How's this for a career change: This NFL cheerleader traded in her pom-poms for a Kevlar vest and rifle.
Rachel Washburn, 24, was a cheerleader for the Philadelphia Eagles. She cheered for the team from 2007 to 2009. She was also enrolled in ROTC, while studying history at Drexel College, where she trained to become a soldier.
In 2011, she left for her first tour in Afghanistan, where she joined the “Cultural Support Team.” She was one of many women attached to Special Ops units, to make them more relatable to Afghan women.
With all the talk about women and sexual harassment in the military, we rarely pause to think about the important impact female soldiers have had in the past few years. Regardless of what one thinks about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is hard to argue that women have not played a vital role not only in combat but also in terms of outreach to local populations and “hearts and mind” efforts.
As Washburn herself said, "With the program that I did in my first deployment, we were part of that change, and nothing motivates me more than being an example of what motivated females can be in the military. I just hope the military continues to progress and that skilled individuals are afford the opportunities available to them."
It is important that we continue to recognize the important roles women can play in the armed forces and celebrate their efforts.
Washburn will be honored by the Philadelphia Eagles as a “Hometown Hero” this Sunday, during their home game against the Chicago Bears.