• December 19, 2014

WACs paved the way for female vets

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Posted: Friday, November 8, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 11:56 am, Wed Jul 16, 2014.

Texas has the highest population of female veterans in the United States with nearly 200,000. Fifteen percent of today’s active-duty military are women. The total veteran population is nearly 22 million with more than 2 million being female. Today with the number of U.S. veterans decreasing, the number of women veterans is increasing.

The Women’s Army Corps, which was disbanded in 1978, was the women’s branch of the Army in 1943. Its first commanding officer was Oveta Culp Hobby of Killeen, for whom a building is named at Fort Hood and a plaque stands near Killeen City Hall.

Acquanetta Pullins of Copperas Cove joined the Army as a WAC in 1972. She served as a nurse psychiatrist working with soldiers as they returned from Vietnam.

“There was a lot of drug use and that was a reflection of the times then. I saw my role to help soldiers get through returning and readjusting (to life outside of combat),” Pullins said. “I tried to find ways to help them salvage their lives by providing resources and making them understand that they had a future.”

As a female in charge of units, Pullins said she felt the difference between her and other noncommissioned officers.

“It’s one of those things that you have to work through. It’s a man’s Army,” Pullins said. “But, I felt very unique in what I chose to do — to work with the mentally ill.”

Pullins said she knew at a young age she wanted to serve in the military. She spent 20 years in the Army. Her sister also was a WAC and served as a nurse.

Today, as a civilian employee at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Temple, Pullins works with soldiers who have service-connected disabilities, face separation from the Army and are required to adjust to life after combat.

Sandra Thomas, also of Copperas Cove, joined the Army in 1972. Serving as a WAC in a mostly male military, Thomas filled a role previously filled by only men — truck driving.

“I was always good at handling equipment. I was first offered a position in the medical field, but the sight of blood makes me queasy,” Thomas said. “Since women were not allowed in the infantry at that time, it came down to truck driving.”

Thomas was the first woman in the Army to be trained in the vehicle operator’s course at Fort Ord, Calif.

Thomas spent three years in the military and separated from the service in 1975. She regretted the decision and rejoined the Army in 1978. She eventually retired with 20 years of service.

“I never really expected to be in the military,” Thomas said. “I was very anti-war and even anti-military. You could call me a hippie. But when I spent six months after college graduation with nothing to do, I decided to give it a shot and ended up really enjoying military service.”

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