Warrior Women - a discussion piece

Ageing_Gracefully

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In conjunction with the review on Warrior Women, the authors and Flint Management have brought a piece on Women in Warfare for discussion. If you wish to comment please read the review on Warrior Women first so that your thoughts are focussed on the subject! :)

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Rosalind Miles and Robin Cross are a husband and wife team with individual, extremely successful careers. Both are Oxford scholars with, between them, extensive experience in woman’s issues and military history. Rosalind was educated at Oxford, Birmingham and Leicester Universities, holds 5 degrees and was declared an “Alien of Extraordinary Ability” in the USA. Rosalind has worked in TV, magazines, consultancies to business on diversity and women’s issues as well as being an acclaimed author of both fiction and non-fiction. Robin has considerable experience in journalism, working with John Keegan at the Daily Telegraph, as part of the team reporting on the Gulf War in 1990-91 and military history, working as consultant editor on John Keegan’s History of the Second World War and General Sir John Hackett’s Warfare in the Ancient World. Robin has written VE Day: Victory in Europe; Citadel : The Battle of Kursk; In Memoriam : Remembering the Great War (in association with IWM) and Hitler : A Biography. Robin and Rosalind have collaborated previously on Hell Hath No Fury.

They bring their considerable experience together to write Warrior Women: 3000 Years of Courage and Heroism and introduce this feature to open discussion on the subject of Women and Warfare.

SEX AND THE SERVICES

In Hollywood in the 1940s they call it “Subject A”. In today’s modern, integrated armed forces the topic does not loom quite so large, but the question of sex is nevertheless guaranteed to furrow a few brows. Not least in the US Army, which has led the way in the implementation of gender-neutral soldiering.

In the initial deployment of the NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) to Bosnia-Herzegovina in early 1996, there were some 1500 female US troops. Men and women shared tents with room for up to ten. Ranks were mixed, and privates occupied beds next to superiors. The troops were not allowed to drink alcohol or eat in restaurants, but if they were single, they were allowed to have sex provided that it was not with a subordinate or superior in their chain of command. A spokesman explained that the US Army did not prohibit heterosexual relations between consenting adults but did not provide facilities for sexual relations. In the event, the lack of official facilities proved no obstacle to human nature.

The problem of non-consensual sex in the US Army was highlighted in 1997, three years after women were integrated into basic- training groups, by the scandal at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in which a number of male drill instructors were found guilty, after a military trial, of raping female trainees. The verdicts were followed by similar charges from elsewhere in the Army and led to major investigations into sexual misconduct. In the First Gulf War of 1990-91, in which over 11 per cent of those on active duty were women, the US Army recorded 24 incidents it characterised as sexual assaults.

The US Navy’s first gender-integrated warship was the carrier Eisenhower, which in 1994 included 415 women among its crew of some 5,000. The arrival of the women prompted expensive modifications to Eisenhower’s living quarters: gynaecologists were brought on board to treat specifically female conditions; the ship’s barbers were retrained to cut women’s hair. And Eisenhower stocked up on contraceptives. Elaborate care was taken to anticipate every eventuality except, it would seem, the most obvious one. Before Eisenhower set sail. 24 women were deemed “non-deployable” because they were pregnant and another 15 were evacuated once the carrier was at sea. The US Navy remained adamant that this did not affect operational efficiency.

Fast forward to January 2010 when Major-General Anthony Cucolo, the commander of US forces in Iraq, rescinded the decision of his predecessor in the theatre to discipline troops who became pregnant or impregnated someone. Cucolo declared, “I’ve got a mission to do. I’m given a finite number of soldiers with which to do it, and I need every one of them”.

Between January 2003 and February 2009, 121 women deployed by the British Army to Iraq were sent home because they were pregnant, and 31 from Afghanistan. Soldier magazine ran a series of ads urging women soldiers deployed to combat zones to take precautions, prompting Tory MP and former Territorial officer Patrick Mercer to comment, “One wonders why this sort of advice has only been used now”. Condoms are regularly issued at key bases like Camp Bastion, in Helmand province, where some 9,000 troops are stationed, of whom about eight per cent are women. Lieutenant-Colonel Robin Matthews observed, “Together, both servicemen and women face an uncertain future and, as those bonds of war strengthen, inevitably relationships will develop”.
Warrior Womenis published by Quercus and can be bought from Amazon by clicking here.

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