They Are Here to Stay

By Major Van Harl USAF Ret.

I was reading an article by a female columnist who had met two young women in an airport restroom. Both of these young females were applying large amounts of cosmetics to their bodies. They explained they had spent the last three months in Army basic training and had both been discharged early for medical reasons. They were excited to be able to once again use the feminine beauty products that had been denied them by their Army drill sergeant.

They were young and probably a little immature and the columnist was not impressed with the quality of these former female Army recruits. She then went on to debate with herself the issue of the ever-growing presence of women in the US military.

This is not up for discussion, it is a done deal and they are here to stay. No, they are not in the infantry, and as a former Army trained infantry officer I would suggest that they should not be. However, just look at the role of the Army Military Police (MP) in Iraq and tell me women are not in direct combat. They are, and they are fighting and dying alongside of their fellow "cops."

Army National Guard and Reserve units are converting from other career fields to MPs. This means more women patrolling the streets of Baghdad.

I have a friend whose grand daughter joined an Illinois Army Guard MP company. Like many, she joined the National Guard for the educational benefits. She would be a graduating college senior this spring, but the Gulf War got in the way. She spent sixteen months in Iraq as a machine gun operator, riding in the exposed turret of a Humvee, patrolling the streets of Baghdad.

During this young veteran's deployment to the Gulf, my daughter and I sent her care packages. She came to visit our family after she got back from the war and brought another female MP with her. I met her for the first time as she arrived at the gate of Altus Air Force Base. They both wore dresses and looked like attractive college students.

The next morning when they got up they put on blue jeans and tops that I am sure I would not allow my daughter to wear. They now looked like high school girls. (Really good looking high school girls.) They were working very hard not to look like a couple of GIs just home from the war.

I took them to the Altus Club to have lunch with my wife and there were more than a number stares at my guests. They really stuck out in the crowd of camouflaged uniforms and flight suits. I am sure there were a number of people in the club that day who had deployed to the Gulf, but I would bet that there was nobody in that dining room who had been in as much close combat as my young lunch partners.

These two young women, who looked like they had just come from the mall, were seasoned combat veterans. They had been in numerous firefights and had inflicted death and destruction on the enemy. Our nation needed those two young veterans (regardless of their gender) and we need to keep them in our military.

I know they are smaller in stature then their male counterparts and, yes, this does create some problems. If I am laying on the battlefield wounded and two 110 pound female Medics show up to carry me to safety on a stretcher, I would have some severe reservations about them getting me back alive. On the other hand, if one of them were to radio for a medical evacuation helicopter and a female pilot shows up to extract my injured body, put me on that aircraft. I know that female pilot has the same training her male co-pilot has, maybe more depending on her rank (thank you, Captain Tammy).

Young college bound white boys are not flocking to the recruiters, even before the latest Gulf war. But women and minorities have learned something about the Department of Defense; in the job world, the military is the most level playing field in our country. It does not matter if you are a black female with a Spanish surname. You get the same money and benefits as the males. And if you are the senior ranking military member you get to be in charge, regardless of your gender or ethnic background. That is what my wife the Colonel tells me.

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Copyright 2005, 2016 by Major Van Harl USAF Ret. All rights reserved.