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Getting Women Into Combat May Still Take 2 Years

SUMMARY: Military officials in a new Government Accountability Office Report predict it will take up to two years to recruit, assess, train, test and assign women in combat positions. The report calls for the Pentagon to develop long-term integration plans, as evidence comes forward that top Pentagon civilian leaders have no plans to monitor or follow-up implementation of the policies when they come to effect in January 2016. The report also stated, “Without ongoing monitoring of the services’ and [Special Operations Command’s] implementation progress in integrating previously closed positions and occupations, it will be difficult for DoD to have visibility over the extent to which the services and SOCOM are overcoming potential obstacles to integration.’ In response to the GAO report, the Pentagon is formulating a monitoring system. The Army and Marine Corps are examining five areas of concern; women’s health; equipment and gear; modifications to military facilities; and level of interest among women (propensity).

SOURCE: Andrew Tilghman, July 29 2015, ‘ GAO: Getting women into combat jobs may take 2 years’ Military Times, http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/pentagon/2015/07/29/women-combat-gao/30833623/

Marine Commander Germano’s case catches Senate’s attention

SUMMARY: The recent dismissal of Marine Commander Lieutenant Colonel Kate Germano has gained the attention of various senators in congress, including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, longtime advocate of military sexual assault prevention and gender integration. Germano was dismissed for apparently creating a “hostile, unprofessional and abusive” command climate during her tiem as head of the 4th Recruit Training Battalion. Gillibrand questioned Lieutenant General Robert Neller on July 23rd, during the Marine Corps’ commandant’s nominee confirmation hearing. This hearing was with regard to women’s integration in close combat units. The Marine Corps Times reports claims that Germano’s dismissal is an “example of a way female Marines are encouraged to underachieve,” however the Marine Corps maintains that the dismissal was a result of Germano’s poor leadership and not a gender-based issue.

Clearly more information is needed and we look forward to finally hearing more from Germano herself on this in time.

SOURCE: Hope Hodge Seck, July 28 2015, ‘Fired Marine Officer’s case gets Senate attention,’ Marine Corps Times, http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/story/military/2015/07/28/fired-marine-officers-case-gets-senate-attention/30746639/

Where do Special Forces Stand on Women in Combat?

SUMMARY: Leaders of the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) are split on their position on women in combat in the military, but more specifically, women in special operations. Army General James Votel, who has led SOCOM since August 2014 has supported women in combat, provided they meet existing standards. Retired Admiral Eric Olson, SOCOM commander from 2007 – 2011, sidestepped the question of standards to raise issues with women taking “the first bullet on target” and selective service. On the matter of selective service, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James was supportive of women registering.

So where does SOCOM stand? What has it learnt from deploying female teams with Special Forces for years in Afghanistan (see https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2015-08-12/true-grit)? Will SOCOM ask for exceptions to the combat exclusion on October 1st?

SOURCE: Richard Sisk, July 28 2015, ‘Current and Past SOCOM Commanders Split on Women in Combat,’ Military Times, http://www.military.com/daily-news/2015/07/28/current-and-past-socom-commanders-split-on-women-in-combat.html

New Book ‘Women at War’

SUMMARY: Retired Army Colonel Elspeth Cameron Ritchie and Army National Guard Colonel Anne Naclerio have edited a book published by Oxford University Press titled, ‘Women at War.’ The book examines data on the effects of war and military service on women, especially in the areas of health, family, interpersonal relationships, financial stability and career advancement. The book features 19 chapters written by 40 contributors, with extensive academic research and scope – comes examples are illness and mortality rates of women in Iraq and Afghanistan, PTSD, reproductive health, motherhood in wartime and homecomings. Ritchie who was deployed to Iraq said, “women don’t want to admit they have different needs than men do,” which is partly the reason the book examines many of the unspoken issues such as birth control, sex, disease, death and reproductive concerns.

SOURCE: Patricia Kime, July 27 2015, ‘New book explores women’s challenges in combat zones,’ Military Times, http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/2015/07/24/new-book-explores-womens-challenges-combat-zones/30620555/

Women in the US Armed Forces who face Reproductive Malpractice have no legal recourse

SUMMARY: Dov Fox, Associate Professor of Law at the University of San Diego and Alex Stein, Law Professor from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University, write about the legal loophole that prevents military personnel suing military hospitals and staff for negligent prenatal care. This is a serious limitation for these female service-members ‘to exercise their reproductive rights.’ A recent case involved an active-duty Air Force service-member, Captain Heather Ortiz, who was admitted to a military hospital to deliver her baby (I.O.) by C-section. The hospital staff incorrectly administered drugs that reduced Ortiz’s blood pressure causing oxygen deprivation in utero and ultimately severe brain damage to the baby. The Court rejected the lawsuit but commented on the unfairness of the ‘Supreme Court Doctrine,’ which exempts the US government from liability for personal injuries related to military service, or in legal jargon, injuries ‘incident to service.’ The doctrine emerged in the 1950s case Feres v US, where the courts reasoned that the Veterans Benefit Act sufficiently governs compensation for personal injuries for service-members. However, this precedent does not give baby I.O. standing as she is a civilian child not a veteran. Even more strangely, had Heather Ortiz been a civilian wife to a service-member, this doctrine would not have applied. Even if the immunity stays in place, Fox and Stein suggest a congressional fund to compensate children whose disabilities are caused by negligence of military facilities.

SOURCE: Dov Fox and Alex Stein, July 2 2015, ‘Reproductive Malpractice and the U.S. Military,’ Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dov-fox/reproductive-malpractice-and-the-us-military_b_7706980.html

US Laws prevent family members suing the Military

SUMMARY: Jonathan Ritchie, husband of an active service member, has unsuccessfully sued the military for medical negligence. Pregnant January Ritchie was serving in Hawaii during 2006 when medical practitioners advised her to limit physical activity in order to reduce the risk of miscarriage. Ritchie’s chain of command however directed her to perform her regular duties, which included standing for long hours and physical training. Ritchie went into premature labor and lost her baby soon after his birth. The federal court upheld the Feres doctrine, which prevents active duty troops from claiming damages for any action related to their military service, even though January’s husband Jonathan brought the claim. This narrative has become all too familiar. A pentagon review of the military health system has shown that the average rate of injuries to babies during delivery in military hospitals between 2010 and 2013 are twice the national average. This is a worrying trend; especially since a 1950s precedent is ‘just another way for the government to not be held accountable for the actions of the people who have been hired by the federal government,’ according to National Commander for Women’s Veteran’s of America Mary Ross.

SOURCE: Patricia Kime, July 5 2015, ‘Law prevents some family members from suing the military,’ Military Times, http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/benefits/health-care/2015/07/05/feres-doctrine-military-service-women-children/29570329/

Key Facts about Military Suicide

SUMMARY: A study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that Army soldiers between 2004 and 2009, especially new enlistees, women and troops diagnosed with mental health disorders are at a higher risk for self-harm. A total of 9,500 soldiers attempted suicide according the Defense Department Suicide Event Reports, with 676 soldiers dying by suicide. Dr Robert Ursano, lead author and chairman of the psychiatry department at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Science, has spoken about the importance of understanding suicide attempts during a period of high intensity operations, the study will hopefully be useful for future operations and peacetime service.

The other findings were:

  • 99% of suicide attempts between 2004 and 2009 were made by enlisted personnel, who make up 84% of the forces
  • Enlisted soldiers and officers were more at risk for attempting suicide if they entered service at age 25 or older.
  • Risk was particularly elevated during the first tour of duty, notably in the first few months of service.
  • Personnel who received a mental health diagnosis were at risk for attempting suicide within a month of getting the news.
  • Non-Hispanic Caucasians were at higher risk than minorities.

SOURCE: Patricia Klime, July 8 2015, ‘Study: Junior Troops, women more likely to try suicide,’ Military Times, http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/benefits/health-care/2015/07/08/jamapsychiatry-army-starrs-study-suicide-attempts/29857623/

British Army’s shocking sexual assault report

SUMMARY: A new study of 7000 female British Army soldiers reveals that almost 40% of servicewomen were victims of sexual harassment in 2014, with less than 3% formally reporting the incident. One third of the women claimed that they had received inappropriate efforts to talk about sexual matters, with 12% claiming they received unwelcome advances to touch them. More than two thirds of these women claimed the incident occurred at their base or within their training unit. With only 15, 780 women in the British Armed Forces, this report reveals that sexual misconduct in the military is not limited to a few countries, but is pervasive in military culture around the world.

SOURCE: Rose Troup Buchanan, July 14 2015, ‘4 in 10 women in the military victims of sexual harassment, new survey finds,’ The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/almost-40-per-cent-of-female-servicewomen-victims-of-sexual-harassment-new-survey-finds-10386742.html

Did the Marine Corps shoot itself in the foot by dismissing female commander?

SUMMARY: Lynn Lowder, is a Silver Star recipient and Marine Corps Reconnaissance veteran, who writes about the recent dismissal of Lieutenant Colonel Kate Germano, Commanding Officer of the Marine Corps’ all-female training battalion. The Corps apparently has struggled “against its own culture” due to “systematic gender bias – even in the higher echelons of command.” Germano has 19 years of combat tours, recruiting tours, an assignment as the Secretary of the Navy’s aide de camp and a successful run as commander of the all-female training battalion, under her belt. Specifically while commander of the training battalion, Germano increased female first-time rifle qualification scores from 68% to 91%. The dismissal is according to Lowder, “vilification,” and reflects the Corps’ poor attitude towards successful integration of women.

SOURCE: Lynn Lowder, July 20 2015, ‘Once more the Marine Corps screws up when dealing with female Marines,’ Foreign Policy,https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/07/20/once-more-the-marine-corps-screws-up-when-dealing-with-female-marines/

No ongoing monitoring of women’s combat integration

SUMMARY: The July Government Accountability Office report reveals that DoD does not have an integration strategy after January 2016, when combat positions will be opened to women. There is some investigation into integration challenges, such as unit cohesion, women’s health and facilities. The report goes on to claim, “without ongoing monitoring of integration progress, it will be difficult for DoD to help the services overcome potential obstacles.’

SOURCE: Ryan McDermott, July 21 2015, ‘DoD doesn’t have plans to monitor women in combat positions past 2016,’ Fierce Government, http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/dod-doesnt-have-plans-monitor-women-combat-positions-past-2016/2015-07-21

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