Episode 13: Never Stop Learning & Be Humble - Staff Sergeant Lily Wilker

Staff Sergeant Lily Wilker What: Special Operations Medic working towards PHD Where: at Fort Bragg, NC Why: An underestimated Soldier because of her physical size and sex
Lily Wilker

What: Special Operations Medic working towards PHD

Where: at Fort Bragg, NC

Why: An underestimated Soldier because of her physical size and sex


The military is known for its poor treatment of women in uniform.  We are an organization that values hard charging, barrel chested, red, white, and blue blooded freedom fighting Alpha males.  Staff Sergeant Wilker is one of the most important individuals I have recruited for my Special Operations team.  I met Lily in 2014 at a qualification course.  Prior to this moment I was an under-appreciating, sexist individual that didn’t not think there was a place for women in the military.  This sentiment came from my career as a tanker where women were not allowed in our units.  I thought that women would undermine an organization, especially during combat operations.  We had a young lady at my Combat Outpost (COP) in 2012 in Afghanistan and saw how Soldiers treat women first hand.  For example, when we were attacked by the Taliban all of my guard posts were not manned because my guys went to the woman’s building and tried to “protect” her.  What I didn’t see was that I was completely wrong about women in combat, and that the fault was my own because I didn’t have as tight of a grip on my Soldiers as I thought and that their professional discipline was lacking.  When I was selected to be a member of Special Operations I learned this.  Lily Wilker showed me that a woman that is under 5’ and weighs less than 100lbs could carry a heavier backpack with all of our units ammunition, communication equipment, and food further and longer than myself.  I felt like a fool having this little girl outperform me physically, but then saw her outperform me mentally and emotionally as we were partners through training.  By the end of our training I learned a valuable life lesson that I will never judge a person based on their stereotype, but look at the individual.  I joined a Special Operations Team immediately after graduating the Qualification Course and deployed to Jordan for my first go-around with ISIS.  When I got back it had been a year since I last spoke with Lily, but knew she was a person that I wanted on my team.  I fought tooth and nail upon returning to Fort Bragg to get Lily on my team, and in 2015 she became my medic.  I got to train with her on the team for a year before we all deployed to Lebanon.  After leaving the Special Operations Team I would never deploy again without a woman on my team because Lily taught me that she brings a capability to the team that empowers us to reach greater impacts on the community.  When I deployed to Syria on the greatest fighting force in the world team  and my lesson from Lily had me again fight to get the additional capability on my team, which led to me having two ladies on my team.  Because of the lessons from Lily I was overwhelming successful in Syria to the point that we led the fight that ended with the US winning the war against ISIS.


Lesson Learned:  Women in combat are not a hinderance, but an added capability.  Never assume a women cannot perform until I have tested them.  From my experiences with SSG Wilker I leaned that a tiny girl was capable of outperforming the toughest man (me) physically, and mentally.  She increased the capability of my special operations team to levels I couldn’t have reached without her.  “Alone, and Unafraid.  CAT613”
© 2020 Crystal Turnbull