishing,” he said.
While admiration and praise continues to pour in for all that Haley does, he said he stays grounded because he doesn’t seek approval. “I think that we all have a degree of blessings that are bestowed upon us,” he said. “Those blessings are gifts. And if we get out of our own way, and let those blessings happen, then whatever it is that you are looking to do or want to do, will come forth.”
For more information:
Music at the Monument
WHUR 96.3 Fitness Friday
Darryl Haley’s Bed and Breakfast
VA for Vets