Female participation in the Chilean Armed Forces has a long history that began more than 40 years ago. However, women’s contribution in the military sector has gained greater recognition in the last 10 years, and Chilean women have continued to excel professionally.
More recently, the 14,000 Chilean women in the Armed Forces stood out for their service during the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, the Chilean Ministry of Defense recognized six of them in a ceremony held in March, on International Women’s Day.
“During our country’s most dramatic moments, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, or the coronavirus pandemic that hit us a year ago, the Armed Forces have always been the first line of support from the State to citizens. And you, military women, have always been part of that front line,” Chilean Minister of Defense Baldo Prokurica said during the ceremony.
For Chilean Army Specialist Valentina Martínez Palma, a combat nurse who was deployed all over Chile with the institution’s Modular Field Hospital to support health centers, the recognition has been an honor. However, she said, “all of us like the uniform, and we put our hearts into it without expecting any recognition. We do what we have to do.”
Chilean Army First Lieutenant María José Sánchez Leiva, an artillery specialist and instructor at the Noncommissioned Officers School and who carried out inspections and provided support to health authorities during the pandemic, shared her thoughts and added: “It is a recognition of all the women in the Armed Forces. It is a recognition of our daily work and effort not only during the pandemic, but also in our everyday roles.”
Both of the Chilean Navy officers recognized, Lieutenant Junior Grade Angie San Martín Rosa, who is part of the Navy Education Directorate, and Seaman Camila Romero Cruces, a Naval Aviation mechanic and electrician, took part in law enforcement protection and inspection efforts to support the health authority in the Valparaíso region.
The other two officers, Chilean Air Force (FACh, in Spanish) Senior Airman Arantzazú Calderón Arriaza, and FACh Major Francisca Parra Rojas (an aviator who is part of the National Satellite System project work team), were deployed at the FACh Command Post in Alto Hospicio, in the country’s north, where they took part in road checks and the delivery of cleaning kits, among other tasks.
“Recognizing the women who fought in the past to achieve the rights we enjoy today is key for our society and for us to continue advancing in gender equality,” said Senior Airman Calderón, who stands out as the first female gunsmith and F-16 dockmaster.
“Each of the women who make up the Armed Forces today has opened a path for other women […],” said Mónica Zalaquett, Chilean minister of Women and Gender Equality, who joined Prokurica during the ceremony. “I want to acknowledge their strength and their spirit of service to the country.”