First Filipina graduate of West Point continues to serve even after retirement

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Photos from Col. Ranelle A. Manaois

Colonel Ranelle A. Manaois entered the United States Army in 1986 after earning recognition as the first Filipina graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point.

She retired in 2016 with a Legion of Merit award after being in the military service for 30 years. She was last assigned to the 63rd Regional Support Command as the commander for the 63rd RSC Special Troops Brigade (Provisional). The first Filipina West Point graduate also received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Master in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.

She remains active as the JROTC Senior Army Instructor at Waipahu High School, Oahu, Hawaii.

Col. Manaois revealed to GNP how over 90% in her JROTC program are Filipino and that she encourages these Filipinos to pursue a military career. She continues her service as an instructor as a way “to give back to our future generation.”

In this feature, GNP asked Col. Manaois to tell her story of success as a woman and a Filipino in the US Military.

GNP: How did you overcome gender and ethnicity issues at West Point and the army?

RAM: Just like Charles Dicken’s a Tale of Two Cities, I can honestly say that my experience at West Point and the Army “were the best of times and they were the worst of times”…
Each person has different experiences in life. As for me, I did experience gender and ethnicity discrimination during my military career. My military career began the summer of 1982 as a new West Point Filipina Cadet.

Female Cadets were admitted into West Point for the first time in 1976 and so the first female cadets graduated in 1980. During my time as a Cadet, the belief that females did not belong at West Point was still alive. Hazing was a daily part of a Plebe’s life and being yelled at was expected during a Cadet’s first year. But there were instances where I did feel discrimination based on my gender and ethnicity. I have felt discrimination throughout my 30- year military career.

My father used to remind me before I joined the military that I will already have 3 strikes against me…. I’m female, I’m brown (not Caucasian), and I’m short (5’ tall). My attitude during my Cadet years was that since I already had 3 strikes against me, I’m going to give it my best and would meet every challenge head on regardless of people’s biases—an attitude that I carried throughout my military career.

“I’m female, I’m brown (not Caucasian), and I’m short (5’ tall). My attitude during my Cadet years was that since I already had 3 strikes against me, I’m going to give it my best and would meet every challenge head on regardless of people’s biases…” – Col. Ranelle A. Manaois, retired US Army cadet

So, how did I overcome gender and ethnicity issues at West Point and the Army? Where did I get this “Can Do” attitude and mindset from? God, family, and being Filipino-born were the sources of my foundation of strength that allowed me to overcome challenges at West Point and the Army.

The unconditional love, morale support and encouragement from my parents (whom have already passed), sister and brother, my values and beliefs derived from my parents’ teachings, their diligence, dedication, sense of duty, determination, the “do your best no matter what” and “never give up” attitude–all qualities and values that I learned at an early age. Whenever I experienced discrimination based on my gender or ethnicity, I didn’t give up, but instead, I became determined to prove to myself that I can do the job or accomplish the mission regardless of biases.

GNP: How has being Filipino-born help you in your career?

RAM: My unforgettable memories growing up in the Philippines, my parents keeping the culture and traditions alive throughout the years, my visits to the Philippines several times and here in Hawaii, being amongst many Filipinos, I have learned “kindness, heart, personal courage, humbleness, a diligent work ethic, honest, integrity, respect, loyalty, duty, selfless service, compassion and strength. I am proud to be Filipino-born. The values from being Filipino-born have helped guide me throughout my life.

“God, family, and being Filipino-born were the sources of my foundation of strength that allowed me to overcome challenges at West Point and the Army.” – Col. Ranelle A. Manaois

CAPTION: “God, family, and being Filipino-born were the sources of my foundation of strength that allowed me to overcome challenges at West Point and the Army.” – Col. Ranelle A. Manaois

GNP: What would you say to Filipinas who wish to follow your footsteps and join the military?

RAM: BE proud of your heritage and culture. Join the military because YOU want to join— the military is a rewarding career, but there are also many challenges and difficulties. Be aware that discrimination and prejudice still exist, but there are new procedures and avenues that exist now to help remedy issues if one encounters discrimination. As a female Soldier, more often than not, you will find yourself working twice as hard as your male counterparts. Just drive on and do your best. Do the harder “right” rather than the easier “wrong” and don’t ever give up.

Surround yourself with good people. Most of all, believe in yourself—your uniqueness is a gift. Finally, have fun. Don’t forget to have fun.

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