First three female Army Rangers

Trailblazing Women Across the U.S. Military Branches

Feb 3, 2023

On episode 104 of “After Action,” (Glass Ceiling), host Stacy Pearsall sits down with three fellow veterans to discuss their careers in their respective military branches. What’s brilliant about this episode is all four of the veterans on set are women. Vanessa Shawver, Lisa Zunzanyika, Meggen Ditmore, and Stacy herself have incredible stories about being the firsts in their fields. When I listen to these veterans share their stories I can’t help but smile. I smile because I am a woman, and I see how far we’ve come today. I also smile because I can see every woman out there breaking the barriers and creating pathways for the rest of us to follow. When I hear stories about trailblazing women in our military branches, I know what they did wasn’t necessarily for themselves, but for the rest of the women out there who are choosing the military path. Below is a list of many incredible women who are trailblazers, leading the way forward for women in the military and young girls who may find themselves joining.


  1. Margaret Cochran Corbin (1751-1800) was the first woman to receive a military pension after she served during the Revolutionary War. Corbin disguised herself as a man and fought alongside her husband loading cannons. She was severely wounded after losing her husband in battle. The military recognized her efforts in the Revolutionary War and eventually moved her remains to West Point with full military honors in 1926. (National Women’s History Museum, 2015 & USO 2022)
  2. Clarissa Harlowe Barton (1821-1912), better known as “Clara” founded the American Red Cross. She was a nurse during the Civil War who was granted special access to the battlefield. Barton would drive her medical wagons onto the battlefield to help wounded soldiers while giving them needed supplies. (Red Cross & USO, 2022)
  3. Opha May Johnson (1879-1955) was the first woman to enlist in the United States Marine Corps Reserve in 1918. She was assigned to the Marine Corps Headquarters where she managed records. (Foundation for Women Warriors, & Time, 2018) Opha May Johnson


  4. 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion (active: 1945-1946) consisted of mostly African American women and several Hispanic women. They were assigned to Birmingham, England, Rouen, France, and Paris, France during WWII. These women had a mission to clear multiple years of backlogged mail in the European Theatre of Operations. They worked in old aircraft hangars that usually had rats and broken windows that exposed them to the cold. Their motto was, “No Mail, Low Morale.” (Women of the 6888th & Army Women’s Foundation)Veteran from 6888th Battalion


  5. Commander (Cmdr.) Rosemary B. Mariner (1953-2019), who flew the A-7E, was one of the first 6 women to become naval aviators. Mariner was also the first woman to command a naval aviation squadron during Operation Desert Storm. (USO, 2022 & Naval History and Heritage, 2023)
  6. Army Sergeant First Class (Sfc.) Leigh Ann Hester was awarded the military medal for her brave actions that took place in Iraq in 2005 when her supply convoy was ambushed by enemy fire. She was also the first woman to receive a Silver Star for direct combat action. (USO, 2022 & Foundation for Women Warriors)Sgt Leigh Ann Hester


  7. Captain (Capt.) Kristen Griest was one of the first females to successfully complete and graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger School (class of 08-15). (USO, 2022 & Foundation for Women Warriors)
  8. 1st Lieutenant (Lt.) Shaye Haver was also one of the first females to successfully complete and graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger School (class of 08-15). (USO, 2022 & Foundation for Women Warriors)
  9. Major (Maj.) Lisa Jaster was the third female to successfully complete and graduate from U.S. Army Ranger School (class of 08-15) alongside Capt. Griest and 1st Lt. Haver. Jaster was the first female Army Reserve Officer to graduate. (U.S. Army, 2015 & Foundation for Women Warriors)First three female Army Rangers


  10. Lieutenant Commander (Lt. Cmdr.) Kayla Barron was one of the first women to serve on a Navy submarine, and now she will be one of the first women to walk on the moon. In 2017, Barron was chosen out of the 18,000 people to join Nasa’s Astronaut Candidate Class. In 2021, she served as a member of SpaceX Crew-3, where she spent 177 days in space at the International Space Station. (Military, 2021 & NASA, 2020)Kayla Barron


  11. Major Marie T. Rossi (1957-1991) was the first female aviator in battle during Operation Desert Storm. Rossi flew a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, and was in charge of flying fuel and ammunition to the soldiers in enemy territory. She gave her life for her country on March 1, 1991 when her helicopter went down near base in Northern Saudi Arabia. (The Ninety-Nines Museum of Women Pilots & Army, 2013)
  12. Army Captain (Capt.) Kimberly N. Hampton (1976-2004), the first woman to be killed in combat in American history, was a OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilot. She was stationed in Fort Bragg, N.C. and left for Iraq in August of 2003. Her helicopter was brought down by enemy fire near Fallujah in January 2004. (Military Times & NBC News, 2004)




The Women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, Parade honoring Joan d’Arac Rouen, France May 27, 1945

USO, Over 200 Years of Service: The History of Women in the U.S. Military

Foundation for Women Warriors, Opha May Johnson, U.S. Marine

Natural Women’s History Museum, Margaret Cochran Corbin

American Red Cross, Clara Barton: Visionary leader and founder of the American Red Cross

Military, She Was a Pioneering Navy Submarine Officer. Now She’s Headed to Space

NASA, Astronaut Kayla Barron

U.S. Army, Women make their mark in combat aviation

The Ninety-Nines Museum of Women Pilots, Women Pilots: Marie T. Rossi

Time, The First Woman Was Sworn Into the Marine Corps a Century Ago. Now a Group of Veterans Is Trying to Preserve Her Story.

NBC News, Chopper pilot recalled as a super-achiever: Kimberly Hampton

Military Times, Honor the Fallen: Army Capt. Kimberly N. Hampton

Army Women’s Foundation, The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion

Naval History and Heritage Command, Captain Rosemary Mariner, USN

Foundation for Women Warriors, Leigh Ann Hester, Sergeant First Class, U.S. Army

Foundation for Women Warriors, Kristen Griest, Captain, U.S. Army

U.S. Army Reserve, Maj. Lisa Jaster

Foundation for Women Warriors, Lisa Jaster, Lieutenant Colonel, U


Images Provided by: Defense Visual Information Distribution Services (DVIDS)