War History online proudly presents this Guest Piece from Jeremy P. Ämick, who is a military historian and writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America. His books can be found through www.misssouriatwar.com and on Amazon.com.
Editor’s note: This article is part of a series highlighting members of the U.S. Army Warrant Officer Corps for the corps’ 100th birthday on July 9, 2018.
While a senior at Jefferson City High School, Paula Prosser participated in a Cooperative Office Education (COE) program that afforded her the opportunity to spend two hours each school day at a local workplace accruing clerical skills for the workforce.
This program, little did she realize at the time, provided the stepping stone to a lengthy career beginning with a military program tailored for women and ending with her achievement of the highest warrant officer rank in the U.S. Army.
“I spent my time with the COE working at the office of the Army recruiter in Jefferson City,” said Prosser. “Because of that experience, I enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) and three months after my graduation from high school (in 1974), I was in basic training at Ft. McClellan, Alabama.”
Established during World War II, the WAC was created to afford women the opportunities to support the war effort by serving in non-combat positions. During her initial training, Prosser explained, she and her fellow female trainees were segregated on one side of the post and learned drill and ceremony and other military proficiencies from female drill instructors.
“After eight weeks of basic, I was sent to Ft. Gordon, Georgia in the fall of 1974 for military police training,” she said. “I chose that branch because it was one of the few that had just opened up to women and I wanted to do something completely different and new.”
Prosser went on to explain that the training at Ft. Gordon was “co-ed,” with males and females training together to become military police. During their training cycle, she added, they learned all the skills “that a normal police officer would peform.”
Her time in the training also delivered news of the disbanding of the Women’s Army Corps, which meant Prosser and her fellow female soldiers would be integrated into various branches of the active U.S. Army. Following her graduation from MP school in December 1974, she transferred to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina for her first duty assignment as a U.S. Army soldier.
Assigned to the 65th MP Company with the 503rd MP Battalion, Prosser spent the first three months of her assignment on 8-hour shifts guarding the door to a top secret library. However, she soon demonstrated her grit as a soldier and was assimilated into peforming MP duties on post.
“You really didn’t want midnight shift on payday at Ft. Bragg,” she grinned. “There were bar fights, breaking up brawls, arrests, bookings and all the associated paperwork.” She continued, “There were other times we worked night-shift doing patrols along the strip in nearby Fayetteville because they didn’t have a full civilian police force in place.”
In November 1977, Prosser returned to Jefferson City after receiving her discharge from the Army since she “missed family and wished to pursue other options.” Four months later, missing the military lifestyle, she enlisted in the Missouri National Guard and was hired full-time in the fiscal office at the state headquarters.
“There were no vacancies available in the military police so I entered the administrative branch and stayed there until I retired,” said Prosser.
Prosser was married in 1978 and as the years progressed, she went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Columbia College and worked in a number of administrative assignments, eventually achieving the rank of staff sergeant. In the mid-1980s, she began researching the possibility of becoming a warrant officer.
“I knew that I was going to stay in the National Guard for some time and thought that becoming a warrant officer would be a good way for me to come up through the ranks,” she said. “Also, there were not any female administrative warrants at the time.”
Her packet was accepted and she was pinned a Warrant Officer One in 1986. She continued her full-time military career in the Officer Personnel Branch, Education and Incentives Section and later in the Human Resources Section. As she progressed through the ranks, in 1999, she became the first female Chief Warrant Officer Four in the Missouri National Guard.
“I deployed to Kosovo in 2008 and was the acting G-1 (general staff position responsible for personnel and adminstrative functions) for more than 1,300 troops,” Prosser explained. “We reported personnel statuses to NATO headquarters and processed all the awards, Officer and NCO Evaluation Reports and orders,” she added.
The pinnacle of her career came in July 2015, when Prosser was promoted to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer Five—the peak of the U.S. Army warrant officer ranks. Two years later, she retired from the military after spending 43 years in uniform and was awarded the Legion of Merit. She is currently employed at the Missouri National Guard headquarters in a civilian capacity.
Prosser’s career in the military began at a time when women were limited in their opportunities to serve, but through the years and many changes in the options offered, she has become a representation of the possiblities now available for women who choose a career in the armed forces of the United States.
“When I came back home after leaving the U.S. Army, I missed the military lifestyle—the structure, the discipline,” she said. “It’s something that I grew to love and when I had the chance to get back in the Missouri National Guard, I jumped at it.”
She added, “And as a warrant officer, I feel that I had the opportunity to show other women that they didn’t have to settle in their military careers and could go to achieve the opportunities that were out there; all they have to be is patient, willing to stay the course and work for it.”