“Women are no different to men in their corruptibility. Women are just as competent – and just as incompetent.”
( Kayla Williams )
* * *
“As I write this in the early months of 2005, 91 percent of all Army career fields are now open to women, and 67 percent of Army positions can be filled by women. Women are currently authorized to sign up for 87 percent of all enlisted military occupational specialities (MOS). But isn’t Congress keeping women out of combat? There are no women in artillery, no women in the infantry. We are not permitted to drive tanks. We can’t be Rangers or Special Forces. There are also some teams we rarely go out with because the gear is considered too heavy for the average female to hump on her back.
So people conclude that girls don’t do combat zones. That we’re somewhere else from where the action is. But that’s bullshit. We are Marines. We are Military Police. We are there as support to the infantry in almost every way you might imagine. We even act in support roles for the Special Forces. We carry weapons – and we use them. We may kick down doors when an Iraqi village gets cleared. We do crowd control. We are also often the soldiers who negotiate with the locals – nearly one third of Military Intelligence (MI), where I work, is female.
Insurgents’ mortar attacks reach us, too. In fact, because insurgents strike supply routes so often, it’s frequently the non-infantry soldiers like us – with fewer up-armored vehicles – who end up getting hit and engaging in combat…
In Iraq… I saw death. I speak Arabic, so I participated in interrogations. I had to deal with the tension between wanting to help the locals and having to do battle with them… I’ve understood things and seen things I need to forget : Humiliation. Torture. It was not just Abu Ghraib – it happened elsewhere, too.
Sometimes I wake up and I feel frightened all over again. The darkness is like the blackest night on the mountains west of Mosul, no moon, no stars, no light anywhere in the whole freaking world. I want so very much to vanish from the planet. Just evaporate like vapour trails after the jets have gone.
The smell of dead animals being burned. Dogs barking as I pull guard in the night… How the faces of local women, and especially little girls, just lit up with pleasure at the sight of a female soldier: shy smiles…
I don’t forget. I can’t forget any of it. From basic training all the way to Iraq and back home again…”
* * *
From Aircraft Dinamic
“I understood that basic training was indoctrination. I understood the aim was to break us down and rebuild us into what the Army wanted. But I was not too amenable to the concept.
It was generally frowned upon to challenge our drill sergeants, but I remember in an Army Values class I could not keep quiet. The drill sergeant was complaining about American anti-war activists: “Those damned anti-war protesters don’t know anything. They don’t understand how wrong they are and how wrong it is that they do that. They shouldn’t be allowed to protest.” And so on.
So I responded: “The right of American people to say whatever they want is one reason I joined the military. It’s one reason I’m willing to die for my country. Those protesters are exercising their ultimate responsibility as Americans by expressing their political opinion.”
The drill sergeant did not yell at me. I got the impression it caused him to think – if only for a moment or two…
I felt like a freak until I realised that so many of us were freaks in one sense or another. I found people at boot camp who appreciated the same alternative music I did, and felt the same cynicism I did about fitting the Army mold. The guys in particular were basically good guys, though they gave us females endless shit for the differential female standards on PT tests: Girls get off easy… Girls can’t hack it.
They had a point. Females had twenty minutes to run two miles compare to fifteen minutes for males. Push-ups: We needed a much lower minimum to qualify; the guys had to do more than twice as many. But guys couldn’t bitch if we passed the male tests. That was my response. I was eventually able to surpass the male minimum standard for push-ups for my age group. I also worked hard to get my run to where I’d meet the male standards. Other girls didn’t give a shit. They’d argue that our body types were different, that females tended to have strong abs, but we didn’t usually have the same innate upper-body strength as most guys. And some guys understood that.
It’s poetic justice that of the two people who didn’t make it through Basic, one was male and one female. The girl collapsed quietly; the guy lunged for a drill sergeant’s throat and had to be dragged away kicking and screaming by Military Police.”
* * *
From U.S. Department of Defense
“Humvees are remarkable machines. They work almost everywhere and can do almost anything an off-road vehicle needs to do. But this mountain was rocky and it was steep. Very steep. We were going slow… and I was creeping us up, holding tight to the wheel.
Then we slipped a little sideways.
“Hey,” Quinn said, popping the passenger door. “Let me ground-guide you.”
A sensible call. The goal here was to help avoid the larger rocks and steer us past them. But the wheels began to slip some more no matter where I turned…
“Hey,” Reid said, popping open the door in the back. “I’m getting out of this thing.”
So now I was alone in the Humvee. This was unbelievable. The guys in my team out there walking up the mountain. Me in the Humvee feeling pretty confident the truck was about to flip over.
“You guys are fucking pussies!” I yelled.
No one contradicted me. No one volunteered to get back in the Humvee, either…
My legs started to tremble, and I clutched the steering wheel. Sweaty palms made a firm grip theoretical… Honestly, I thought this was the end of me.
Finally, though, when we arrived at the site, the FISTers were grinning. Said they’d been watching us through binos the whole way up. Said they were betting for sure we’d flip it. Surprised to find a girl behind the wheel…
I could tell right away that they were laughing with me, not at me. I had won their respect by driving while the guys walked.”
* * *
“The FISTers always gave me credit when I deserved credit. They would always tell me: “You’re really smart. You’re smarter than we are.”
And I’d give them credit, too. I would tell them: “Sure, I’ve read more books than you guys. I can speak Arabic. But I couldn’t fix my truck if my life depended on it. I know thing about engines. I would never be able to understand your equipment. You are all smarter than I am about how to make things work.”
Being around these guys and military personnel in general had given me a whole new appreciation for non-intellectual skills. These were people with manual skills. They knew how to use their hands. They were not afraid to get sweaty or dirty. And I respected them for that.”
( from “Love my rifle more than you:
young and female in the US army”
by Kayla Williams )
* * *
Today’s Women Soldiers
•Prior to the 1994 DoD assignment rule, 67 percent of the positions in the Army were open to women
•Today, 70 percent of the positions in the Army are open to women, and women serve in 93 percent of all Army occupations (active duty and the reserve components), as of June 2009.
•Women represent about 13.4 percent of the active Army, 23.7 percent of the Army Reserve and 14.0 percent of the Army National Guard as of fiscal year 2009.
•An increasing proportion of senior-level active duty and DoD positions are being filled by women.
•The percentage of female officers in the active Army in grades O-4 (rank of major) and above increased from 11.5 percent in fiscal year 1995 to 13.3 percent in fiscal year 2009.
•The same is true for enlisted active-duty women in grades E-7 (rank of sergeant first class) through E-9 (rank of first sergeant), who went from 8.3 percent in 1995 to approximately 10.8 percent as of fiscal year 2009.
•In the grades GS-13 through senior executive service, the percentage of female civilian Army employees increased from 18.9 percent in 1995 to 30.9 percent as of fiscal year 2009.
From Women in the U.S. Army