In Iraq for 365

About my experiences in Iraq... the frustrations, the missions and this country... and the journey home

Monday, July 18, 2005

Women in the military

Women serve a vital role in our Army. And recently there have been talks about banning women from combat situations. Currently, women are not allowed to join combat occupations, such as infantry, artillery and cavalry. But as seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, all military jobs see a fair share of combat. As a result, there have been several women killed in action. Now, some legislators want to restrict women from joining MOS’s that they’re traditionally allowed to join because of the occupation’s potential risk. The jobs include but are not limited to combat camera, military police and civil affairs.

I am against this movement. For one, I think our military should allow women to serve in combat arms units. I mean, I know women who could kick the butts of nine out of 10 men. With that being said, I understand the fears of the American public. It’s not exactly easy to stomach a mother or daughter being killed in combat. But I am here to tell you that women bring balance and a sense feminine compassion to our ranks.

What’s more is women are absolutely vital to our missions in Muslim countries. It’s considered an insult for a man to search a woman. Therefore, when we conduct raids or random searches, a woman must search a woman. If a man searches a woman, it could cause animosity and cause problems in the particular community.

Speaking from my own experiences, I have seen female soldiers accomplish great feats and I know my unit would not have been successful if it were not for females. I had one soldier who was tough as nails when she was on a mission. She captured combat through the lens of her camera and experienced more combat than 80 percent of the combat arms soldiers. Time and time again, the leadership from other units told me that they had never worked with a female before. But after working with her, they realized female soldiers are soldiers too, and that she was just as good, if not better, than any soldier they had worked with.

See, there is no problem with the performance of females in combat. They react the same as males when somebody shoots at them. The real problem is much deeper and I don’t think the military has or ever will fully address the issue. As you can imagine, women receive a lot of attention from male soldiers. On our camp, there were maybe 30 females mixed in with hundreds of males. You do the math and think about all the possible scenarios.

Most female soldiers will encounter dozens of sexual harassment situations. And the majority of females suffering from PTSD were sexually harassed or worse, raped. While the Army does a good job of warning soldiers not to harass females, they do not do an adequate job prosecuting sexual predators in combat situations. I have a friend who was taken advantage of, and although she filed a report, nothing was ever done until she contacted a legislator six months after she returned from deployment.

The mindset of a lot of male soldiers is that women bring the situation on to themselves. While I believe that women need to take responsibility and be a “bitch” at times, there is no excuse for taking advantage of or saying something inappropriate to a woman. I was like a dad to my soldiers, always on the lookout for soldiers staring at them. On more than one occasion, I told a horny soldier to not stare at my females.

So, rather than banning women from potential combat MOS’s, we should look at the real problem. Women who want to serve their country should be able to. In my opinion, gays should be allowed in the military as well. I believe that anybody who wants to risk their life to preserve our country’s freedom should be honored. These issues shouldn’t be considered distractions. Rather, they should be looked at as diversity, which is always a good thing.

47 Comments:

At 8:58 AM, Anonymous kbug said...

I have always been in favor of women in the military, Casanova, especially since I came very close to joining the military right after high school myself. I believe that women can do as good a job as men in most cases and can bring a different perspective, since we tend to look at things differently than guys. I also don't think it's any worse to lose a woman in combat than it is to lose a man...their lives are equally important. Women may be daughters, wives, and mothers, but men are sons, husbands, and fathers. So, when you speak of courage, heart, and desire...they are true equals.

However, I'm not saying that men and women in combat are equals in every sense...size and strength are the main problems I see. Most women would have a harder time carrying a wounded buddy to safety than a man would, you know that's true. I consider myself to be pretty strong for my size, but carrying a 50-pound feed sack for any distance just about does me in...carrying a 180-pound man would be almost impossible...not that I wouldn't give it my all.

But, I think you hit the real problem right on the head...sexual harrassment and/or rape. Nobody wants to talk about that, even when it's brought out in the news like the Air Force Academy scandal. Unfortunately, the military can't foresee who the predators are any easier than society can...they are out there...hiding and waiting...I know that for a fact...you know about that. But, the military does need to address. Ignoring the problem doesn't make it go away, it only makes it fester.

In the meantime, I think women in the military should be allowed to take on any job they can physically and mentally qualify for...but it should be based on individual abilities...just as it is for men.

 
At 9:03 AM, Blogger Meems said...

Really enjoyed this post, it was well written and I hope others will be able to take a step back and see things in another light. I never heard anyone word it the way you did!

 
At 11:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

well said thank you from a women veterans

 
At 2:47 PM, Blogger remoteman said...

Smink,

Great post that raises some interesting questions. One thing that you missed is the potential for women to be a distraction in a unit because of the sexual tension thing. I know it sounds stupid, and I don't have a strong opinion on it one way or the other. But a case can certainly be made that women add an unhealthy and potentially dangerous distraction for the men in a unit. I suppose that this can be dealt with during training, but it could remain a problem that is bigger than telling a guy to just get over the fact that there are women in the ranks.

 
At 5:22 PM, Blogger Chris said...

I agree too. I think if women can pass all the requirements then they should be allowed the same opportunities as the men.

Women rock!

 
At 6:24 PM, Blogger strykeraunt said...

The loss of a soldier is hard no matter whether it is a daughter or a son. I too agree that women have definitely proven that they are an important part of this mission. I also agree that it should depend on whether they meet the requirements or not. However, I believe that the women should meet the same (physical) requirements as men for a MOS that depends on physical ability.

In my opinion, there are too many in Congress who are from the old school and this is the reason they are even having this conversation.

 
At 5:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the problem of how women "distract" men, I am not a soldier, but I would guess that when you are in combat, you probably are NOT thinking about sex. I bet every brain cell and muscle is focused on staying alive, keeping others alive, and killed the enemy--all in the most intense way ever experienced. Just a guess based on what I've read.

 
At 8:13 AM, Anonymous Kim said...

Thank you so very much for this post. My daughter has changed her mind about the air force and will know today when she leaves with the army. I think after reading your thoughts on this subject I am going to have a serious talk with her about some of the things you said. I know it will help! :)

 
At 3:46 PM, Blogger JUST A MOM said...

Great, Kim beat me,hehe Just thought I would say hey Smink, did you know that Kim and I met thru your old posts,(well not in person) how bout that huh! what ever I know just given ya a HEY.

 
At 9:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A real (and some might say callous) worry that commanders likely have is the first al Qaeda video that comes out containing a captured, blonde, blue-eyed 19 year old girl who joined the military solely to ends meet, but gets violently assaulted, physically, psychologically and sexually by al Qaeda.

You think the Nick Berg stuff turned the American public against the war.

The effect of such a video would devestate the American public. And I have every expectation that al Qaeda knows this and is working to that end.

 
At 11:09 PM, Blogger Alexis said...

I had no idea. Thats a shame that the soliders would do that to someone who could save their hide the next day in a combat situation.

Thanks for sharing.

 
At 10:44 PM, Blogger Brian H said...

Completely agree. Enforcement has to be strong enough to give women soldiers confidence there is a shield and their complaints will be acted on forcefully and swiftly.

The physical limitations are offset by the other advantages. It's a fair and necessary trade-off, IMO.

 
At 12:02 AM, Blogger Household6 said...

It's a shame that the complaint wasn't taken seriously. I hope it turns out well for her in the end.

As for women in the military (and being one myself) I am a firm believer that they should be allowed in most MOS's. BUT only if they meet the same physical requirements as the males.

There are a few MOS's that I still think that having a small group with only one women in tight quarters may not be a good idea. Not all men are jerks and would do something mean or wrong but it does change the atmosphere sometimes and that doesn't always work with a small group enviornment. What would work though for a small group (thinking tankers here) would be a small group of all women - that would work.

Great job on sticking up for the girls Smink!

HH6

 
At 3:57 PM, Blogger Toni said...

Smink - that was a well thought post. My primary beef with women in some specialties (like infantry, MP etc) is the changing of physical requirements for females to qualify. IF, women want into those areas then nothing should be dummied or weakened down to accommodate the sex. In reading about some of the women in this war I have been so impressed and proud of some of the women and especially the ones you find out about inadvertantly. Like from yours or other milblog postings. Young women do stupid things just like young men (i.e. the female mudwrestling caper). I just don't want political correctness to move this but true ability.

 
At 9:37 AM, Blogger Teresa said...

What you say is true and I know first hand since I was in the Army for 10 years--part of it in your unit! And, I also know that women are capable, what I get scared about is attitudes of some of the male soliders as you mentioned. Those are hard to change and you never know which soldiers have that attitude and when you might be in danger. Thanks for what you have done to change perceptions.

 
At 10:34 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

Hmm, as a wife, one who "stands and waits", I have a slightly different take. Trackback: http://tryingtogrok.mu.nu/archives/107720.html

 
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