MILITARY MATTERS: Author shares memories of coaching “Angels in Combat Boots” at West Point

Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 8:59 PM EDT
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CATAULA, Ga. (WTVM) - A Harris County man was instrumental in the integration of women at America’s military academy at West Point. He did that through cross country and track, describing those historic times in a new book.

“My name was Charles, I coached a bunch of women, and one of the really big shows at the time was Charlie’s Angels, so somewhere somehow, they started referring to the cross country team as Charlie’s Angels,” former running coach at West Point LTC (Ret) Chuck Hunsaker said.

His new book “Angels in Combat Boots” tells the story of the first ever women’s cross country teams at the U.S. Military Academy, who retired Lt. Col. Chuck Hunsaker coached in the late 1970′s. Up until then, the corps of cadets was all men for 174 years at West Point.

“There were people at the (West Point) Academy at the time that just did not want those doggone women to be there,” LTC (Ret) Hunsaker said. “The classic knock on women was they couldn’t handle physical stuff.”

But they impressed Hunsaker, who was called to active duty to coach these runners and be part of history.

“I think the women cross country runners really helped with the integration of women in the Corps of cadets,” LTC (Ret) Hunsaker said.

He says everyone having the chance to run with or against each other in morning PT was a real eye opener for many.

“They could run with the men and, in some cases, they could actually beat some of the men,” LTC (Ret) Hunsaker told us. “They needed to be able to show success. They needed to believe in themselves.”

Hunsaker says these cross country runners really opened doors for women in general, not just in the Army. The “angels in combat boots” - as his book describes - also became the first to beat Navy, in sort of a stealth competition that launched a big rivalry.

“When we got back to post, all the women went back to their companies, ‘We beat Navy, we beat Navy!’” LTC (Ret) Hunsaker said. “The athletic director called me in and said, I thought I told you, you weren’t allowed to run Navy, Oh geez I had no idea they were gonna be there.”

Hunsaker has a legacy of winning at various schools, including the University of Cincinnati, leading one team to a national championship and being named national cross country coach of the year twice. His resume also includes being deputy commandant at the U.S. Army Physical Fitness School on Fort Benning, telling us being fit in the military is vitally important.

“If you have a desk job in a combat zone, you might find that you have to do something other than sit at that desk,” LTC (Ret) Hunsaker said.

His book came out in December. Click here for our full chat with Hunsaker about running, the Army, coaching, and more.

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