Friday, May 09, 2008

So Good, You Have to Stop

I'm going to get a little dark and heavy here. First, a little background. I was in Civil Air Patrol, the Air Force auxiliary in high school. I have relatives who are or have been members of the Army and the Navy. So, while clearly I do not have combat experience, I understand a lot about how the military works on a protocol level.
When I applied to the Air Force Academy, my dream job was to be able to become a fighter pilot (with a major in psychology). In 1991, the Air Force was the only branch where that was a possibility, although the Navy opened up fighter pilot positions to women later that year.
I have read a lot about World War II and the various fights that went on about letting women into the military - when at that time they weren't even leaving the US, they were just ferrying planes around since they were getting shot out of the air faster than they could be built.
So, I understand that at the time, when women were finally allowed to attend military academies, finally allowed to serve, that the decision to keep them away from combat was a compromise. But, I think the time has come. I think now we are putting more people in danger by trying to, adhere to this, to say nothing of creating a glass ceiling that limits women's advancement in the military. Everything I have heard and read about the combat situations the military typically faces today indicates that situations that seem non-combative, rapidly and unexpectedly become so. And particularly when we are in cultures where it creates problems for men to question or examine local women, having women on the team is an asset. (Yes there are also accompanying challenges too.) But is it realistic to expect that any females in a unit can just stay back should things get dicey? Is that fair to the team (male and female)? And is it realistic?
I think not. And I present to you the following story. Army Specialist Monica Brown serves as a medic on her team. They are currently in Afghanistan. Brown's team was travelling when a bomb exploded under one of the Humvees. Insurgents began firing on the team. She was instrumental in gathering and treating wounded team members, and dragging them back to safety, earning herself a Silver Star. And then, the publicity surrounding her heroic actions, led to her being pulled from her team since she had been in the proximity of combat.
One of the concerns raised is that females would present a more special target for kidnapping. I assume that is because either it is assumed that a female's team would feel especially bad or because of seeming higher risk of sexual torture. I would argue that it is a little insulting to members of any unit to assume they don't feel badly when any team member is captured. I would also suggest that, unfortunately, it is not any easier or harder to sexually torture anyone. That is why we hope that people don't get captured, and that if they do, those who hold them will follow the rules established by the Geneva Convention.
So, back to Brown. Here we have someone who was doing their job with excellence. And her excellence earned her recognition. And that recognition led to her being given a promotion, an award, and a new assignment. Unfortunately, the new assignment is somewhere else. She was not given the opportunity to stay with the team she had been working with, since they had experienced combat.

Thanks to ChaliceChick for the link to the story.