Tags: Army | Chief | Staff | Endorses | Women | 'Warriors'

Army Chief of Staff Endorses Women 'Warriors'

Wednesday, 13 April 2005 12:00 AM

On Monday Schoomaker gave a keynote address before the American Enterprise Institute detailing his perspectives on the Army's future.

During the question period, Schoomaker seemed to confirm the controversial bending by the Pentagon of the Congressionally-mandated no-females-collocated-with-land-combat-units rule during a Washington, D.C. speech.

Schoomaker answered a question from the floor about dealing with the traditional moral responsibility of protecting women this way:

"I think we have a moral responsibility to protect the weak regardless of gender, and I do not see this as a gender issue," Schoomaker said.

"First of all, we have a policy, and OSD policy, that says that we will not assign females to the infantry armor and Special Forces organizations that are trained, organized, and equipped to routinely close with and destroy the enemy. And we have an Army policy that adds to that, not an OSD policy, but an Army that adds to that [which] says

By Congressional mandate, women are not to be collocated with combat units at all.

But Gen. Schoomaker implied that, despite Congressional rules, women will indeed be collocated, but separated again before those units see combat.

Elaine Donnelly, president of the Committee for Military Readiness, a watchdog group that opposes women in combat, tells NewsMax that the telling language by the Army's top officer "confirms the new, unauthorized definition of the DoD regulation."

Donnelly said Pentagon regulation clearly and "without qualification exempts female soldiers from assignments in support units that ‘collocate' with land combat units such as the infantry and armor."

She notes the clever legerdemain by the Pentagon on the collocation rule has directly led to the dramatic increase in female casualties - a number that far outstrips the casualties seen in any previous U.S. war.

Donnelly has been for months now reminding the Congress, the President and the Pentagon via letters and petitions that current Defense Department regulations outright exempt female soldiers from land combat troops such as the infantry and from smaller support companies that collocate with them:

"If the Defense Department wants to change those rules, federal law requires formal notice to Congress 30 legislative days (approximately three months) in advance.

"Despite these directives, Army officials are implementing plans that would force female soldiers into smaller forward support companies, which operate with land combat troops 100 percent of the time.

"The Defense Department has sent out contradictory signals on this issue. Early in November 2004, several flag officers told congressional staffers that they had no intention of repealing the collocation rule. A different briefing by Human Resources Policy Director Col. Robert H. Woods, Jr. to Army Staff Director Lt. Gen. James Campbell, inside the Pentagon on November 29, called for elimination of the regulation.

Donnelly further notes that on January 13, Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey assured House Armed Service Chairman Duncan Hunter, R.-Calif., that the Army has not changed or violated Pentagon regulations. Eleven days later, however, the secretary's office prepared a ‘Women in the Army Point Paper' that indicates otherwise.

Argues Donnelly: "The four-page document - which is described as ‘unofficial' but is being implemented anyway - actually changes the wording and meaning of the Pentagon's collocation rule. It also alters the ‘gender codes' of 24 of 225 Army positions in a typical forward support company (FSC), opening up 10 percent of these previously all-male positions to women.

"This arbitrary change in status … clearly violates current Defense Department rules. FSCs differ from transportation and other support units that come and go intermittently. All soldiers are at risk, but FSC personnel are trained to operate in constant proximity with land combat troops that engage in deliberate offensive action against the enemy.

"Thirteen of the newly co-ed FSCs recently deployed to Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division. This does not violate the rules, officials say, because female soldiers will not be collocated with combat troops when the battle begins."

According to Donnelly, all this professed innocuous playing with words cast in supposedly hard-and-fast regulations "means that female soldiers will continue to be assigned to land-combat collocated support units, in violation of current DoD rules.

"The Army insists it doesn't have to report the rule change to Congress (as required by law) because the women will be evacuated on the eve of combat operations.

"This is already happening in the 3rd Infantry Division, recently re-deployed to Iraq, without authorization by the Secretary of Defense, and without official notice to Congress…," she said.

Donnelly suggests that the military is having difficulty recruiting because of this issue. Women are reluctant to join because of the higher death risk, and males because of questions over the practicality of women in combat.

During his AEC comments, Gen. Shoomaker said he did not see the female casualty issue as important independent of larger casualty issues.

"The realities of the battlefield are such that this is not an issue of whether or not women will become injured and maimed anymore than anybody else will, any more than children will or elderly or males," he said.

Schoomaker then suggested that improving female "warrior skills" might be a factor in reducing casualties.

"The fact is that I think we have a moral responsibility to prepare those women that are serving in our armed forces to number one have the very best chance of surviving by providing them with the warrior skills and tasks that are required, and number two make sure that as we operate in such a way that reduces the probability that any soldier will be placed in a position to be injured or killed. So that's kind of the way that I approach that."

But Schoomaker was put on the spot with a question about the possible dilemma faced by men in uniform who are naturally and by moral code bound to protect women – even their fellow soldiers on the battlefield.

Schoomaker responded: "I think you're going in the direction of conscientious objectors kind of status. I mean something that would be similar to that, and I don't see that as ... I mean, you know, there are some people that would say men and women can't even share the same tornado shelter in Oklahoma.

"There's quite a wide spectrum here on what all this means… If you were to ask me a different question, which I don't want to go into here today, you know, do I agree with all of that, that's another issue. When I'm out of uniform, I'll share that with you."

Schoomaker was more at ease when talking about general manpower needs of the Army in the age of terrorism:

"[I]n the decade of the '90s, as I say over the last 15 years, the Army, the active Army, had been cut 30,000 soldiers on the active force. And, you know, I equate that to going and cutting down trees. It's easy. You know gravity helps you.

"But now grow back 30,000 oak trees. That takes time. And there will be people that want us to grow mesquite and pine all kinds of stuff, you know, that might grow faster, but that's not the way to do it. We've got to grow back and invest in oak trees, 'cause in the long term that's what it's going to take for us to - and this nation can afford to do that, should do that, and I'm very, very proud of the fact that it will."

Schoomaker was more at ease when talking about general manpower needs of the Army in the age of terrorism:

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On Monday Schoomaker gave a keynote address before the American Enterprise Institute detailing his perspectives on the Army's future. During the question period, Schoomaker seemed to confirm the controversial bending by the Pentagon of the Congressionally-mandated...
Army,Chief,Staff,Endorses,Women,'Warriors'
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Wednesday, 13 April 2005 12:00 AM
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