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Thread: Women in Military Service & Combat (not just USA)

  1. #41
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    Default Would more female Marines/Soldiers increase our chances for success in Iraq?

    Great discussion. Have been grappling with this topic for the past few months and would appreciate any feedback on some thoughts running through my head...

    If the people are the center of gravity in Iraq and in COIN in general, how can we succeed if we almost never interact with the women, who are more than 50% of the Iraqi population? More specifically, if succeeding in COIN has historically taken 10 years or so, who do we need to believe in our and the host nation cause? I think part of the "who" are the children and teenagers, who while maybe age 15 now, will be the 20-25 year olds leading security forces, creating businesses, going into politics, etc. as the COIN campaign continues. How do you influence this group? I think the answer is in large measure through their mothers. I'm not an anthropologist or otherwise cultural expert on Islamic and/or Iraqi culture, but based on leading well over 500 patrols in Iraq, I think Iraqi mothers play just as important a role in raising their kids as do American mothers, IF NOT MORE (most don't work outside the home). For example, I'm a USMC infantry officer that's in the field or in another state training roughly 50% of the year (I'm 3000 miles from my family as I write this). When not in the field, I'm preparing for training, PTing, studying, etc. I'm probably home with my daughter and wife maybe 20-30% of their lives. My wife is with my daughter almost 100% of the time. The same will apply when our son is born within the next 3 weeks. That said, if you want to influence my daughter's views on the world, you'd better convince my wife of your cause. Using a similar train of thought for Iraq, if we're trying to sway 5-20 year old boys not to join the insurgency now or over the next 10 years, not to plant or dig holes for IEDs, not to wear suicide vests, not to serve as look-outs, not to tolerate insurgents, etc. I think we need to convince their mothers that this is a bad idea, or at least not in her family's long-term interest.

    So then, how do we do this? Given that my Marines almost never spoke to female Iraqis (same applies for every Marine/Soldier that I know) how do we deal with this significant problem? I think the answer is that during COIN/IW/4GW/Small Wars/Whatever you want to call what we're doing in Iraq now, we need women on our patrols. These women must be specially trained in Iraqi culture, language, understand the role of women in Islam, etc. Their mission should not be to persuade Iraqi women to be like American women. They should simple focus their efforts on why our cause is good for the average Iraqi family. My gut says creating a cadre of women PsyOps Marines/Soldiers for this purpose would definitely help our cause, both short and long term.

    I understand this idea opens a whole series of questions about integration in infantry units, training, manpower, etc. That said, if fighting an enemy whose center of gravity is a regiment of T-72s, would we simply ignore 100-150 of these tanks because we ran out of ammo?

    Thoughts?

  2. #42
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    That is going to be a continuing issue we are going to have to deal with since women continue to push the Military to become an equal opportunity employer. Women are petitioning to be allowed to join the Infantry and other combat arms mos's. I do not disagree that women can play a very important role in our ranks. There are plenty of mos's that they perform well at. What must be determined is should we change the rules for the exceptions. I believe strongly in standards and don't believe the standard should ever be compromised. If a female can perform to the standard should she be allowed to join the ranks of the combat mos's? Should matters such as sexual assault be taken into consideration? I have faith in the soldiers, and given the proper leadership it will be able to be accomplished. I do not personally like the idea but I see it becoming inevitable.
    Last edited by Jeremy Carver; 03-22-2007 at 05:45 AM.

  3. #43
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    Default Women and IO / Influence

    Maximus,

    Great question and something I would like to hear thoughts on from Council members. In recent years I’ve heard a whole range of opinions on what target group an IO / influence campaign should focus on. Several OIF operators I talked to were adamant that women (at least in Iraq) should be the number one priority.

    Any thoughts?

  4. #44
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    Default How can women fit in?

    Maximus et al--

    great thoughts! I've got some random input to several of the posts; no particular order:

    Women in combat arms roles: I am a firm believer that the standards in the military should be based on the job; if the job requires accomplishing tasks x, y, and z to a certain level, then EVERYONE regardless of age or gender needs to be able to perform those tasks to that level. It's the next part of the question that gets hairy; if women can accomplish those tasks, should they be permitted to serve in those units? Honestly, I don't know how I feel about that. Some ideas would be voluntary mixed units--that is, identify a group of individuals who ELECT to work in a mixed-gender unit.

    Where I struggle, though, is with the fact that most of the men in these kinds of units could probably be classified as alpha males, and the ingrained tendency to protect those weaker could, potentially, be an issue. You'll notice a lot of "coulds" and "mights"--because I don't know. I've never been in combat, so I don't know how a squad mate might react if he has a female in his unit who comes under fire. I do know that women have been successful in standoff combat roles (like fighter pilots, etc.) but that's an entirely different area.

    That being said, I think we in the military could learn a great deal from NGOs and IOs--my particular experience is with Christian missionaries, who are tremendously effective in certain sensitive countries because the husband is a teacher and the wife is a nurse or a doctor. And this gets to the point that Maximus made--it's the women who, to a large degree, influence the future. If Afghan and Iraqi women can be influenced to view us in a positive light, they may, in turn, exert that influence (whether overtly or covertly) on their children.

    This does not remove the requirement to influence the underlying reasons for discontent; however, as we are all very well aware, perception is often 9/10ths of reality and (this might belong in another area) I don't believe we are waging a tremendously effective information campaign.

    I guess my final thought would be that creating a blended security/CA type unit that was either predominantly female or had several female members (all with proper training and education) could be tremendously beneficial. But this leads to another question that I think goes along with this--is there a role for older people? How about a similar effort to recruit a civilian over-50 unit to go over and function as an elder corps?

    That last part may be way out in left field. What do you all think?

    Regards,

    Bridget

  5. #45
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    How about a Joan of Allah Brigade? The Palestinians have a female that is on the news alot that represents their views, I can not remember here name but she made a big splash when she appeared. An educated,well spoken female instead of a blood thirsty terrorist.

    Not to long ago myself and Bill Moore had a thread about this very subject, it involved the incident where Palestinian women charged some Israelis and they let some prisoners go instead of shooting them. I have always thought that we had nothing to loose by involving the Iraqi women in the fight. I don't know about the culture and maybe there is a valid reason not to do it, but if we can it would be worth a try.

  6. #46
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    Bridget, good points, all. Oddly enough, I've been a member of the ILARNG Linguist company, and worked with the Homewood CA guys, and the Linguist Company is female-dominated and the CA guys are all male. I could never figure out why that is.

    There are other dynamics as well to the male/female combat arms thing. I'm a combat arms guy who is now force-branched into a non-combat MOS. I was an extremely effective leader in a combat arms unit, using a very personal and charismatic style. By the end of my first two commands, we, as a unit, "had a love thang going on." This "band of brothers" dynamic is extremely effective in combat arms, and I had effectively developed the skills to make it happen.

    Fast-forward to my third command, a mixed-gender transportation unit. We were scheduled to deploy to Iraq in a few months, so I started initiating the bonding techniques that I had depended on for the first two commands, and "not good" things started to happen. First, I am naturally and comfortably an "alpha", plus I was an authority figure. This combination, combined with the incipient mobilization (I believe) caused the younger females to react in ways that made me extremely uncomfortable.

    I discussed this with my XO, who was female, (and working on her Psychology doctorate) who concurred as to the things that made me uneasy and we agreed that I should shut down the "charisma machine" tuit suite. The net result, was that I felt like I was operating blind-folded and fettered.

    Dominant males, in positions of authority and especially during stressfull situations have a certain attraction to females under that authority. This can lead to stress to both the leader and the led, as well as situations that are corrosive to good order and discipline.

    Luckily, I was hired away from that location in my civilian job, and my XO took those guys to "the box." It was then that I realized what a liability I was to that organization. (And quite possibly to the Army) I've developed an entire leadership tool-box that is not useful in a mixed gender unit.

  7. #47
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    Returning to the original topic, DoD FY 2006 report on sexual assaults in the military.

  8. #48
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    About that report:

    Reports of sexual assaults in the military increased by about 24 percent last year and more than twice as many offenders were punished.

    There were nearly 3,000 sexual assault reports filed in 2006, compared with almost 2,400 the previous year, a Pentagon report said Wednesday. Action was taken against 780 people, from courts-martial and discharges to other administrative remedies.
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070321/...y_sex_assaults

  9. #49
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    This is the first year where the military has full year stats for their restricted reporting program, so last year's stats are hard to compare.

    The restricted, confidential reporting program allows the victims to consider pursuing an investigation later; that was done in 86 of the 756 cases last year. Data for 2005 included only the restricted cases for half the year.

  10. #50
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    Default Not Completely As It Appears

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,261400,00.html

    "Major mistakes in New York Times story about rape in the military"

  11. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by SWJED View Post
    ... when I ran the Urban Operations Journal webpage and it has carried over to here. Both sites attracted / attract serious students and practitioners of urban operations and small wars. So... how come our site visitor demographics and SWC membership are overwhelmingly male? Food for thought or maybe ammunition for a food fight...
    Not so male as you might think.

    Also, it's not necessarily the first thing I advertise about myself, because it's not the most important thing to me. It's not something I can avoid at a conference -- but then, being the prettiest person in any room full of military historians is great fun (that's mostly tongue in cheek) -- but I don't feel the need to make a big deal about it otherwise. And I've stayed out of the subject of women in the military as a professional matter because it's too trite for my taste. On the other hand, being of the female variety does help out when doing things like talking to veterans -- not so hard on the eyes, add a smile, and they'll talk to me forever, tell me everything I want to know.

    Of course, there is a whole, strange demographic of men who fall for me because I can and will talk about war and combat with abandon -- it makes my husband chuckle -- I recall he noticed once, with this LtCol, he turned to me at the end of a social evening and said "He's totally sweet on you!" Of course, he can relate, because he fell for me during a field exercise. I was a civilian/student visitor, and I was super enthusiastic to learn, see, and do whatever was available to us. I was the only one to separate from the group and talk to the Marines in the units we were visiting, I was the first to volunteer to fire the howitzer -- oh, what a sweet joyous memory, pull string go boom -- and just generally mixed it up as much as possible. Anyway, it's a minor hazard of my profession.

    As for the demographic that is attracted to the subject matter of this forum, well, a lot of it does dovetail out of professional experience of some sort, which would tend to dampen the female participation. I may just be strange. I like to joke that I was the son two fathers never had -- played sports with one, went off to work (carpentry) with the other -- so maybe that influenced my interests. On the other hand, I consciously chose not to do the military, because I never wanted to be part of something that, by the rules, would bar me from full participation. But I never would have joined expecting the military to be something it wasn't, like a sorority (but then I never wanted to be in a sorority), or a place where off-color was off-limits.*

    I don't know if any of this answers the questions. It's just my perspective -- maybe you'll find it useful.

    And FYI, the username is not poser -- it happens to be my middle name. There's a word for a person with a name that fits their profession, but I can't think of it now. Anyway, it's a family name, and it was a terrible burden as a child (you can imagine the teasing), but as an adult I've come to treasure it -- maybe because I had to earn it.




    *Historian's hazard, but I can't help dropping a footnote here and there. Anyway, to the point -- obviously, I don't profile as the standard Mrs. Field Grade Officer. But that's not always obvious. When my husband was training up for his deployment in 29 Palms, I went up for a visit and to bring the team some treats. Anyway, at first the guys kept scampering by me, with their heads down, and nobody would really talk. It took me aback. My husband said, "Yeah, they were pretty scared of you, that they might offend you -- but then you dropped the f-bomb at some point, and they totally relaxed after that."

  12. #52
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    Default Well...

    Quote Originally Posted by Sargent View Post
    Not so male as you might think.
    ... in all fairness I did not say 100%. Welcome to the board - very good first posts and they are appreciated. What is the subject of your dissertation?

  13. #53
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    Sargent: I know how you feel. My wife is a civilian pilot, and is quite attractive. When we go to various gatherings of (largely male) pilots, "we" lack for nothing. Especially the from older pilots who are completely and utterly exploitable for various "goodies" like free dual-time, etc..

  14. #54
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    Default A New Woman in Combat. Not!

    28 May Washington Times commentary - A New Woman in Combat. Not! By Suzanne Fields.

    Jessica Lynch turned out to be a soldier worthy of the uniform, but not, as we were told she was, the poster child for the women in the military. Hers was a great story when it broke. She was Sergeant York and Audie Murphy in skirts (although she mostly wore combat fatigues), spraying fire at the enemy with the ferocity of a warrior on fire.

    Only later we learned that actually she hadn't fired a shot when her Humvee crashed and, severely wounded, she was quickly surrounded by the enemy. Wonder Woman morphed into Cinderella when American soldiers, all men, rescued her as she lay captive in a hospital held by hostile Iraqi troops.

    Pfc. Lynch testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform the other day, displaying none of the bravado of certain senior female officers campaigning for women in combat. She had been there, done that, and recognized her limitations. Jessica Lynch deserves the honor we pay to all young Americans, male and female, who wear the uniform. But Pfc. Lynch, never responsible for inventing or perpetuating the myth, scoffs at the Pentagon spinners who tried to turn her into "a little Rambo."

    Reporters and editors back home were eager to buy the Pentagon fairy tale of how she fought off her attackers, and they had a lot of company. A lot of people wanted her story to be true, to shut up once and for all the skeptics of women on the battlefield...

  15. #55
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    A shame that so many know PFC Lynch's story but not SGT Leigh Ann Hester's.

  16. #56
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    Default Good for her.

    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    A shame that so many know PFC Lynch's story but not SGT Leigh Ann Hester's.
    The rule or the exception to the rule?

  17. #57
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    Undoubtedly the exception. Most soldiers and Marines don't win Silver Stars for valor in close combat action.

  18. #58
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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    Undoubtedly the exception. Most soldiers and Marines don't win Silver Stars for valor in close combat action.
    Yep. Some get medals and some don't. We've all known people who were deserving...

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    Not enough drama, I mean come on who would play the bad guy. At least in the Lynch story there is the default bad guy of an incompetent chain-of-command angle. (sarcasm)

    In Hester's case you would have to show the fighting will adn spirit of the American soldier triumphing in a really bad situation. Hell, the E-6 got the DSC. Nobody is covering this or making a movie.

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    RAND, 6 Sep 07: Assessing the Army's Assignment Policy for Women
    The current U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) policy for assigning military women dates to a 1994 memorandum from then–Secretary of Defense Les Aspin. During the ensuing years, the U.S. military has undergone significant technological and organizational transformation, which has resulted in changes in how the military organizes and fights. Specifically, the Army’s recent transformation to modular brigades, as well as the differences between military missions in Iraq, and the global war on terrorism (GWOT) more generally, and military missions fought on linear battlefields during past military engagements, prompted concern among some members of Congress about the role of women in military operations in Iraq. Reflecting that, Section 541(b) of Public Law 109-163 requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a report on the current and future implementation of DoD policy for assigning military women.

    This monograph is intended as input in DoD decisionmaking and focuses on Army operations in Iraq. In particular, it focuses on the Army’s brigade combat teams (BCTs) that deployed to Iraq in a modular configuration, paying specific attention to the new organic relationships of these BCTs with brigade support battalions (BSBs).....
    Complete 186 page report at the link.

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