Permissible Arms

Clamoring atop the wall

Posted in us military by Karaka on 10 November 2009

More on the subject of women–specifically American women serving in the US military–some recent pieces I’ve cobbled together.

First, Boston University has an interview posted with Marine Gunnery Sergeant Patricia Chapman, BU’s new ROTC instructor.

Are female soldiers finding themselves increasingly on the front lines?

In Iraq and Afghanistan, there is really no front line. Even on base, we weren’t safe, because we’d get incoming mortar rounds. Our motor pool took a couple of rounds when we were prepping for a convoy. The front lines are as soon as you step out the gate.

Women are still limited in what we can do as far as infantry roles. On my second tour, I spent time with an infantry unit that was posted at the entrance to a city known for an al-Qaeda cell and other terror groups. They would use females as smugglers. In Iraqi and Arab culture, no man’s allowed to touch a woman other than her husband, so we searched the women as they went through the checkpoints. Large amounts of cash were one of the biggest things we were looking for. We’d find thousands of dollars, and you knew it was probably going toward IED materials.

And, not unrelatedly, this piece from Reuters, Women Marines want a chance outside the Afghan wire:

But those are trivial considerations when it comes to their sincere desire to join the grunts on the frontline if the Pentagon suddenly changed its rules.

“If somebody came and said, ‘do you want to be a grunt today?’, hell yes, I’d jump at the chance to go,” Birker said.

Jones quickly agreed. “I’ll get my M-203, let’s go,” she said, referring to a grenade launcher which can be attached to a rifle.

From Attrition, Girls With Guns Get It Done:

Still, the casualty rate for women in Iraq is over ten times what it was in World War II, Vietnam and the 1991 Gulf War. A lot of the combat operations experienced by women in Iraq involves base security, or guard duty. Female troops have performed well in that. This is a job that requires alertness, attention to detail and ability to quickly use your weapons when needed. In convoy operations, women have also done well, especially when it comes to spotting, and dealing with, IEDs (roadside bombs and ambushes). Going into the 21st century, warfare is becoming more automated, and less dependent on muscle and testosterone. That gives women an edge, and they exploit it, just as they have done in so many other fields.

I think the most important thread in all these pieces is the notion that women are already experiencing combat, in wars where there are no front lines.

I quite liked this article from All Business, A Woman’s Place Is at the Pentagon:

But there is, too, the less discussed reality that the Pentagon is at heart an institution that is in the business of war, and women are not permitted to be on the front lines of combat. That raises the question of whether women can truly rise to the top echelons of the Department of Defense. “I think in some numbers, the answer is yes. As a class, it will not be until we recognize that women are able to do, by and large, all that their compatriots can do, as long as they are held to the same standard, that you will see a true shift,” Hicks says. “I think the appetite is there.”

Of note, Kate Hoit’s documentary, Women of the Military. Kate Hoit, a female soldier, comes home from Iraq, discovers that America has a distorted view of women in the military, and makes a documentary to tell the truth of what it’s really like to be a woman in today’s military.


I wish I could watch this movie. Second to last, a couple quick notes on female veterans:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

And finally, I keep coming back to these images over and over again from Life magazine on women during WWII. Incredible.

A WAVE Takes Target Practice

A WAVE Takes Target Practice


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