I was perhaps one of the first commanders to have women in a combat command (the 3d Bde, 2nd Armored Div, called “Brigade 75″) in Grafenwoehr, FRG, between April 1975-February 1977. In the Order of Battle Section of the MI Detachment which I commanded, the three enlisted intelligence analysts were unquestionably competent in technical skills and surpassingly adept in camp administrative tasks. They gave convincing briefings and, in a brigade which had no women dependents because of its six-month rotation of maneuver battalions (from Fort Hood and back), I never had any problems in getting men to pay attention to them.
However, in field settings, they invariably wore out after 24-36 hours of steady maneuver operations. Small in frame and of typically delicate musculature, I could not assign them to clamber up the 577 tracked vehicle, to string the razor wire around the tactical ops center perimeter, nor to engage in the rapid physical actions required to set up and tear down the gear during our frequent shifts of position. They had to sleep longer hours, to be worked around, and sheltered from harm during times of frenetic activity.
I’m sure that you know the end of the story. The brigade chain of command turned a deaf ear to my professional judgment that women had no place in combat support units. These officers were all veterans of Viet Nam, as I was. It was therefore a paradox to me that men whose professions had caused them to risk themselves in warfare, and who might one day might be called upon to sacrifice themselves and the lives of those they led for the good of the Nation, would demonstrate such cowardice in the face of their senior leadership.
Simms Anderson, LTC, USAR, Rtd.
All–[this was posted to an Internet list dealing in military matters: Fred]
To buttress Mr. Reed’s observations, there is an excellent video out by PBS of all places called Politics and Warriors: Women in the Military. The footage of the trainees would put to rest any notion of “gender equity” — the film shows men flying over logs, leaping over walls, ripping through obstacles courses and women pathetically floundering. Small, weak women demurely approach a dummy and say in a high pitched, sweet voice, “kill,” while lighting tapping its “head” with the butt of a rifle, while men aggressively tear at the thing and charge on to the next target.
While a feminist General says in a voice-over that women can carry men, albeit maybe 2-4 women are needed but that women can get the job done, incredibly damning footage reveals the contrary. On the one hand, men with great ease jump on top of a horizontal pole and carry a heavy rubber casualty on a stretcher over it, while a group of women flounder pathetically at the same task (albeit a lower pole if one is observant). The stretcher is pushed against the pole at an angle, since they can not push it over, and the casualty slides off of the thing. As the women discuss what they should be doing, one of them says over and over “We’re losing the casualty, we’re losing the casualty.” Seeing is believing! And this video is well worth it.
Best, Kate Aspy [Aspy recently served in the enlisted Army: Fred]
Fred–Your article “The Realities of Women in Combat” really struck a chord with my experience in the Air Force. I was a shop chief with the 28th Avionics Maintenance Squadron in the 1980s. There were two women assigned to my shop. One was really sharp at her job, but she couldn’t change an RT-274/APN-81 without male assistance. The other couldn’t even carry her own tool box to the flight line!
Supposedly, we supervisors were assured by the brass, these women were screened before being allowed into avionics maintenance by having to pass weightlifting standards. Yeah, right. They had to be able to lift 50 pounds. An RT-274 weighed in at 125 pounds plus. I don’t know what the problem was with the woman who couldn’t carry her own tool box. But I couldn’t get rid of her due to pressure from the brass. So, I put her in a weight training program at the base gym. Until her honorable discharge and a pat on the back for a job well done, she never carried her own tools. She, therefore, was never able to pull weekend duty alone; there had to be a male assigned as well to carry her end of the job as well as his own.
Germany, about ten years ago. We were on an FTX with some female GIs and had to put up the TOC tent. It was summer and hot. The girls were in t-shirts, some with no bras. You can imagine how that was. The guys ended up putting up the tents while the females stood around and gave encouragement.
That’s normal. Every guy in the unit thinks, damn, if I’m nice to them maybe I’ll get some R-and-R in the bush tonight.
Here is a “no-shit” story from a career Army NCO who recently completed his instructor’s course at an Army training center … quick, get the PC Gender Police … “In the instructors training course, we were taught that the proper way to erase a chalk board is with vertical strokes, not horizontal strokes. Horizontal strokes may cause a woman’s breasts to jiggle.”