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Military Readiness

The Stuffed Animal Raid

May 5, 2005 | By | One Comment

Photo: Sandra Jontz

Chief Warrant Officer 2

Jill St. John

Combat Logistics Battalion 8

Here we go. Again. From the Stars and Stripes, “Marine raid breaks gender barrier.” (From Lucianne.)

erin libby.jpg
Photo: Sandra Jontz

Lance Cpl. Erin Libby

“Rocking on the front line”

Handing out toys in Karmah

The Stars and Stripes is reporting that this past Saturday, the Marines took 14 women from the Combat Logistics Battalion 8 with them on a raid 15 miles northeast of Fallujah. The women’s usual jobs involve “supplying ammunition, food, water, fuel and mail.” The reason for the change in job assignment?

Cultural sensitivities precluded male Marines from searching women, so the female Marines were meant to deflate fears of Iraqi men and women, said the battalion executive officer, Maj. Larry Miller. It was a first in Iraq to have female Marines embedded at the lowest levels of infantry companies and working alongside their male counterparts.

So “cultural sensitivities” now justify violating Department of Defense regulations against taking women into combat and the law which requires Congressional notification before doing so?

The problem with this vignette explodes in several directions. The article uses female suicide bombers to explain why we need to be searching Iraqi women.

girl bomber.jpg

That’s a real problem. But let us get this straight: because terrorists encourage their women to blow themselves up, we have to send our women into harm’s way? To respect “cultural sensitivities?”

Here’s Daniel Pipes on our efforts at cultural sensitivity: “This is probably the most “culturally sensitive” occupation of a country in all of recorded history. . . and is not likely to be rewarded with reciprocal good will.”

And then there’s the inherent contradictions in the situation — they’re in a combat zone. . . handing out teddy bears. It’s like some sort of weird fluffernutter sandwich. They are using this experience to say that women can handle combat as well as men, (see the boiling a frog thread; this is a perfect example) but they have enough leeway to take time and hand out stuffed animals afterward.

Lance Corporal Erin Libby is quoted as saying: “We’re out here, and we’re rocking on the front line.”

Our cultural sensitivities, and our law, includes not sending women into combat. This issue of using female soldiers to pat-down female Iraqui’s did come up in our recent Pentagon meeting: it’s time for Congress to get serious about women in combat policy.

UPDATE: And one more thing — what does this example of the Marine’s taking female support troops along on a combat raid say about the Army’s argument (see here) that their newly gender-integrated Forward Support Companies won’t take women into combat?

Combat Action Badge – Now for Women, too.

May 4, 2005 | By | One Comment

For everyone following the frog. . .I’ve been writing about the Army’s plan (nefarious!) to insert women in combat. Some readers have been skeptical that it is a deliberate plan. But I’m the one collecting coins now.

Secretary of the Army, Francis Harvey

looking toward Army Chief of Staff,

General Peter Schoomaker

Here’s more evidence of Schoomaker, “boiling the frog.” The Army announced today that it will be issuing a new “Combat Action Badge.” (Thanks, IntelDump.) Women will be eligible, even retroactively (quote, Washington Post):

Any Army soldier who has seen active combat while in Iraq or Afghanistan may now receive a new “Combat Action Badge,” making tens of thousands of soldiers who are not in the infantry ranks — including women — eligible for a combat award for the first time.

Wait one — there are some really subtle points that need to be made about this decision. I support our women in uniform. And, surely our support goes to the women who have come under fire in Iraq. This really isn’t about them.

The issue is the policy decisions being made, and some that are studiously not being made, that are putting an increasing number of women in harm’s way. Deliberately. The badge merely comes after as a way of presenting the fait accompli.

This is a case study on path dependence.

A further quote from the Post story helps illustrate my point:

The badge is the first non-medical combat distinction to honor women who are caught in battle during U.S. wars, largely because women are not assigned to frontline combat duties.

Read that carefully. Women are being “caught in battle” because they are being assigned near where battle can, might, will happen. It’s that simple.

At the announcement of the new badge, Schoomaker said: “Warfare is still a human endeavor. Our intent is to recognize Soldiers who demonstrate and live the Warrior Ethos.” The Band of Brothers now includes your Sister.

American Knight: Congratulations Captain Thunder

May 2, 2005 | By | One Comment

Captain Thunder6

Lieutenant Thunder6 was promoted to Captain in a wonderful, and history-laden, ceremony. It’s worth reading the whole thing — Thunder6 writes beautifully, and his words take you to the scene. But here’s his promotion ceremony, in the middle of the desert, in the middle of the night:

…As he finished pinning the rank the LTC half whispered “take a knee”. Once I had dropped to one knee he pulled out his tomahawk and gently placed it on my left shoulder. Then he told everyone assembled “he kneeled a lieutenant, now he rises a Captain” and helped me to my feet.

There was no pageantry in that wretched field. Truth be told there were few witnesses – all eyes were scanning for contact. But I wouldn’t have traded the rugged midnight ceremony for any amount of pomp and circumstance. For an instant that wretched field was nobler then any parade ground – war be damned.

The Majesty. The Gallantry. The Chivalry. The Tradition. . . . there is something about the warrior ethos, so mysteriously masculine, that deserves preservation.

Tradition holds that women were not knighted on the battlefield as Thunder6 was. A Gentlemen would never permit a blade to touch a lady. (With few exceptions.) It was his mission to stand between her and the edged weapon.

Were it so today.

30 Apr



What’s a Boiled Frog, Anyway??

April 30, 2005 | By | 2 Comments

For those of you who want a little political theory with your Saturday coffee, be reassured, we’ll get around to path dependence at the end of this post, after suffering through my analogy. But first, a little frog fun.

Recoding the Forward Support Companies

You may wonder, with good reason, why I keep talking about “boiled frogs” . . .You know the old aphorism: if you want to boil a frog, turn the heat up slowly. If the water gets too hot, too fast, the frog will jump out. But if it gets hot slowly, he’ll get cooked.


I’m arguing that this is precisely what the military is doing with women in combat — turning the heat up slowly, so that no one notices. If they came right out and announced, “Hey, we’re going to start putting women in combat” it wouldn’t go over real well. Not to mention being against the President’s explicit policy, which he recently reiterated in January, of maintaining the ban on women in combat.

Although he agrees with me on women in combat, Donald Sensing, over at One Hand Clapping, doesn’t care for my analogy. He says that I:

seem to assign nefarious motives to the Army’s senior leaders; they are apparently scurrilous minions of the feminist left who have a master plan eventually to infiltrate women into every combat job. In the meantime they have to desensitize moms and dads and other Americans to the idea of women killed, wounded and maimed in battle.


A “master plan” of infiltration. . . Yes, yes, that’s it exactly! (Plus, he didn’t split his infinitives. A good man. Better to be grammatically correct than politically correct.) The funny thing is that when I was at the Pentagon on Thursday, one of the first things that General Schwartz, (Director, Joint Staff, three stars) said was that nothing “nefarious” was going on — Yes! Yes! “nefarious” the same word! A conspiracy! I think they are on your page, Donald.

. . . “nefarious??” The general doth protest too much, methinks.


Here’s the Army’s plan — I’d like to hear, particularly from the MilBloggers, if you think it’s nefarious, or not. Listen, even if it’s not nefarious, I still think it’s a stupid plan that “lacks attention to detail.”

This is a dicey issue: If anyone active duty wants to weigh in anonymously, I’d love to hear from you and will protect your identity. (Email link on right sidebar.)

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It’s Just What Moms Do . . .

April 30, 2005 | By | No Comments

If you are coming over from LaShawn’s Corner, welcome!

With the writing I’ve been doing on women in combat, I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between men and women, moms and dads. A lot of people want to argue that there isn’t much difference.

But my friend and mentor, Steve Rhoads, wrote a book this last year Taking Sex Differences Seriously which lays out all the evidence that, in fact, moms and dads, while equally important, are not interchangeable. (You can find a direct link to get this important book on the left sidebar!) For example, moms are better able to hear their baby’s cry than dads are. Strange, but true.

This week was the Dude’s tenth birthday, so we had the cousins over last night. The Penta-Posse plus Two were camped out in the family room, including the Dancer, who hasn’t been feeling very well this week. The physical space separating us included stairs and a door. . .

In the middle of the night, I woke up, for no obvious reason, so started trying to go back to sleep. But I couldn’t. Something felt wrong. I listened carefully. I heard nothing. Or was there something faint?

I decided to check on the kids since I was awake, and as I opened the door to head down the hall toward the family room, I heard the Dancer crying as if her heart would break. She was curled up in a ball on the couch, the blanket on the floor, her body cold, her head hot.

Why didn’t you come to me, baby? I asked.

It was dark. . . I was scared. . .

I got her some medicine, took her to our room, and got her settled in snugly. She burrowed in and went to sleep immediately. With the commotion, Jack woke up. What’s going on?

Over the years, with five kids, we’ve had our fair share of multiple kids throwing up, so he’s been a part of plenty of night-time traumas.

But, usually, mom is the one who hears the first cry. It’s just what moms do.

Frog Headlines: Is this what America Wants?

April 28, 2005 | By | No Comments

This is Lieutenant Dawn Halfaker. Is this what America wants?

Lt. Dawn Halfaker

Today’s USA Today carries Dawn’s story — she lost her right arm in combat in Iraq. And here’s what USA TODAY quotes her as saying, right next to this picture of her holding her prosthetic device:

‘Women in combat is not really an issue,’ she says. ‘It is happening.’

This is a perfect example of “the boiled frog strategy”: the Army wants the American public to gradually “get used to” seeing women in combat. They know if they put it to a vote in Congress — which they are legally required to do — they would lose. So the strategy is to just gradually change the regulations, so that more and more women are put in harms way; then, when women like Dawn get hurt, no one can say anything.

But we should.

Just because women can go into combat, doesn’t mean they should.

I have a lot more to say about this. But, for now, let me highlight this quote from another female soldier who is currently recuperating from combat wounds at Walter Reed:

[Juanita] Wilson, 31, [Army staff sergeant who lost her hand in Iraq] says she has observed one major difference among amputees at Walter Reed. The men, she says, care much less about their appearance and will often move about without their artificial limbs. She won’t. “I just don’t think America is ready to see a woman without an arm,” Wilson says.

Men and women are different.

I am headed to the Pentagon this morning to talk with the brass about their boiled frog strategy with my friend Elaine Donnelly from the Center for Military Readiness. USA Today quotes Elaine, who explains that this is not about the women themselves — gosh, we support them — this about public policy:

‘I have nothing but admiration for those women who’ve been injured,’ Donnelly says. ‘But I am critical of the Pentagon policymakers.’

Donnelly says the Army, wanting to create more opportunities for women and make them more promotable, is bending rules to push those in support units close to front-line combat in Iraq.

Check back later. I’ll report on our meeting at the Pentagon.

Most importantly: God bless Dawn Halfaker and all the other amputees in Walter Reed.

25 Apr


Schoomaker 2: Attempting to Rescue the Frog. . .

April 25, 2005 | By |

As a preface to this post, let me ask: as a matter of military strategy, how does one confront an entrenched opponent who has you outnumbered and out-gunned?

Patrick Walsh, a retired infantry Major, writes to tell me that I owe General Schoomaker an apology for last week’s post about the General and the Army’s move to put women in combat. If the Major is correct, and I have erred, then I will be happy to offer such an apology. On style points, the good Major may be correct — that post is indeed edgy.

But I would emphasize that it is in no way personal. It’s not personal, it’s policy. I aim to mix equal parts reason and audacity — one doesn’t take on a four-star general, without giving the matter considerable thought and staff work. So my approach was deliberate.

Another reader instantly understood: “Wow,” she wrote, “a little shock and awe.” Going back to my prefatory question — how, exactly, does one take on the Chief of Staff of the Army, when he is deliberately pursuing a back-door change in public policy?

My purpose in that post was to be punchy, and concise. The problem in combatting the Army’s current path toward entrenching women in combat is that Schoomaker’s plan (which is brilliant), though actually quite simple, is artfully and strategically deceptive and confusing to the lay person (brilliant). So I was aiming for brevity and simplicity.

But the Major complained that I didn’t offer enough links (true), didn’t fully make my case (see brevity concern above, although elsewhere I’ve linked to an in-depth piece which lays it all out), and, most of all, dragged Schoomaker’s background into the argument illegitimately (I disagree).

Alright then. Fair enough. Let me respond in tortuous detail to the Major’s lengthy critique of my post. Lots of links to follow. And a photo finish.

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“How to Boil A Frog” by General Peter J. Schoomaker

April 19, 2005 | By | One Comment

It needs to be clarified, right at the start: placing women in combat is against the law.

But General Peter J. Schoomaker, Chief of Staff, United States Army, wants to place women in combat, rendering moot the Commander in Chief’s orders and the intent of Congress. Not to mention, against the will of the people.

With Elaine Donnelly from the Center for Military Readiness, I recently met with then-Defense Secretary Wolfowitz, Army Secretary Francis Harvey, and Army Vice Chief, General Richard Cody to review military policy on placing women in harm’s way. We discussed the challenges of having women under fire and at high risk of capture on the battlefield.

During our meeting, Harvey became agitated, Cody became hostile, and everyone vigorously denied the scenario where women could be, might be, in combat. But women will be in combat. And Schoomaker, Peter J., General, has a plan to make this happen.

So who is this guy?

The Man

Failed in Desert One in Iran under President Carter. He commanded a Squadron in the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment in the botched rescue attempt of embassy hostages in Iran, 1980. Dead soldiers. Ours.

Violated the Posse Comitatus Act in Waco. Working with General Wesley Clark as his Assistant Division Commander, Schoomaker, Peter, J., (very quietly) met with Janet Reno, allowing the FBI use of Fort Hood. (Bloggers didn’t exist then.) The Armor and military personnel present at the conflagration were Schoomaker’s, Peter J. Dead children. Dead babies. Dead women. Lots of them.

Promoted by Bill Clinton. More General’s stars, lots of them.

The Plan

Place women in formerly all-male Forward Support Companies (FSC) training with, and “attached” to combat units. When the balloon goes up, and the troops advance, the women come out. So says General Cody. Only men will then be sent to the front, without the women. So says Secretary Harvey.

The End

When the bullets start flying, and the fog descends and transportation to the rear is mis-routed . . . “I need that truck moving forward” barks the SSGT. The mission will be everything. The women will remain with their units, uniquely embedded. And under fire.

Not many women will be killed, fewer raped. And they will do OK, and made into hero(ine)s by CNN.

Schoomaker, Peter J., will deliver a glowing after-action report, praising the womens’ perfomance and will provide Congressional Testimony to allow minor policy wording changes codifying his brilliant use of human resources.

schoomakerpic.jpgGeneral Schoomaker cnn_logo.gif

And we will have women in combat, credit Schoomaker, Peter J., General.

Perfect stealth operation.

06 Apr



Get Women Out of Combat

April 6, 2005 | By | 3 Comments


Elaine Donnelly, President of the Center for Military Readiness and I were in a meeting recently at the Pentagon with the Secretary of the Army, Francis Harvey and four-star General Richard Cody, Army vice chief of staff to discuss women in combat. We discussed with them new Army policies that are putting female soldiers in combat zones.

Ironically, our travels then took us near Tuba City, Arizona, home of Lori Piestewa, Army Private First Class, the first female soldier killed in Iraq. The news was full of coverage of the services commemorating the second anniversary of the ambush in which Lori was captured and eventually killed on March 23, 2003.

Amidst all of the honor rightly due to Lori, no one is asking a critical question. Why? Why was Lori — a woman and a mother — close enough to combat to stumble directly into the vicious hands of the enemy?

I’ll tell you why. And it’s not just because she was a soldier.

We have a noble and honorable tradition of sparing women and children from combat. It’s part of being a civilized culture. Some people cite female pilots from World War II as setting a precedent for putting women in combat. However, while those women did serve admirably in the war, they did not fly in combat zones and in combat missions.

President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Defense, the late Les Aspin, changed Defense Department policy in 1994 by removing “substantial risk of capture” from the regulations that defined a combat zone where women were not to be assigned.

Now, the Army is moving even further in the direction of assigning women to combat zones.

See this important article — Elaine lays out details.

Watch this space for more. And comments are open below.

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