More women signing up for National Guard

More women signing up for National Guard
By: Crystal Britt

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - It's a huge commitment, enlisting for a job that has such risks during this time of uncertainty. Even so, thousands of Heartland men and women continue to sign up for the National Guard. Some are as young as 17, others in their early 40's. A growing number are women. The Missouri National Guard reports numbers overall are up, although recruiting is still a challenge especially in a time of war. Last year's numbers are in, and more than 2,000 people in Missouri signed up, most of those - individuals who haven't served before. Out of that, 15% percent are women. They're a segment of the population that's continuing to find its place in what was once a man's world.

These recruits gathering over the weekend at the Cape Girardeau Armory are part of R.S.P., or Recruit Sustainment Program. It's exclusive to the National guard and is designed to train recruits, and get them ready for Basic. They're here for different reasons...signing bonuses, college,family tradition, and patriotic duty. "I love my country-it's that simple", said Cathleen Byrnes. The guard is different than it was years ago as soldiers not only serve here in the United States, but beyond. More women are also up for the challenge these days. They're held to the same standards as the men.  "You feel like you've gotta compete a little harder to show the guys...I can do this too", said Christina Arnold. "It's frustrating sometimes because you feel like you have to prove yourself", said Destinee Hoots. It's a dream, and an opportunity. "There's so many things to offer, but mostly college", said Hoots.
Cathleen Byrnes considers herself a young 40-year-old woman and feels a call of duty, a call that came earlier in life, but the timing wasn't right. "Our world is dangerous and some people have to stand up don't really have a choice", said Byrnes. The guard just raised the cutoff age from 40 to the day prior to ones 42nd birthday. Before that, it was 36. Byrnes knows she's in the minority. "But, don't make any concessions to my gender because on the battlefield you can't--it's that simple", said Byrnes. The battlefield is a possibility as serving in Iraq is in the back of everyone's mind. "It's kinda scary, but it's all part of the deal", said Arnold. "You can't worry about what you can't prevent... you've just gotta deal with it", said Hoots. 
Their bravery and passion, something the Guard hopes America doesn't take for granted. "It goes a long way with giving respect to show that the choice these young people made to be able to make that commitment especially to serve at a time they know they're going to be called upon", said Staff Sgt. Rodney Sebaugh.