Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Women in Combat: The Younger Generation

After reading the discussion hosted at Feministing and these two articles (1, 2), my Social Science students (all seniors) and I had a discussion about the role of women in the military, and it was really suprising to me. Even my conservative-to-the-core students felt that the policy that bars women from direct combat units and the new push to eliminate women from any position that could be involved in combat was just silly. Women, they argued, are just as cut out for combat as men, and as long as they are held to the same standards, they should be allowed to take part in at least combat support. Now is not the time, my students argued, for the Army to be removing 15% of its force from what the MSNBC article refers to as a '360 degree war.' The point was also made in our discussion that the military would know better than the politicians about what is possible or not possible with female soldiers, as well as their abilities to hold their own. This is evident in the fact that the army is currently skirting the 'women cannot be assigned to combat' rule by instead assigning women to 'attached' units. I would like to highlight a portion of the MSNBC article, as it shows just how the Army is using women in Iraq, and how these women are breaking barriers and changing minds:

Spec. Shavodsha Hodges, 29, of San Antonio, says she joined the Army because her GI husband encouraged her to. She is a veteran of the 2003 Iraq invasion and well into her second year in a war zone. She and about 100 other women make up 20 percent of Provancha's logistics battalion in Mosul. They serve as truck and Stryker drivers, medics, mechanics and supply soldiers like Hodges who conduct between 50 and 70 convoy missions a month. Ferrying critical goods from Mosul to outlying bases on the precarious roads of northern Iraq, Hodges has developed keen instincts.

On Oct. 29, she was in a supply convoy heading out of the hostile town of Tall Afar, near the Syrian border. "We were told to watch out for an Iraqi national in black," she recalled. "Within seconds we were hit with an IED," or improvised explosive device, the military's term for a roadside bomb.

As her Humvee began to roll over, Hodges reached over and grabbed the legs of Pfc. Gregory Burchett, who was manning a .50-caliber machine gun. She pulled him down from the hatch and into the vehicle just before it flipped, saving him from being crushed.Burchett was disoriented and moaning in pain. His face was bleeding from multiple shrapnel wounds and he couldn't move his arm. Hodges helped him out of the vehicle, but almost as soon they climbed out they came under small-arms fire from insurgents 200 yards away.

"Stay down!" Hodges yelled. Cradling Burchett's head in her lap, she lay forward over his upper body to shield him from the bullets. "Don't get up!" she said, twice sheltering the gunner from enemy rounds.

Meanwhile, the Humvee's commander, Staff Sgt. Armando Mejia, had his hand trapped under the vehicle. After the shooting stopped, Hodges and other soldiers pushed it up enough to free him. Only later did she realize that she, too, was injured.

For her quick thinking and bravery in the ambush, Hodges became the first woman in her brigade to be awarded the Army Commendation Medal with "V" device, for "valorous conduct" that "saved the lives of her fellow soldiers."

I'm pretty sure that the soldiers in Spec. Hodges unit would reject the idea that women are incapable of doing the job and staying cool. But what do I know, I'm only a veteran and I'm not stuck in the Victorian Era as some of our politicians seem to be.
< Blogarama