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April 2, 2003

War, engine of social change. Pro-war weblogger Phil Carter, a former Army officer whose Intel Dump is very much worth your time, has this to say about the recent rescue of PFC Jessica Lynch from captivity by Iraqi forces:
The Pentagon has not released any details about her rescue yet, and I suspect they will not release much because doing so would compromise the sources and methods used to gather intelligence about PFC Lynch’s location for this raid. (It’s highly possible we want to use those tactics, techniques and procedures in the future.) I’m going to follow that logic and refrain from speculation on the way this rescue operation went down.

However, I will speak to an issue which has percolated up during the last several days because of the capture of SPC Shoshana Johnson and other American women in harm’s way. Some have questioned the role of women in today’s military. Make no mistake about it — America’s military sends its women into harm’s way. Current DoD policy keeps women out of only the most direct of combat roles, such as the infantry. But in today’s style of warfare, those distinctions are basically meaningless. Army Lieutenant Carrie Bruhl flies Apache helicopters deep into enemy territory, further than any American infantryman save the Special Forces. Other women fly deep combat missions in the Navy and Air Force. Female MPs fight as infantry just behind the front lines, hunting down and killing Iraqi guerilla units. America’s daughters fight hard and they fight well. It’s disingenuous and wrong to say that women like SPC Johnson and PFC Lynch don’t belong at the front lines. They’ve earned the right to be there, and so far in our war, they’ve proven their ability to stay there.

[08:10 AM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on War, engine of social change.:

bkw ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2003, 10:52 AM:

while i fully support "Women in the Military" -- in roles and positions they have fought for and qualified for -- female apache pilots must meet the same standards as male apache pilots, no? they're perfectly capable -- i still can't help but to question women in any capacity where physical strength matters.

not to say some women don't meet the same ruberics as -- or even surpass -- men, but it worries me that there's such a thing as "gender norming" in training.

i don't think a "blanket" exclusion of women is called for. i do think equivalent standards are.

but apparently women are being kept off the front lines ... why?

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2003, 12:35 PM:

One could also question men in any capacity where long-term endurance matters.

Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2003, 01:12 PM:

And so we start another "here we go again" moment.

I don't feel comfortable about the extent of women's service in the armed forces, but I'm willing to concede that a chunk of that is the bias of my upbringing. And for some areas, such as pilots, the skills are maybe rare enough that gender bias is a bit of a waste.

But there's still that deeper caveman-programming that those such as Heinlein have written about. I do not think I will ever be entirely comfortable about the way women are going to war these days.

Elizabeth ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2003, 02:06 PM:

Um. Did you read the post above concerning civilians in the line of fire? Women have been at the front forever. As far as I am concerned, it is nice (for once) that our gender gets guns and training.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2003, 03:17 PM:

The strength thing is a canard.

The place you *want* the great big strapping slabs of beef is in the logistics chain; they get enough to eat (very fucking important; I am one, I know just how well I don't function after 18 hours with no food, and just how much I eat) and the weight lifting is important in that application because it does speed up how fast the supplies get on and off trucks.

Grunts and tracked vehicle crew you want compact, cold-resistant, and high endurance; 'plugs', to quote an infanteer of my acquaintance. ('the running snakes freeze and the weightlifters faint and we just keep going')

There are lots of women with this body type; they do entirely fine at those roles, given training and the same psychological willingness as is required of men in those roles.

Women can't get into combat arms because -- completely irrespective of whether or not you actually get shot at -- those classifications are the ones required for you to get general rank in a command role, and the Army doesn't want to open high command to women.

CPT EGAN ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2003, 11:19 PM:

Pls, stp wth th trd, ld lbrl l tht "th strngth thng s cnrd."

I have been in the Army Reserve for 14 years. I am an officer, have commanded multiple units, and yes, I've even been mobilized. From the time that I was in ROTC, I have trained with females. Female endurance is very good. Their upper body strength is about half of a man's. Every single female ROTC cadet I trained with and every one of the dozens of female soldiers I have had the privilege of leading over the years has not been able to carry a light pack (30-40 pounds) + weapon over any distance. They certainly cannot carry a full infantry pack + weapon and ammo (80 pounds). I don't care how big their hearts are (and they are as good at soldiering as the males) or how hard they try, they cannot do it. On obstacle courses, which replicate conditions you will encounter in combat, females' lower upper body strength greatly hinders their ability to complete the courses. Happens all the time.

The second factor which is a problem involves upper body strength plus body mass. In a mechanized unit, should the tracked vehicle break (or "throw") a track, you have to remove, disassemble, fix, reassemble, and reattach an incredibly heavy tread. In my mechanized chemical unit (smoke generators mounted on M113A3's) we had female soldiers. About 1/3 of the men couldn't fix track, let alone any of the women. They just weren't strong or big enough to wrestle with the track pieces.

A third problem is the hygeine. Men can go for 3 weeks without a shower; we just kill you at 5 paces with the stench alone. Want to guess what kind of a yeast infection a female infantry soldier would have after 21 days without a shower in filthy combat conditions?

If you want to see women get killed, and get their fellow soldiers killed, put them in infantry and mechanized units where there are everyday tasks that 99% of them are physically incapable of performing, along with conditions they cannot endure for health reasons. The Army is not a social experiment.

jfwells ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2003, 11:23 PM:

I have to disagree with Graydon here. As a former frontliner (Psyops loudspeaker operator) I jumped with a 70 lb ruck in addition to the weight of the parachute & harness. Add in the m-16, ammo & other goodies in my web gear and I was pushing 120 lbs on me. Carrying that around all day takes strength. You can't tell me it takes more to drive a truck.

I completely agree that strength is not only a male thing as I have personally known some women that could hump a ruck 20 miles without breaking a sweat. If a woman can meet all of the physical AND occupational standards of a combat MOS, great. Have at it. I think what the military fears is that they will not be able to kick women that can't cut it out of combat jobs without getting sued. Instead of holding everybody to the same high standard, they use the strength and sex/flirting/distraction excuses.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2003, 11:38 PM:

"The Army is not a social experiment."

Quite the contrary, armies have frequently been hotbeds of social experimentation and change. The desperation of war tends to make people try new things.

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2003, 11:38 PM:

Since I don't have military experience, I can't comment directly on the requirements other posters have posited for various positions -- as requirements.

However, I'll pose another stereotype opposite them: that men are more likely to try something alone even when it's beyond their capacity, while women are more likely to ask for help. This is a sound strategy; when I started doing theater I would carry a 4x8 sheet of 3/4" plywood myself until I figured out that 2 people could carry 2-3 sheets and were less likely to hit someone else while doing it. I've read of this specifically coming up in a civilian situation: fire departments required raw weightlifting ability because they said it was the only way to deploy hoses (using this as a "reason" to bar women), until women demonstrated they could be as fast by double-teaming heavy bundles. I can see some cases where this wouldn't carry over to the military -- firefighting teams don't have to split into a group setting up and a group laying down covering fire so the setup group has a chance of finishing -- but how often is that applicable? And when it is, how often does an all-male unit have to hand setup to the brute squad and arms to everyone else?

The comment on endurance is also apposite; there are physiologists who expect that women will dominate ultramarathoning as interest in the sport increases.

jfwells ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2003, 11:39 PM:

So Captain, that is a pretty broad statement: "Their upper body strength is about half of a man's" Every woman? I saw one on TV the other day doing a "World's Strongest Woman" competition that probably would have been able to drag your APC to safety so the 2/3 of your male soldiers could change the track. If women aren't strong enough, how do those 1/3 of men that can't perform their duty as mech infantrymen get by?

As to hygene, I wonder how our ancestors ever survived before running water. The yeast infections must have been the death of many a woman.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2003, 12:18 AM:

Yeast infections? Heh. That's a new one. Unless you mean it as a euphemism, of course; in which case it's just a new variation on that weary old piece of folklore about how we can sour milk just by coming into contact with it at the wrong time of the month.

News: After a few weeks with no opportunities for hygiene, everyone stinks, and everyone has fungus and yeast infestations. The all-time champion I know, when it comes to getting every fungus infestation known to medical science, is an ex-Navy man -- a bubblehead -- who's only slightly smaller than the carton the refrigerator came in.

As for other hygienic challenges, let me assure you that women were coping with them long before the Kotex Corporation went into business. If you're interested in the details, I can tell you all about them, though I find that most men are oddly reluctant to stick around long enough to hear it.

Yeast infections! Body odor! How do you expect me to take the rest of your objections seriously when you come up with a folktale like that?

We close now with a message from our sponsor, Sojourner Truth, as delivered at the 1851 Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio:

What's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman? ...

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2003, 03:43 AM:

Capt. Egan, it quacks like a duck.

At one point in my mis-spent youth, I found myself standing chest deep in snowmelt stream water, fending off chunks of ice with my upstream elbow, holding someone for whom the water was well over head depth into breathing range by their collar with my downstream hand, and balancing both the SAW and the radio -- this is the old style, early eighties, old in Korea, Canadian Forces value of radio, as would certainly kill you if it fell on you out of a tree -- against my head by a form of sheer persistence.

This was the very tag end of a 15 km route run over muddy fields, bits of half frozen swamp, and more or less anything that lay on a straight line between point A and point B, courtesy of our Airborne lunatic of a platoon commander. (We did get there before everyone who took the roads; we got there before two of the three exercise referees, and got to stand around steaming faintly in the intermitent sleet while the referee had a discussion with our lieutenant concerning excessive realism.)

It was, I believe, right about that time, playing dodge the ice floe, that I came to the realization that this 'give it to the big guy' opinion about awkward military loads was just horseshit. (Though how the eight man bell tents had failed to do this, I do not know.)

If people aren't up to lugging their ruck, you gods-damned well train them until they are; if that means two hours of weights a day for awhile, well, I'm sure there's a training syllabus for that.

If you can't fix your track on grounds of sheer brute strength, and the five foot nothing, hundred and tend pound, sixty year old male farmer down the way from me when I was a kid could change the entire four hundred pound spikey awkward intake reel out of the maw of his baler by himself, I'm forced to conclude that either there's a really lamentable shortage of appropriate lever-like tools in the toolkit, or the designer desperately needs a clue upgrade for the next mark.

I'm seen more women who could lug the mass than I've seem men who could pass the flexibility part of the physical, put it that way.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2003, 03:47 AM:

Mr. Wells --
The reason to put the big slab of beef on logistics is so that they can play human forklift to load and unload the truck, not drive it.

It's a really good application for high output burst strength types; slam the boxes off, slam the boxes on, off to the next thing, and one of the few places where there's a real military advantage to lots and lots of upper body strength, cause most of the time the major bottlenecks include break of bulk into the individual truckloads.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2003, 08:53 AM:

It's occurred to me that if Mr. Egan's theories about body odor had any validity, no desert tribes would ever survive.

What rot!

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2003, 09:03 AM:

So Captain, that is a pretty broad statement: "Their upper body strength is about half of a man's" Every woman? I saw one on TV the other day doing a "World's Strongest Woman" competition that probably would have been able to drag your APC to safety so the 2/3 of your male soldiers could change the track. If women aren't strong enough, how do those 1/3 of men that can't perform their duty as mech infantrymen get by?

That's the lovely fallacy of comparing the extreme of one group to the median of another.

Yes. There are amazingly strong females -- stronger than I, stronger than Graydon, which, if you've ever seen him, is a scary, scary thought.

But those are extremly rare. Good luck filling a division. When you plot the bell curves of the sexes on physical strength, the graphs are clear -- Men have more physical strength, by a very large amount, than women. If you need to lift the maximum amount of weight, and you can only select a random group of men, or a random group of women, pick the men.

This isn't just social factors, either. The female skeletal and muscular systems are built much more gracile than the male's, and their body doesn't generate the hormones associated with building muscle bluk. There are female bodybuilders with very highly developed muscles -- and thier legs are smaller than a male bodybuilder's arms.

There is, of course, a whole lot more to life than physical strength. But to argue that somehow someone is being sexist by stating this fact, in a situtation where physical strength is posited as needed, is wrong.

There are physical attributes where women exceed men -- tolerance of pain and slow-burn endurance jump to mind (men are better at fast-burn endurance, that is, they can exert maximal effort longer -- but fast-burn endurance is measured in seconds, slow-burn, in hours.) I have no doubt that women can peform, and perform well, in combat. But to say "perfom the same" is a disservice to women, to men, and to the armed force at large.

For example, given women's resistance to pain, resistance to blacking out, reflexes, and toleration of loads (which is different than physical stregth), it's clear that the ideal fighter aircraft pilot would be female. I wouldn't expect a woman to excel at being a tank loader -- a job that demand burst-strength, M1 rounds weigh over 80 pounds, and have to be extracted from a rack, turned, and inserted into a breech extremely quickly -- but as a gunner, or driver, or commander? You bet. And, you might get that three sigma woman, who can not only load 80lb tank rounds, but juggle them. But she's the exception, not the rule.

As to Capt. Egan's points. His comment on upper body strength is dead on, and, for a ground pounder, you have to be able to carry your kit, and then get over the wall. This part (the getting over the wall) is upper body strength, and females, who are not as strong overall -- and who concentrate thier strength in thier legs, have real problems with this. Go look at the various sports records -- situations where people have trained for years to become the best at whatever activity it is humanly possible to be. The numbers are clear.

The comments about mass are true, but that's cause and effect -- the lack of mass and limited strength are part-and-parcel. Yes, there are surprisingly strong little guys. That's why we call them 'surprisingly' strong. And the strongest people are huge.

The comments about hygine are silly, and the disemvolwed crack about liberals? Sigh. Captain, if you wish to discuss, you'll find many here who will talk with you, respectfully listen to your arguments, and maybe even be convinced by some of them. We'd certainly welcome your views as a serviceman in the Infanty. But if you want to trot out the tired right-wing insults, we're not going to listen to you.

CPT Egan ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2003, 10:08 AM:

Rebuttal and comments

1. jfwells is quite correct - If a woman can meet the standards, then fine. Some of my finest sergeants, including some solders that I have recommended for promotion to the rank, have been women. I care about job performance, and most women CANNOT do some of the tasks required by certain specialties (MOSs). BTW, we got rid of the 1/3 who couldn92t handle the tracks; the unit had been converted to a mechanized unit recently and they had not been doing that before; wasn92t their fault.

A comment about standards in the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT)
The number of push-ups required in 2 minutes is
Age 17-2199Male99Female
100 pts (max)99719942
60 pts (min )99429919
Guess what -if the females can92t make the standard, the decision was to lower the standard for them...

2. Social experiments. Patrick, you are correct, societal change has been reflected in changes in the military, especially with regard to integration under Truman. However, integrating blacks into the infantry didn92t get you killed because they couldn't physically do something...

3a. Hygeine - not a joke. Think of any kind of sustained infantry action. There is not likely going to be the opportunity for much time to clean off or ways to do it. Men can tolerate those conditions better, that92s all. BTW, I have dealt with and discussed this issue with many female soldiers. It is not a problem most of the time, but for the specific case of infantry action it is. Don92t be patronizing.
3b. Body odor - A JOKE. Geez.

4. Comments about liberals. Don92t know why my original statement was 93devoweled.94 - I didn92t do that... The original comment 93the strength thing is a canard94, in my opinion, is a deadly, tired old lie propagated by liberals who do not care to acknowledge the truth but instead want to indulge in the fantasy that all women are as physically strong as men, when in reality very few are. If that is offensive, well I find the original statement quite offensive, because thinking like that, if ever implemented fully in the Army, will get people killed, not only the women who can't do a task but the guy next to her who needs her to do it while he handles his job.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2003, 11:03 AM:

CPT Egan: local policy is that disemvowelment is the price of incivility. Had you said "Sorry, but the 'strength thing' is not a 'canard', but a real issue" your statement would have kept its vowels. Note that the rest of your comment, which was civil in tone, did keep its vowels.

If I use the word 'conservative' as a synonym for 'stupid gender bias', my statement will suffer a similar fate. (BTW I agree with you that standards should be per-job, not per-gender; this would get a lot MORE women into high command than the current system.)

Z. S. ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2003, 11:46 AM:

CPT Egan:

If you meant to say 'menstruation' instead of 'yeast infections', perhaps you should have done so, if only to demonstrate to the world that you know the difference. While I am not an expert on infantry action, I know a thing or two about the wily ways of the vagina. If there is time to urinate without getting shot or endangering one's comrades, there is time to change a tampon. It is exactly that simple. If there isn't time for either, men and women alike will be experiencing some inconvenience.

If the problem you envisage is lack of spare space to carry sanitary supplies, for heaven's sake _say_ that. Your maiden bashfulness on the topic is not helping me, at least, to guess what you mean.

Can I assume that for those women on Depo-Provera who don't menstruate for a long while, you waive these wacky objections?

Mr. Nielsen Hayden: I hope this is not rude enough to merit the loss of my vowels. I don't know what I'd do without them.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2003, 11:53 AM:

Z., actually Teresa moderates. So make your pleas to her. She is merciful and just. :-)

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2003, 12:11 PM:

Mr. Egan, you can either apologize for calling it a lie, and one particular to liberals, or you can leave. I am entirely out of patience with this sort of habitual discourtesy, and I will not tolerate it from you or anyone else.

If you think a policy or belief is mistaken, is an error, that's fine; you're allowed to say so. But calling it a lie -- that is, a deliberate falsehood -- and attributing it specifically to liberals, which is just one more specimen of the careless habitual coarse bigoted calumny and cheap defamation that has gotten so popular with right-wing commentators and accepted amongst their fans -- is not.

I invoke that most conservative of virtues: common good manners. You can observe them here, or you can flout them elsewhere.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2003, 12:23 PM:

Chris, isn't crossposting the very devil? I try very hard to be just and merciful (and sympathetic and tolerant and prudent), but no one's ever called me patient.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2003, 12:27 PM:

Ter, I know not by what special grace, then, I have earned your patience...but you've always been patient with ME. (And I've needed it on more than one occasion. I blush to recall.)

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2003, 12:52 PM:

Eric -
You're quite right about the general generic strength curves, although I expect your expectations are getting messed about by thinking of modern urban people as the normative case.

The point I'm after is that it doesn't matter; the point on the strength curve young fit women who are getting appropriate exercise will hit is enough.

That's in and of itself cultural change; Anglo NorAm discourages girl-children from eating enough, and it sure doesn't encourage anything like physical work in anybody, but do both of those things and you get people who are, by and large, strong enough to be effective grunts.

And, Gods Below, it's not like this is a mule contest; strong enough, yeah, but you want sneaky and evil and paying attention to the job rather more than you want 'oo, look, can hump own body weight uphill in the rain'.

Derek James ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2003, 02:55 PM:

Women should be allowed to fulfill any societal role for which they qualify, in the private or public sector, or the military.

More men than women can meet the physical requirements necessary to be a firefighter. Should women not be allowed to try out for the position? Of course not. I don't care what the heck the gender, sexual orientation, or anything else is of the person pulling me from a burning building or guarding my flank or saving me from drowning. I just care that they're able to do it.

In the interest of equal rights along with equal responsibilities, though, I have long believed that all women should be required to register for the Selective Service, just as all men do.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2003, 03:27 PM:

Derek, with regard to your third paragraph, my own view is quite similar, and the exact opposite.

I believe that since we have excellent Armed Services, and since the military brass themselves have said they don't want to have a draft (volunteers being better soldiers, and a better ROI due to longevity, in both senses, than draftees), no one should be required to register for the Selective Service.

Elizabeth Bear ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2003, 07:41 PM:


I read this thread and wandered away and thought about it for a while before I came back. I will admit that my response is informed by the fact that I've been neck-deep in the headspace of a fictional disabled female combat veteran for the past nine months, so take this with however many grains of salt y'all feel that warrants. Now, disclaimer of personal bias aside....

(I'm impressed, by the way, that no-one in this thread has felt the need to raise the bugaboo of "female soldiers being raped and tortured." Because, as we all know, those things never happen to male soldiers, or to civilians of either gender. Good avoidance of one of the more ridiculous hot buttons.)

There are certain well-documented physiological differences between the genders: minor sexual dimorphism in terms of physical endurance, physical flexibility, physical strength, pain tolerance, etc. I suggest that the bell curves do overlap a bit, for one thing, and for another I suggest that a single standard should be adopted and maintained for both genders in any role where physical capability can make a difference in who lives and who dies. Seems only logical.

On the other hand, if you consider infantry and other combat roles--well, that's where it breaks down. Historically, there have been a number of combat roles that could be fulfilled as well or better by a qualified woman as a qualified man. Some of them are jobs that no sane person of either gender would want. (Tunnel rat leaps to mind as the obvious, if extreme, example of a dirty combat job where small size and meticulousness count for more than upper body strength.)

More importantly, this ignores the most important consideration of combat: we have never, in a time of serious war (as opposed to recreational war), had the luxury of choosing to send only the ones most suited to combat. (Otherwise there would be no need for, to choose an item at random, Fucking Ridiculous Eye Devices). And it seems to me utterly ridiculous to claim that a twenty-year-old woman is less suited to serve under fire than a fifteen-year-old boy, and John Gorka wouldn't have an absolutely wonderful song ("Semper Fi") about his then-teenaged father's choice to join the Marines to get out of the coal mines.

As for the sorts of nasty infections that either gender might find themselves subject to under conditions that might best be described as unsanitary... considering the fact that my grandfather was Army Corps in the South Pacific and lost portions of both feet to trenchfoot, I find Capt. Egan's comments in that regard to be something of an insult to my family honor, as I must infer from his comments that that maiming is somehow less significant than a vaginal yeast infection. (Assuming for a moment that there was some substance to his argument.)

The rule in a real war is "You fight if you're able, and you serve in whatever capacity you can." And there's no reason in a modern army for gender alone to be an exclusionary factor if a soldier can meet every other qualification for the job. Especially when the armed forces are and have been an opportunity for the underprivileged and poor.

Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2003, 12:29 AM:

Derek wrote, "In the interest of equal rights along with equal responsibilities, though, I have long believed that all women should be required to register for the Selective Service, just as all men do."

Back in the day (ca. 1969-72 -- I was "draft age" during Vietnam) I used to say the same thing. Of course I used to add, "so I can burn my draft card too."

That last part notwithstanding, I still believe it. Why should my nephews be at risk and not my nieces? BTW, the only one of my family currently in the service *is* one of my nieces.

There are plenty of things women can do, and do do, in the service without being infantry or in any other "direct combat role". Insisting that "being a soldier" = "being in the infantry" is a diversionary tactic, no more. My niece in the Air Force is a nurse (and a captain). My mom's best friend was a WAC in Europe in 1944; the way Mom used to tell the story, you'd think Blanche marched into Paris alongside Ike and DeGaulle, though in fact she was "only" a clerk. (But she did her bit and Mom was so proud of her.) Jessica Lynch, the young West Virginia PFC recently rescued, and mentioned in the post Patrick quoted, was a supply clerk -- who, by the way, seems also to have been not afraid to use her gun when necessary!

In the modern military, women are no longer relegated to being nurses and clerks. They can be pilots (also mentioned in the original post Patrick quoted), cooks (ditto), MPs (ditto), or operate computers and do lots of other things men can do too. And of course, male or female, military personnel don't need to be near the front lines in order to be in danger; the reserve unit whose barracks was destroyed by a Scud missile in the 1991 war, leading to the largest number of U.S. casualties in that conflict, was well behind the lines. And there are women's names on the wall of the Vietnam Memorial, mostly nurses.

For that matter, I'm sure that even CPT Egan realizes that not all men in the service are in the infantry either. My grandfather, who was in the Army during WWI, was in the Signal Corps. His great-uncle, who died in the Civil War, was a cavalryman. My brother was a hospital corpsman in the Navy (technically Vietnam-era, but really more "Cuban Missile Crisis" era); he's the father of the Air Force nurse mentioned above.

So let's all realize that we're not just talking about infantry here, and that the argument over how much who can carry for how long is a false issue. The heart of the original post that Patrick quoted was:

"Current DoD policy keeps women out of only the most direct of combat roles, such as the infantry. But in today92s style of warfare, those distinctions are basically meaningless."

I'm still against the draft, unless we get into a really huge war like WWII was. But I'm all in favor of women in whatever jobs they can do, in the military or in civilian life. If a war is worth fighting, why would it be worth allowing only half the people to fight it? If women want to and are capable of doing the job, be it nursing or infantry, they should be allowed to do what they can. (Same for men.) If it still shakes out that more women are nurses and more men are infantry, as long as they're all doing their part, fine.

clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2003, 09:02 AM:

Disagreeing just to be polite is an urge so strong that it must fall under the urge to tinker with another's copy. As someone said in another context sometimes we don't let our dogmatism wait on our ignorance.

For instance in this thread I see the assertion that: "it's clear that the ideal fighter aircraft pilot would be female" Personally I think that is an unwarranted assertion, to be followed by flat contradiction, followed by dispute.

It is not at all clear to me - I remember quoting all the arguments from Tomb Tapper (who remembers that fine old cold war story? that may not be the title but if you know the story it will be enough to bring back dreams of blue sheep) to an avionics researcher from Kelly who suggested their trials had found neck strength to be determining - helmet weight loaded with look and shoot devices, head held at an odd angle to check 6 while tensing the muscles to pull g's in odd direction. Likely enough the original Tomb Tapper notion (spoiler)

girl children - who in a peace time world might be doing gymnastics - for strategic reconnaisannce or other roles might well apply.

IIRC there were female nurses who jumped into Dien Bien Phu enough said?

For complexities though, I can point to corpsmen who thought their medical skills and certainly their field experience made them as well qualified as any woman commissioned in part for having a fancy cap (and mostly to simplify fraternization rules in that time and place).

Not meaning simply to take sides here, but just possibly the issues are more complex than can be covered in these comments section - for myself I know women I would give the old Navy style ultimate fitness report of "I would want this person to serve under me in time of war" and more I would not.

For what it's worth I also think folks in the service for a job - tail of an army - like reservists (even with combat experience the regulars may lack) activated and deployed die more often to less purpose. I am not sure this is fair to them, their buddies and their families - nor am I sure that it is an informed choice though in the end I do pass it off by saying it is their choice.