View Full Version : Conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have put a growing number of female troops in the l

11-19-03, 10:17 AM
Issue Date: November 24, 2003

Women at war
Conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have put a growing number of female troops in the line of fire

By Tranette Ledford
Special to the Times

All but lost amid the news of the escalating hostilities and the mounting body count in Iraq is the fact that America has passed a grim combat-zone milestone: More U.S. servicewomen have been killed by hostile fire in Operation Iraqi Freedom than in any conflict since World War II.
Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Sharon T. Swartworth was the sixth female service member to die in combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom when the Black Hawk helicopter in which she was riding was shot down near Tikrit. Two other women were killed in nonhostile incidents.

In the nine months since the operation began, 397 U.S. troops have died. Three other women died in Afghanistan and Pakistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, bringing the total of the two conflicts to 11 — eight soldiers, two airmen and a Marine.

No female service members were killed by enemy fire during the Korean War. Only one woman was killed by hostile fire during the Vietnam War. Five were killed by the enemy during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The rise in fatalities among female troops is due to the rise in their numbers — in the ranks and on the battlefield — as well as to the shifting nature of warfare, said Lorry Manning, director of the Women in the Military Project, Women’s Research and Education Institute.

Only about 1 percent of U.S. troops during Vietnam were women, she said, versus about 15 percent today, when female troops are more than ever a vital part of the fighting force.

“It’s an unnerving picture,” Manning said. “Today, women are serving on Navy ships, they’re flying aircraft. Those in the Army and the Marines are serving in combat-support jobs. Basically, they’re everywhere. In Vietnam, they were nurses working in places relatively safer than where women are today.”

In Iraq, essentially a battlefield without borders, about one U.S. service member in seven is a woman. Unlike past conflicts, there is no clearly defined rear area. Though the 200,000 women in the U.S. military officially cannot serve in combat roles, they’re represented in more than 90 percent of all job specialties. They’re a growing part of support forces and, in Iraq, routinely work alongside the war fighters, engaging the enemy and taking hostile fire.

“They are closer to the line of fire,” said Dr. Judy Bellafaire, historian for the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation. The organization archives the military history of women and has recorded their service and their survival rates since the American Revolution.

Changing nature of war

The war on terror is global and the consequences extend beyond military job skills and even beyond women in uniform.

“The deaths of women in the military have nothing to do with their jobs anymore,” Manning said. “They’re being ambushed, shot at, shot down, no matter what they’re doing while on duty. They’re being killed, and it’s not from direct engagement.

“The picture is getting grimmer all the time,” she said. Terrorists have taken warfare off the battlefields and are killing Red Cross workers, journalists and civilians where they live and work, she said.

The war on terror is inherently different from Desert Storm, Vietnam or any previous wars because women keep joining and their roles keep broadening, Manning said. It doesn’t matter that fewer than 30 percent of female service members favor serving in combat.

“That’s what they’re doing,” she said, “no matter what you call it.”

The debate about women

The controversy over women in combat is quieter today, though as recently as 10 years ago the public and the Pentagon were vocal in debating the pros and cons of women serving in combat.

The rationale for keeping them off the battlefield centered on issues of morale, fitness to serve and the sentiments of a public that is not comfortable with the idea that women faced a greater risk of sexual assault in captivity and that is squeamish about the nation’s daughters being killed and wounded in combat.

“Those are really moot points anymore,” Manning said. “Those who questioned whether women could really serve, saw two women serving and dying on the destroyer Cole, right there with the men,” she said, referring to the October 2000 terrorist attack on the ship in the Gulf of Aden, Yemen, that killed 17 American sailors.

On Sept. 11, 2001, “we saw 67-year-old civilian women killed while they were sitting at their [Pentagon] desks working,” Manning said.

“We have seen women in uniform survive sexual assaults. This has changed the way we view women and the war on terror. They aren’t safe anywhere, in combat or otherwise, and it’s not news anymore. What could happen, did.”

Tranette Ledford is a freelance writer living in San Antonio.




11-19-03, 10:18 AM
Issue Date: November 24, 2003

Sergeant was first woman to die in war on terrorism

Marine Sgt. Jeannette L. Winters was central to her family at home and central to her Marine family.
One of six children growing up in Gary, Ind., it was Jeannette — though at number four, not the oldest — who assumed the matriarchal role when their mother died, recalled her brother, a Marine sergeant with 4th Marines at Twentynine Palms, Calif.

“She was a big help around the house,” Sgt. Matthew Winters said in a Nov. 13 phone interview.

Winters, 25, was the first woman to die in the war on terrorism when she — along with six other Marines — perished Jan. 9, 2002, in the crash of a KC-130 Hercules aircraft in the mountains of Pakistan.

The Marines were members of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352 from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, which deployed for the war in Afghanistan. Winters, a satellite communications technician, was with Marine Wing Communications Squadron 38 at Miramar.

Winters followed and led — she followed her brother into the Corps and, once in, she became a leader.




11-19-03, 10:30 AM
I know it has been quoted before, but...

"They (Women Marines) don't have a nickname, and they don't need one. They get their basic training in a Marine atmosphere, at a Marine Post. They inherit the traditions of the Marines. They are Marines."

(Lieutenant General Thomas Holcomb, USMC 1943.)

My overall impression is extremely favorable; I always received the same professionalism that I gave. God Bless our Women Marines!