View Full Version : Stealth plan for women in combat

05-08-05, 04:17 PM
Sent to me by mark aka The Fontman

Stealth plan for women in combat

By Elaine Donnelly
The Washington Times
May 7, 2005

Gen. Peter Schoomaker raised eyebrows when he dismissed as not a "gender issue" the women-in-combat controversy at an American Enterprise Institute symposium.

The Army Chief of Staff April 11 answered a questioner who rightly praised the courage of female soldiers but expressed concern about the unprecedented number of women maimed or killed in Iraq (33, to date) and Afghanistan (5).

Gen. Schoomaker's rambling answer confirmed a supposedly "unofficial" plan for placing women in combat, being put into effect in the 3rd Infantry Division despite frequent denials anything has changed. The blueprint seems to be a Jan. 24 "Women in the Army Point Paper" by the office of Army Secretary Francis Harvey, which includes a subtle but significant change in the wording of Defense Department regulations.

Current directives exempt female soldiers from direct ground combat units such as the infantry and armor, and from smaller support companies that "collocate" (operate 100 percent of the time) with land combat troops. The new, unauthorized wording narrows the "collocation rule" to apply only when a combat unit is actually "conducting an assigned direct ground combat mission."

Gen. Schoomaker recited Defense Department regulations but claimed (without justification) the Army has separate rules exempting female soldiers from collocation with land combat battalions "at the time that those units are undergoing those operations." By adding "conducting" or "undergoing" (a direct ground combat mission) to the collocation rule, the Army has created a new rule not authorized by the defense secretary or reported to Congress in advance, as the law requires.

Mr. Harvey's plan presumes to alter the "gender codes" of 24 of 225 positions -- mostly mechanics -- to accommodate women in a typical forward support company (FSC). Unlike transportation units that come and go intermittently, these units are designed to operate in constant proximity with combined infantry/armor battalions.

Army officials say they need not notify Congress of any rule change because women in those formerly all-male positions are "not collocating." For this to be true, officials would have to compromise organizational efficiency or remove female soldiers from embedded forward support companies when their infantry/armor battalions begin "conducting" land combat. And spare helicopters and armored vehicles for evacuation would be as rare as "beam me up Scotty" transporters.

The insurgent battlefield in Iraq has not reduced enormous demands on infantry, Special Operations Forces and Marine units that engage in deliberate offensive action against the enemy. In the fierce battle for Fallujah, great physical strength and the psychological bonds of cohesion empowered soldiers and Marines to accomplish combat missions and survive.

The politically correct view is that training alone can prepare female soldiers for land combat alongside men. Gen. Schoomaker said, "I think we have a moral responsibility to prepare those women that are serving in our armed forces ... by providing them with the warrior skills and tasks that are required." Improved training on how to evade or survive ambushes makes sense, but gender-normed "warrior ethos" training -- an oxymoron -- cannot prove feminist dreams of interchangeable men and women in or near land combat.

When the British military replaced "gender fair" training standards "appropriate to women's physique" with an egalitarian "gender free" regimen, injuries more than doubled. (London Times, March 22) A 1998 study at the U.S. Naval Academy documented women suffered knee-ligament injuries 9 times as often as men.

Women are smart and courageous, but Army would never send female football players to beat Navy on the gridiron. The same officials seem to believe a few weeks of "warrior" training are enough to transform black-bereted female "soldiers" into the functional equivalents of men.

Physical disparities are not the only issue. Noting many parents teach their sons to protect women, the questioner respectfully asked Gen. Schoomaker if such an upbringing can be reconciled with the Army's current policy of sending women into hostile circumstances to kill or be killed. Admitting he hadn't thought about the questioner's moral reservations, Gen. Schoomaker seemed to equate them with conscientious objectors, or with people saying "men and women can't even share the same tornado shelter in Oklahoma," whatever that means.

The response did not inspire confidence, especially when the Army is carrying out an unauthorized "stealth" plan to gender integrate combat-collocated support companies. Mr. Harvey's plan even eliminates several land combat units from the list required to be all-male. If the Army succeeds in circumventing law and policy, demands for "consistency" will affect Special Operations Forces and eventually the Marine Corps.

There is no military justification for an incremental "little bit pregnant" plan for gender-integration that undermines the advantages of modularity in the Army's new, smaller "unit of action" combat brigades. There is no evidence of a shortage of male soldiers, but if there is a need for more men, the Army should end counterproductive recruiting quotas for women.

The law requires the defense secretary to provide formal advance notice to Congress of policy changes regarding female soldiers, accompanied by an analysis of proposed revisions on women's exemption from Selective Service obligations. This is a national security matter, not a less important "women's issue." Members of Congress, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush should intervene to enforce the law.

Elaine Donnelly is president of the Center for Military Readiness.


05-09-05, 06:21 AM
War stress heavier on women

May 8, 2005

BY CHERYL L. REED Staff Reporter

In a war marked by the most female troops ever to face daily combat, women service members appear to experience war differently from men, according to a Defense Department health questionnaire that tests the mental stability of half a million returning troops.

The post-deployment questionnaire -- the first health analysis administered during a war -- shows that serving in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars may have harmed women's health more than men's and that a greater percentage of women see wounded and dead bodies and report having nightmares. More men fired their weapons and felt they were in danger of being killed.

Defense Department officials say the gap stems from the different roles women and men are still assigned to serve in war today, but soldiers point to differences between the sexes and a reluctance on the part of troops to be honest with the government.

"Women are more likely to be in support roles, especially medical roles," said Col. Joyce Adkins, the Defense Department's program director for operational stress and deployment mental health. "They would be more likely to see people who are wounded or dead if they are serving in medical function than if they are discharging their weapons."

525,019 troops answered survey

The Defense Department began issuing its post-deployment health assessment in June 2003. Since then, 525,019 troops have answered the 24-question survey. Designed to assess the mental and physical well-being of those returning from war, the analysis provides an unprecedented snapshot into the minds of troops fresh from battle.

Among the biggest gender differences: 70 percent of the 60,000 servicewomen reported seeing someone wounded, dead or killed, while 54 percent of the 466,000 servicemen said the same.

Although there are more women in combat today than any other time in history -- nearly 10 percent of those in Iraq and Afghanistan are women -- servicewomen still are barred from infantry troops, special operations forces and heavy artillery units.

In the last four decades, the female presence in battle has increased. In Vietnam, women -- mostly nurses -- made up 2 percent of troop force, and in the Persian Gulf War, they accounted for 7 percent. Still, with only one out of 10 troops a woman, the female war experience remains exceptional.

"I was the only female in my squad," said Sherri Perales, 29, a gunner with the Army National Guard assigned to the 333rd Military Police unit out of Freeport. "They always said I was a little weird for a chick because I like knives and smoke cigars and was in pretty good shape."

Different approaches

Perales, stationed near Baghdad, was injured when a semi hit her Humvee head-on in December 2003. Her injuries continued to worsen after she returned home, and for the last five months, she has been confined to a wheelchair.

Perales says there are some differences between the way women and men soldiers operate. Although it's true more women are in support and medical roles, Perales says she thinks fewer women fire guns because they are more cautious.

"Men are more aggressive and trigger-happy," Perales said. "We have a lot of younger guys -- 18-, 19-year-old guys -- who can't wait to get their first kill. Women don't look at death that way. We would rather solve the situation. If somebody has to die, then nobody really wins."

Perales agrees with the Defense Department's analysis that all women, regardless of whether they are in the military, tend to report symptoms of ill health more than men. That may account for 24 percent of women saying their health worsened while deployed. Eighteen percent of men said the same thing.

From June 2003 to March 2005 -- the data the Defense Department provided to the Chicago Sun-Times -- 13 percent of all returning troops said they were easily startled as a result of a war experience that was "frightening, horrible or upsetting." Those experiences caused 11 percent of women to have nightmares and 9 percent of men.

Stephanie Stretch, 21, a gunner with the Army National Guard and assigned to the 233rd Military Police out of Springfield, began having nightmares in Iraq last year after she saw a crude bomb explode on her fellow soldiers.

Stretch and other soldiers talked to each other about their emotional difficulties, but they refused to admit it to the Defense Department.

"We just kind of brushed everything off and said nothing was extremely important at the time because we wanted to go home," Stretch said. "If you say you have health problems or mental health problems, they are going to end up keeping you there longer."

Hard to ask for help

Stretch said she doesn't know anyone who answered the questionnaire with complete honesty: "You kind of know what you can admit to without them raising an eyebrow," she said.

Both men and women appeared reluctant to ask for help with emotional issues. Only 4 percent of males and 6 percent of females said they wanted help with "stress, emotional, alcohol or family problems." During their interview with a health provider, only 8 percent of women and 5 percent of men admitted they had or would seek therapy.

"I could have seen a psychiatrist before I left Germany. However, in order to do that, I would have had to stay in the Army for another three weeks," said William Scissom, 26, of Joliet, who returned with a purple heart from Iraq last September. Scissom suffered panic attacks, crying fits and extreme paranoia that had him hiding behind doors with a shotgun for months after he came home.

Adkins says military members may not be lying, since troops often don't realize they have a problem until months or even years later, which is why the department is about to start a new program in which service members are contacted three to six months after returning home.

Only when Stretch had been back several months and was still plagued by nightmares and insomnia did she realize how serious her problem was. After family members noticed the change in her personality and pressed her to seek help, Stretch saw a counselor. She has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Like Stretch, Perales has been diagnosed with PTSD, but she, too, declined therapy on her questionnaire. Although she recognized the symptoms at the time -- the Army showed a video outlining the signs of PTSD -- Perales said she thought she would get better.

'Suck it up and drive on'

"As soldiers, we are trained not to admit weakness," she said. "In the Army, you are always told to suck it up and drive on. If it wasn't for my husband and my children, I would be out drinking with the rest of the guys now, trying to forget what happened."

Only after Perales began having marital problems and her husband pleaded with her to see a therapist did she seek treatment.

"You can't be a good person and a good soldier at the same time," said Perales, who has an 8-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter. "You become like a machine. It's the only way to survive, especially when you're in a combat zone. In Iraq, you learn to turn off your emotion. Then, when you get back, it starts catching up with you."

'Cowboy' soldiers

Perales says she knows many "cowboy" soldiers who will never admit they have a problem and will never seek treatment. She worries the military isn't reaching them if it relies only on self-admission on a questionnaire.

Dr. Ron Davidson, director of the Mental Health Policy Program at the UIC psychiatry department has doubts about the survey results.

"Men tend to deny more than women when it comes to acknowledging any emotional trauma," Davidson said. "I'm not saying that everybody who is in the military and who experiences combat and sees dead bodies ought to be on a couch seeing a shrink, but if only 5 percent of people answering say they would see a counselor, I suspect that's artificially low."

Davidson points to a military culture documented in a 2002 Defense Department study in which the majority of military personnel questioned said seeking mental health treatment would damage their career. The study also showed that 5 percent had considered suicide but only half had sought help.

Perales said she also was reluctant to admit her emotional issues to the Defense Department, for fear it would make her appear a weak soldier: "In Iraq, if someone had some emotional issues, then they were taken off duty for a little while and their weapons were taken away," she said.

The Defense Department questionnaire also echoes an Army and Marine study issued last summer in which 23 percent to 40 percent of those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan showing signs of mental disorders actually sought treatment.

The Defense Department acknowledges that with one foot nearly on the plane back home, military members don't always report honestly how they are doing for fear that such answers will keep them from returning home and keep them from advancing in their military career.

"We recognize this is a problem," said Col. Tom Burke, M.D., head of mental health for the Defense Department until he retired last week. "We feel it is still important to screen at that time because this is the last time that all of those soldiers are going to be together as a unit."


05-09-05, 12:58 PM
Sherri Perales, 29, a gunner with the Army National Guard assigned to the 333rd Military Police unit out of Freeport. "They always said I was a little weird for a chick because I like knives and smoke cigars and was in pretty good shape."
She sounds pretty cool to me! And don't even get me started on "Stephanie Stretch, 21, a gunner with the Army National Guard" :lick: