Megan Cruz is a captain in the U.S. Army. Her father, Ron Tucker, a resident of Mechanicsville, recently reached out to Southern Maryland News about the organization she started, called the Valkyrie Project. Megan Cruz took some time to answer a few questions about the organization and her background in the military.

Southern Maryland News: What is the Valkyrie Project?

Megan Cruz: We provide tactical performance training for female military athletes. Translated, that means we write workout programming to help females meet their goals in the military. More can be found at Valkyrieprojectus.com.

SMN: What gave you the idea for this?

Cruz: Back in 2016, the U.S. Department of Defense opened all jobs and schools to women, to include combat arms jobs/schools and all special operations jobs and schools. Women can now be Rangers, SEALs, Green Berets, infantrymen, etc.

SMN: How did you implement this idea?

Cruz: Initially my coach did all the program writing, and I did everything else including the podcast and marketing. He left the project within a few months of it starting, so I went and got certifications for personal training and workout programming. For about the last three years, we’ve been training females to meet their physical goals, opening up the aperture of their career opportunities in the military. Now, we train primarily active duty women, but have some civilian females and law enforcement females.

SMN: Who and what helped shape your goal of helping other women in the military?

Cruz: I have always been in a male-dominated job since I joined in 2011. At most, there have only ever been three to four other women in my Battalions. When I started in SOF, and was looking for programming, my only option was to hire a coach. But everyone can’t afford to do that, and I noticed that while lots of other programs existed to get males ready for “tip of the spear” jobs, there was nothing designed specifically for female biology and physiology. I thought that was pretty tragic considering that all opportunities were now available to us. I thought, “well I guess if no one else is doing this, it has to be me.”

SMN: What is a common misconception with women in the military?

Cruz: There are several. That women are inherently weaker than men. There is actually no statistical difference or finite empirical evidence that shows women are less physically capable. A 135-pound female has comparable strength and athletic potential as a 135-pound male. The primary difference is that many women come into service without the athletic/sporting backgrounds as their male counterparts, so it’s a simple question of training the athlete. While statistically-speaking men are — across the world — generally bigger on average, that factor alone is not enough to determine an entire gender’s capacity for service. There are factors of grit and maturity that play into these harder jobs and schools, even more so in Special Operations. We owe it to the U.S. population to pick the right person for the job, not just a man or woman.

[Also, another misconception is that] women have no place in combat arms jobs. Many people say women are too emotional, and that women in the battlefield would distract men from the mission. We say that all human beings are emotional to some degree, and composure in battle is trainable and learnable across the board. You’d be hard pressed to show me any man that’s been to war who does not have some emotional work to do. As far as the “distraction” component, it is on male service members to live up to DoD values, and behave like adults, treating all in their units with respect.

Standards were lowered to allow the pioneering women to go to Ranger school and Special Forces [is another misconception]. First, it damages the integrity of our institutions to call their judgments into question. If Ranger school says a man, woman or otherwise met the standards, then they did. Secondly, a number of personal testimonies have quashed these misconceptions. From personal experience, those who disparage these pioneering women have either never been through those schools or assessments themselves and are projecting insecurity, or are from an era of military service when it was still normal to catcall women and touch their bodies without their permission. We have evolved far beyond that at this point.

SMN: How can people get involved?

Cruz: Send motivated women our way. We want to help women in the military meet their goals. Also, if you’re current or prior service male, female or transgender, volunteer to be a mentor in the Facebook forum [by signing up at valkyrieprojectus.com/mentors].

SMN: What is the next step with the Valkyrie Project?

Cruz: Once financially feasible, we will begin an annual scholarship fund or charitable donation to programs that benefit service members, veterans and their families.

SMN: What is a personal goal you have for yourself?

Cruz: Keep showing up the best I can for these women so they can continue to serve the best military in the world.

SMN: Why did you choose the U.S. Army?

Cruz: Honestly it just made sense at the time, and they agreed to let me fly. I had student loan debt to pay down, and army aviation seemed more accessible to me than other service branches.

SMN: Who would you like to give a shoutout to?

Cruz: My dad, for being my example of selfless service, for always being my biggest fan, and always believing I could accomplish whatever I had my sights set on.

@eliwohlenhaus