While I was serving at Ramstein during Desert Storm, “Overseas!” magazine came out with an article with that incredibly cheesy title. It featured a tough looking gal in chocolate chip cami’s with a firm set to her jaw and a pair of the ubiquitous 1980’s ZZ Top “cheap sunglasses” that were being offered for sale in every AAFES store, BX, PX, and commissary. I believe she was either standing there holding a weapon or standing behind a gun emplacement. The very idea that this woman would be in combat was laughable at the time, women were having enough problems being allowed to fly C130 cargo missions for USAFE’s arm of the Desert Storm operation, Proven Force.
At the time, I was adjusting to my first experience with soft contact lenses and so I went out and got myself a pair of these superdark black-on-black $3 aviator shades because light sensitivity was proving to be an issue with the new lenses, especially while driving. I would stick out my jaw while wearing these silly things, mugging like I was the tough gal on the cover of “Overseas!” and grunt in my best Brooklyn butch bitch voice: “Women warriors! Sharing the danger!” to make my fiancee at the time crack up laughing.
I was allowed. I myself had volunteered for combat duty (one of apparently 3 people in my unit to do so) and was turned down, in part because of a sexist asshole from Sterling Software who told me that I should be home “baking cookies for my man”. To this day I regret not breaking the fucktard’s jaw, and I also find myself wondering if I would have ended up in correctional custody for doing so, or if I would have actually been sent to the combat assignment…
But I digress.
The recent series in the NY Times featuring women in combat is not much more than a thinly disguised recruiting commercial. I seriously doubt that the rest of the story will come to light in that venue because there are some people who definitely feel that the systemic rape, murder/rape, sexual trauma and sexual harassment in the military should not be part of “all the news that’s fit to print”, so I am going to bring it up right here and now.
My comment in it’s entirety:
The biggest problem any woman faces in this military is not facing the enemy, it is sexual harassment and predation from within her chain of command. It’s only gotten worse over the last twenty years. VA statistics show that 1 in 3 women in the US military are raped by someone they are serving with. This statistic is sadly missing from the Times articles which paint a false and sunny picture of a woman’s career chances in the military. Army Colonel (ret) Ann Wright has made it her mission in life to bring this problem to the attention of the general public. She has worked tirelessly to lobby Congress on this matter, and recently Rep. Jane Harman responded, passing legislation to address the issue. But that’s only the beginning of what needs to be done.
As a woman who also has served, I am well aware of the huge chasm of information loss between the military and civilian sectors. Problems like this, such as the prostitution ring run by base officers at Keesler AFB in 1985, Tailhook, and repeated rapes at the Air Force Academy seldom reach the ears of the general public as often as they actually occur. To this day many suspected rapists and/or murderers of American military women go unpunished. There is no internal program designed to deal with repeat offenders simply because there are so MANY repeat offenders that serious inroads would be made in the ranks if they did the time they should in correctional custody! These unpunished criminals bring the sick attitudes which led to their crimes with them to their next duty assignments, and propagate a hostile, neanderthalic work environment for women throughout the military that the Times writers seem blissfully unaware of.
Without bringing an honest awareness of the systemic problem of military sexual trauma, military rape and sexual harassment to the forefront of public consciousness, it will remain systemic. The ball’s in your court, NY Times. Let’s see if you have the integrity to interview Colonel Ann Wright, a career public servant for 29 years, and put what she has to say on the front page about women serving in the military.
Colonel (ret) Ann Wright showing support for Suzanne Swift.
Suzanne’s story (from her MySpace page):
At the moment, the most shocking case of military sexual assault is that of Army Spc. Suzanne Swift, 21, who served in Iraq in 2004. Swift was coerced into sex by one commanding officer, which is legally defined as rape by the military, and harassed by two others before she finally broke rank and told. As a result, the other soldiers treated her like a traitor for months. Unable to face returning to the assailant, she went AWOL during a leave at home, and was arrested and put in jail for desertion. At first the Army offered her a deal: It would reduce her punishment if Swift would sign a statement saying that she had never been raped. She refused, saying she wouldn’t let the Army force her to lie.
The Army court-martialed Swift, and stripped her of her rank. She spent December in prison and was then sent to Fort Irwin in the Mojave Desert, far away from her family. She must stay in the Army for two more years, and may face redeployment. The men who assaulted her received nothing but reprimanding letters.
When there’s as much focus on the dangers FROM WITHIN that women have to face while serving in the US military…
When there’s as much focus on the HETEROSEXUAL harassment that is condoned within the US military as there is on the supposed strawman reasons for “don’t ask don’t tell”…
When there is a serious attempt made to hold the perpetrators of these crimes – very often unpunished repeat offenders – accountable for their actions under the supposedly “Uniform” Code of Military Justice…
Then and ONLY then will I believe that women have reached a state of complete and total equality with men within the US military.