June Gower describes what it’s like to come from a long family of military members, then become the first woman to rise through the ranks from enlisted to an officer and later retire.
There are those who are first in every profession, sport, and craft, and it is those who are first to open a door that is quick to remark on the benefits not for themselves but for those who are to follow.
Ms. Gower is one of those firsts. She is counted as the first female to retire as a military officer after serving on active duty during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield.
Now a civilian residing in the state of Oregon, Ms. Gower’s last acting role was as a healthcare administrative leader for the Attorney General’s Office in Washington, DC. In addition to being an officer, June Gower holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy & Administration in Health. She has described these experiences and education as invaluable to comprehending the overall health system in the U.S.
Ms. Gower has witnessed the full integration of women into the military and can recount a long string of sub-events that made her journey a little more difficult. But, in the end, she can also point to a number of events, officers, and civilians who gave her the motivation to stand strong and tall through the separation from family, the adversities of serving during an active war, and the discipline it takes to rise to the ranks of a military officer.
June Gower started her military career directly out of high school, first becoming a field medic. This was enough to light a spark that ignited a desire to help injured and recovering soldiers. She instinctively knew that, for her, a career in medicine was the right way to go. During her military career, Gower completed two Advanced Nursing degrees and was fortunate to travel the United States, experiencing diseases and ailments that are considered rare.
To be a leader in the army requires certain personal characteristics. Most often, the first those that people will consider are loyalty, bravery, a sense of comradery for those working with you, and honor. But, it is selfless service to the country and characteristics that June Gower considers the most important to hold any position in the armed forces. The personal and family sacrifices are numerous in ways that are unimaginable. She acknowledges this way of life is not for everyone.
Today, there are many more paths for advancement to a commissioned officer. They include:
- Advancing through enlisted ranks and then completing officer training
- Attend and graduate from a US military college or military academy like West Point
- Enroll at a traditional college or university with a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program
- Attend Officer Candidate School (OCS) after graduating from a traditional college
For anyone, especially young women, looking to serve in a branch of our country’s armed services, June Gower suggests looking at not only the tangible benefits of solid career training, educational assistance, housing, prestige, and full medical-dental benefits but also the intangibles. The leadership skills gained as an officer are unparalleled in any other occupation.
Managing personnel, technical equipment/weapons, and other highly classified government assets call for a level of responsibility that is also rarely found in civilian occupations. But, it is the lifelong camaraderie that comes with serving in the military as an officer that is most priceless to Gower. You will develop a mutual trust and friendship among officers and enlisted alike with whom you will spend a lot of time, and stay connected over long years, calling them extended family.
And it is these shared memories that will outlast any honors or medals and will always hold a unique and special value for a retired military officer, Ms. June Gower.