Monday, December 1, 2008

Pvt Monica Brown

Yesterday, CBS aired a 60 Minutes story on Pvt Monica Brown, the second woman to be awarded the Silver Star since WWII. Pvt Brown, an Army medic, was awarded the medal for her bravery in risking her life by running through small arms and mortar fire to treat two critically wounded paratroopers, and shielding them with her body while they were evacuated. Both paratroopers survived. Pvt Brown was only 18-years old at the time, and had only 4 months training as a medic. Her story is a good one. If you missed it, you can check out the 60 Minutes story here.

Pvt Brown's story raises the question, again, whether women should be allowed in combat units. Now, being retired from the Air Force (and a woman) I have found no reason that women cannot perform just as well as men in a combat situation. There is no reason that women must be restricted from combat or front-line units (especially when there is no such thing as a "front line" in combat zones like Iraq or Afghanistan). Women are just as competent as men in stressful situations like combat. Just ask any stay-at-home Mom with an active toddler in the house.

Having said that women should be allowed in combat, I also have to say that I do not believe that physical requirements for combat units should be "gender-normed" just to allow women into the unit. In other words, if a woman can pass the same physical standards that the men are required to pass, she should be allowed to serve in a combat unit. If she can't pass, she shouldn't. It's that simple.

What do you think?

h/t GI Kate


Anonymous said...

I agree completely. No special circumstances or "gender-normed" requirements, but it's time (actually, well past time) to dump our military's double standard and let women into combat with front-line units.

Cheese said...

It's not about women being able to meet the standard so much as it is about men's reaction to women on the battlefield. Men, in all their pre-programed insanity, make stupid decisions that hurt the mission and could possibly hurt other Joes when there are women around. It's in their genes to protect women, even at the cost of male soldiers lives and the accomplishment of the mission. It's true. It ends up being less of a "no women" issue and more of a "only one gender in a combat unit" one.
Also, as an Infantrymen, I've lived in areas that would be very problematic for women, in a hygienic sense. This is not's a genuine observation from someone who saw female commo troops rotated back to the rear after a week or so.
I genuinely wish that women could integrate into our units, but the question is "at what cost?" This needs to be looked at as a needs of the military issue instead of what's more in line with women's rights.

lela said...

Cheese, I agree with you that every factor needs to be considered before actual integration of women into combat units. However, I don't see this as "women's rights" issue. I see it as an issue of using all best assets for the job, and sometimes women have assets that men do not; even for combat units. I know that for my generation (I'm a grandmother, you know) that the question of whether or not men would "protect" women in their unit, at the risk of either the mission or of other compatriots, would have been an issue. But most of us have retired and are certainly too old to serve in combat. Based on my observations of my daughter's and son's generation, though, (remember I had to lead some of them) I wonder if they have the same "hardwiring" to protect. They grew up under the influence of "women's rights" and Title IX and "we're all equal" attitudes. Based on my experience (and this is a generalization) men of this generation may not have the same "hardwired" need to protect all women (just their own). I think this is one more factor (along with hygiene) that should be considered.

Cheese said...

I hear ya. And let me go on the record as saying that I have seen exceptional acts of bravery by women. I have also seen a female medic give a man an IV while he had a violent "rectal evacuation" in a culvert in Ghazni.
I have seen how men react to women in combat units and to me, single gender units are the "best asset for the job." Office relationships can be deadly when the office can turn into a firefight. No matter how long dead chivalry may be, many Joes will give in to the "protect the girl" instinct when SHTF.
Morale drops when units become CO-ED.
Again, I have nothing but respect for my sisters in arms, and most of the faults that I see lie in my gender, but I still can't support females in my Infantry company.

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