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Monthly Archives: August 2015

New Army Chief of Staff Seems Lukewarm on Women in Combat

SUMMARY: New Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley is taking a very calculated approach to deciding whether to recommend any all-male combat roles remain closed to women. Milley is remaining quiet on his personal views, claiming to be “right on the line,” regarding this important decision. This will be one of the earliest decisions Milley makes in his capacity as Chief of staff, and may set an important trend for the rest of his term.

SOURCE: Robert Burns, August 22 2015, ‘New Army Chief ponders momentous decision on women in combat,’ Stars and Stripes, http://www.stripes.com/news/us/new-army-chief-ponders-momentous-decision-on-women-in-combat-1.364133  

Stop Saying Women Are More Prone to PTSD- it isn’t true

SUMMARY: A recent publication in the Journal of Psychiatric Research offers insight into the long-term mental health effects of military service for women and men. With over 2.7 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars affected by PTSD, examining the disorder is essential for re-integration and support mechanisms for veterans. A study examines 2300 pairs of men and women deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over seen years and found that 6.7% of women and 6.1% of men developed PTSD. This difference is apparently not “statistically significant.” This study debunks previous studies that allege that military women face a greater risk of PTSD, which generally has sampled data from the entire military population and not just combatants. This study also only focused on men and women with “no previous indications of PTSD,” hence the lower rate. The study author, Shira Maguen says “(Our study) bodes very well for women not only in leadership but also women in lower ranks… women have been doing this for many years now. What we should be focusing on is abilities and readiness.”

SOURCE: Robert Gebelhoff, August 21 2015, ‘Military women are at the same risk of PTSFD as men, study finds,’ The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2015/08/21/military-women-are-at-the-same-risk-of-ptsd-as-men-study-finds/

These Women Hope the Debate about Women in Combat is Over

SUMMARY: Former Lieutenant General David Barno and Dr Nora Bensahel, an academic at the School of International Service at American University, write about the recent Ranger graduation and the continuing debate about women in combat. Their main submission is that the “monumental milestone” should “end the debate about whether women are capable of serving in all combat positions.” With only 3% of all US military members earning the Ranger tab, the achievements of First Lieutenant Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver truly shatter the “brass ceiling” and prove that women can meet the toughest standards.

SOURCE: David Barno and Nora Bensahel, August 20 2015, ‘Female Rangers Should End the Debate About Women in Combat,’ Time, http://time.com/4004571/female-rangers-should-end-the-debate-about-women-in-combat/

Does Attention to Female Rangers’ Graduation Rewrite Past Women out of Combat?

SUMMARY: While the achievements of First Lieutenant Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver passing Ranger School demonstrate to the skeptics that women have the “military mettle” to serve in combat positions, women have been serving in combat (without the training) for years now. It is convenient political ammunition to use the graduation of the two female Ranger graduates to justify women’s participation in combat roles. However as Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak writes, it is a “little like making Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg go back and get their college degrees to prove they can make it in the marketplace.” The erasure of women’s combat narratives is commonplace, with Colonel Ellen Haring, one of two Army Reserve Officer’s who first sued the Defense Department and Army for barring women from combat units, claiming that “over 1000 women have been killed or injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

SOURCE: Petula Dvorak, August 20 2015, ‘Ranger School reality check: Women have been fighting – and dying- alongside combat units for years,’ The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/ranger-school-reality-check-women-have-been-fighting-and-dying-alongside-ranger-units-for-years/2015/08/20/1faf0a6c-4741-11e5-8ab4-c73967a143d3_story.html

After Two Women Graduate from Ranger School- what’s left to debate about women in combat?

SUMMARY: Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine Corps captain and founder of Service Women’s Action Network, writes, “women are ready for combat.” As women have already been serving in combat effectively for the last 13 years during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, women have the capabilities to fight. Since 2013 when the Pentagon announced the rescission of the combat exclusion policy, more than 100 women have passed the Marine Corps’ infantry school and two female officers have now passed Ranger school. Bhagwati creates a succinct analogy that encapsulates the current position of women in the US forces, “not allowing female Rangers to serve in Ranger regiments is like surviving the trial of medical school and being told that you can’t be a doctor.” The most important strategies that Bhagwati calls for are; gender-neutral physical fitness standards, all occupations opened without exceptions, and a fully integrated training program in the Marine Corps.

Jude Eden who joined the Marines in 2004 and is a female combat veteran of the Iraq war, provides a counter-view for the retention of combat exclusion for women. Eden cites higher injury rates, attrition rates and non-deployability as “risks compromising missions.” The focus on mission accomplishment seems to be from Eden’s personal experience on entry checkpoint duty in Fallujah in 2005, when insurgents targeted a convoy “almost certainly because they were transporting females.” This highly speculative assertion seems to be the basis of Eden’s protectionist stance on women in combat.

SOURCE: Anu Bhagwati, August 20 2015, ‘Retire the myths; Women are ready for combat,’ The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/08/20/should-women-serve-in-combat-roles/retire-the-myths-women-are-ready-for-combat
Jude Eden, August 20 2015, ‘Maintain the Combat Exclusion for Women in the Military,’ The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/08/20/should-women-serve-in-combat-roles/maintain-the-combat-exclusion-for-women-in-the-military

Canadian Military Crackdown on Band of Brother Culture

SUMMARY: The Canadian defence chief, General Jonathan Vance has formally signed orders intended to stamp out impropriety and harassment. Fifteen years ago the Canadian Forces would not have dreamt of passing an order that demands respecting one another, with threatening consequences. The order prohibits obvious offences of sexual misconduct, but then also targets behaviour that “perpetuate stereotypes and modes of thinking that devalue members on the basis of their sex, sexuality or sexual orientation.” It goes on to set a complaints procedure and timelines for action. A 1999 employment equity plan states, “The male identity of the organization is strongly evident through sexualized behaviors and norms, such as male attitudes of paternalism, sexist male talk, joking and innuendo and sexual harassment, in the day-to-day work environment.” The deeply entrenched ‘band of brothers’ mythology and masculinities in the “organizational culture” of the Canadian Armed Forces are the greatest obstacles to the integration and retention of women.

SOURCE: Murray Brewster, August 17 2015, ‘Military bans crude jokes, racy photos in sexual misconduct crackdown,’ The Globe and Mail, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/military-bans-crude-jokes-racy-photos-in-sexual-misconduct-crackdown/article25990911/

The Australian Defence Forces Urge Victims of Assault to Come Forward

SUMMARY: The Defence Abuse Response Taskforce has called for woman assaulted at ADFA to come forward, with the deadline extended to September 15 2015. Robert Cornall, head of the taskforce, has publicly stated that 55 women have lodged complaints about abuse at ADFA, including sexual assault and misconduct, doubling the 24 cases known about in the 1990s. The Labor Government set up the taskforce as part of a wave of reforms to the Australian Defence Force’s culture, and was always focused on ADFA assault claims. The taskforce has referred 201 cases to the police, and a further 131 to the Chief of the Defence Force for possible “disciplinary or administrative action,” and has also made nearly 1700 reparations payments of up to $50,000.

SOURCE: David Wroe, August 12 2015, ‘women victims of military academy abuse urged to come forward,’ The Sydney Morning Herald, http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/women-victims-of-military-academy-abuse-urged-to-come-forward-20150812-gixpr5.html

Women in Combat Roles Fight for Access to the Pill

SUMMARY: Active female members of the US military make up 15% of all active-duty service members, and the unintended pregnancy rate is 50% higher than their civilian counterparts. Dr Daniel Grossman, vice-president of research at Ibis Reproductive Health outlines that an unplanned pregnancy can be an obstacle to the career of a military woman. The US military has one of the most comprehensive health-care systems, Tricare, which covers most FDA approved contraceptives. However, the issue is more that contraceptive measures are simply not available to women while on active-duty. Both houses of congress are working on a bill that attempts to resolve the issue of contraception in the US military, which includes family planning education and counseling, and a provision of specific contraceptive for the entire duration of their deployment.

SOURCE: Michelle Andrews, August 11 2015, ‘Women in Combat Zones can have Trouble Getting Contraceptives,’ NPR, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/08/11/431382325/women-in-combat-zones-can-have-trouble-getting-contraceptives

Ukrainian Military Women on the Frontlines

SUMMARY: Ukraine has had a historical tradition of women in combat, for example women played an active role in the Red Army during WWII. Women however are still officially barred from front-line service in Ukraine’s regular army, yet many women have joined in civilian volunteer battalions that are integrated into the regular army or National Guard. Lera Burlakova quit her job as a journalist in December 2014 to serve as front-line soldier with a volunteer battalion in Pisky, but due to her unofficial status she has not received a salary since she joined the battalion, and is not eligible to receive awards and benefits available to combat veterans. Interestingly Burlakova explains that it is in some ways easier to be a woman on the front lines because there “was less of a stigma for a woman to admit fear.” Many Ukrainian women have been actively participating in combat, whether it is Dimitrova travelling to the front line to deliver supplies, or Julia who served in the trenches.

SOURCE: Nolan Peterson, August 11 2015, ‘Meet Ukraine’s Women Warriors,’ The Daily Signal, http://dailysignal.com/2015/08/11/meet-ukraines-women-warriors/

What do We Know About Military Sexual Trauma?

SUMMARY: Seven scholars from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies were supported by the US Department of Defense to conduct a longitudinal study on the potential effects of sexual trauma in the military. The publication begins with a succinct introduction, highlighting the relevance of studying the effect of military sexual misconduct, as the health and social impacts for victims and perpetrators has the capacity to effect mission capability. The focus of the study is therefore limited to the “association of sexual trauma with health and occupational outcomes,” such as military operational readiness. Data was obtained from the Millennium Cohort Study, launched in 2001 to prospectively evaluate the impact of military service on the health of US Service members. This study examined the responses of 13,001 US service women from all military branches, with 10.5% reporting recent sexual harassment and 2.9% reporting recent sexual assault. The key findings were that women who experienced sexual misconduct (harassment and assault) were more likely to report poorer mental health and physical health and low work capacity due to poor emotional health.

The study goes on to determine:

  • Recent sexual harassment was associated with demotion (however, this association was not present for those who reported sexual assault).
  • Sexual trauma is a potential threat to military operational readiness.
  • There is an urgent need “introduce prevention strategies and services to reduce the burden of sexual trauma on military victims.”

SOURCE: Jeffrey Millegan et al. (2015) ‘Recent Sexual Trauma and Adverse Health and Occupational Outcomes Among US Service Women,’ Journal of Traumatic Stress 28(1) October, pp. 1 -9.