COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It’s advice we all need to hear: you can’t fix stupid, but you CAN throw glitter on it.
That advice, coming from Mary Louise Resch, who says she’s thrown a lot of glitter on gender stereotypes in her years serving in the military.
“I’ve heard that ‘you can’t be an EOD tech because you’re a woman.’ Yes I can,” said Resch. “‘You can’t teach at the EOD school because that’s a male-dominated field.’ Yes, I can. ‘You can’t work at the White House and protect 5 presidents of the United States because you’re a woman.’ Yes, I can.”
Resch enlisted in the Army out of high school. At the time, women in the Army were cooks, clerks or nurses. But that wasn’t the vision for Resch, a small-town Nebraska teenager.
"I actually went the route of military police and then a bomb disposal technician,” Resch said. “When I was doing this I was 22 years old and weighed 120 pounds.. so oh, you're the smallest person, we will put you in the manhole. You're the smallest person so we'll put you in the air conditioning duct."
Resch laughs as she recalls stories spanning almost a decade of active duty service. She also spent years in the reserve and still serves as a Lt. Colonel for the South Carolina National Guard.
During her active duty, it was serious business, she says as she served as an EOD disposal technician. It required months training with just explosives before Resch became the first female EOD instructor in the U.S. Army. She worked security detail for five American presidents and First Ladies. She did this in the 1970s, at a time when some of her male superiors didn't believe she was worthy, solely based on her gender.
She remembers a specific time when a male superior, tasked with evaluating her, told her he didn’t believe in her worth in the military.
“We are sitting in the navy galley one day and he says ‘SGT. Resch, I don’t believe in women in the Army. I particularly don’t believe in women in the EOD. I just thought I would let you know that.’” Resch paused before telling what happened next.
“I looked him in the eye and said ‘Sgt. We’re not going anywhere. So you need to decide how you’re going to handle it,” she told him.
It’s a message she hopes to pass on to all young women, regardless of their career path in the military or elsewhere: never take no for an answer.
Resch currently works as the Disaster Manager for Harvest Hope Food Bank, serving the community in a different way. She coordinates food distribution and collection during natural disasters. And you better believe if you walk into her office, you’ll likely leave with your own vial of glitter.