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NEWS | Oct. 3, 2016

Women in the military speak in Ukraine

By Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr U.S. Army Europe

YAVORIV, Ukraine—The life of a Soldier can be taxing on any individual when they are constantly training or away from their loved ones, but how does it affect the women who serve? 

Four military service women, from the United States and Ukraine, spoke about the honors and obstacles of being a woman serving in the military, Sept. 29, at the American House in Kyiv. 

The one-hour, moderated event consisted of questions about the service women’s trials, tribulations and successful moments during their time in the military. Toward the end, the audience was allotted time to ask questions. 

Katrina Self, a professional associate in public affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine and Major in the U.S. Army Reserve was the key driver in coordinating the event.

“I think that it’s really important culturally, especially for young Ukrainian emerging voices, to know that they can do it,” said Self. 

Capt. Cassandra Harris, a personnel officer for the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center joined the Army in 2001 to make a positive difference in her country.  She was asked her thoughts on women joining the ranks of combat arms. 

“You as an individual have  to look at yourself,” said Harris. “If you’re able to carry your gear, yourself and  your battle buddy to help each other get out of a serious situation, then that is the right place for you.”

During wartime operations, it is possible for service members to leave their family for extended periods of time to conduct training exercises or possibly go to war. 

“I’m doing this for my family to make sure they have a bright future,” said Sgt. Turkeisha Mote, signal support systems specialist assigned to 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “It’s hard separating from them, but at the end of the day, I know that I am doing this for them.”

Mote is currently on her fourth month of deployment training Ukrainian Soldiers on signal support at the IPSC. During her deployment, she said she finds strength within the people she works with when it gets difficult being away from her husband and four children.

“The military gave me another family,” she said.

Col. Carol Northrup, United States Senior Defense official and Defense Attache to Ukraine is married to a retired Air Force officer and has a daughter attending officer training  for the Air Force. Northrup said that early on in her career,  it was perceived that women couldn’t have a career and raise a family.  

“I have seen the perception change in the 30 or so years I have been in the military,” said Northrup. “That is one of the things I am most proud of is being able to change that perception.”

Ukrainian Col. Tetiana M. Ostashchenko, Deputy Chief of the Bilateral Military Cooperation Department of Ukraine was asked what advice she would give to young women thinking about joining the service. 

“Frankly speaking, nowadays, many Ukrainian women want to join the armed forces,” said Ostashchenko. “Girls, if you feel for it, you feel it’s your cup of tea and you are able to make a difference and that truly is what you want to do, go for it!”

Building strong relationships and engaging with the local community here is just one aspect of the JMTG-U mission in Ukraine. Their primary goal is to build a sustainable and enduring training capacity within the Ukrainian land forces.