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GI Jane: the Dying and the Controversy Continue

Sunday, 20 March 2005 12:00 AM

Furthermore, the controversy of how the Department of Defense is handling women in combat has not been laid to rest, but still festers.

At the heart of the issue: although women in combat aircraft and women in the military police are formally sanctioned by Congress, the gentler sex is still by law and regulation prohibited from direct ground combat units that close with the enemy.

That historic prohibition includes having female troops in forward support units - getting beans, bullets and bandages to the fighting troops – where such units are integrated with the ground combat troops.

The specific language as approved in 1994: women are barred "where units and positions are doctrinally required to physically collocate and remain with direct ground combat units that are closed to women."

However, a "Women in the Army" point paper, dated Jan. 24 and originating from the office of the secretary of the Army, says women (such as those in forward support companies) are only prohibited from units, "which routinely collocate with those units conducting an assigned direct ground combat mission."

Elaine Donnelly, who heads the watchdog Center for Military Readiness (CMR), says the addition of the word "conducting" suggests that if the combat battalion is not in the midst of fighting, it can collocate with mixed-sex support units.

This is not Army policy as approved by Congress, she argued recently in a five-page letter to Pentagon Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz - asking for an investigation.

Donnelly expands on the theme to NewsMax:

"During and after a Feb. 16 meeting with the new Army Secretary Francis Harvey and the Vice Chief, Gen. Richard Cody, an associate and I found out what the change in wording means:

"Does that make sense? No, it does not," Donnelly answers her own rhetorical question.

"This plan guarantees that all sides, both men and women, will be angry with anyone who tries to enforce it," Donnelly adds. "Just imagine an infantry/armor battalion commander standing up in front of a mixed-gender support group, telling the men that they will go forward to the battle, but the women will not.

"Even if the hapless commander wanted to execute such a ludicrous plan, there would be no helicopters and vehicles to accomplish evacuation of the women."

Notes Donnelly: Evacuating 24 fully loaded female soldiers would require two Blackhawk helicopters, six Huey helicopters, one Chinook helicopter, two 5-ton trucks, or 12 fully-crewed up-armored humvees - assets that cannot be spared on the eve of battle.

"The ensuing turmoil in the ranks would render the collocation rule virtually meaningless. That would suit Army planners who said in a November 29 briefing that they wanted to eliminate the rule, despite prior assurances to Congress that they had no intention of doing so."

CMR is also upset at what it perceives as more subtle but nonetheless dramatic in consequence official action: The Army has quietly dropped several types of units from the list of ‘direct ground combat' units required to be all-male.

"They have done so without the legally required notice to Congress," challenges Donnelly. "That's news that no one, except CMR, has reported."

"The Army is setting itself up for endless complications that could cost lives and undermine discipline in the only military we have," Donnelly suggests to NewsMax.

"The Marine Corps is at risk too, since the Army's redefinition of DoD rules is sure to be applied to the Corps in the name of ‘consistency.' None of this seems to matter to the generals I have spoken to, who seem primarily interested in promoting the careers of a few female officers, including their own daughters.

"The big question is, what will the President, the Secretary of Defense, and/or Congress do to bring the Army back into compliance with law, policy, and the wishes of the commander-in-chief?"

"The Army is in compliance with the policy," countered Col. Joseph Curtin, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon in a recent statement to the Washington Times. "Senior Army and DoD officials met with Miss Donnelly recently to hear her concerns. We continue and will continue to keep the Department of Defense informed of any changes."

"We believe the Army is in compliance," Lt. Col. Joe Richard, a spokesman for the Pentagon's top personnel official told the Times. Department of Defense "reviews of the policy have not identified conflict between Army concept and current policies and statutes."

And perhaps most pointedly, Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey told the chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees in correspondence in January: "No change to the extant policy is required."

Ironically, the Army drafted the controversial new ("unofficial") language in the regulation barring women in certain combat-support units just 11 days later.

Donnelly maintains that the Army's official rejoinders are nothing but smoke and mirrors, pointing to the reality of what's going on in the field. She highlights the dilemma of the 3rd Infantry Division, presently engaged in Iraq. She notes that the Division is skirting hard-and-fast policy by shifting women in and out of forward support companies depending on the level of fighting.

Why all the apparent subterfuge?

Recently, the Washington Times pointed out in a report that if the Army obeys standards set out in the policy - and keeps the forward support companies as it was ordered to do - it would simply not have enough soldiers to fill the companies.

In the meantime, Donnelly – an army of one - keeps hard at it:

"The Army keeps adjusting its ‘story' and coming up with new excuses for changing the DoD collocation rule, which they insist they have not changed at all," she tells NewsMax. "It is classic doublethink and deception."


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Furthermore, the controversy of how the Department of Defense is handling women in combat has not been laid to rest, but still festers. At the heart of the issue: although women in combat aircraft and women in the military police are formally sanctioned by Congress, the...
Sunday, 20 March 2005 12:00 AM
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