Men and Women Military Living Together? Shocking!

The Marines Corps has some growing pains with regards to women living with the men in the field.  Any one of the military services are notorious for being slow to change, and this particular change is pretty glacial.

“You’re going to have sex, you’re going to have love, you’re going to have relationships, and it’s going to overly complicate the command structure,” Marine veteran, Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, told the Marine Corps Times.

Army was doing what the Marine Corps is fighting at least twenty-five years ago.  When I deployed with my unit to Desert Storm, our platoon stayed together in one tent.  Two women, the rest men (don’t recall how many, but it was not more than eight).  It did not destroy the morale of our platoon, and we did have sex.  It did not complicate anything.  We just put up cloth walls for privacy, which everyone did, because there wasn’t a whole lot of privacy to start with.

Eventually, as we got more women assigned the unit from the inactive reserves, then we split off into two women only tents.  The other woman and I were disappointed; it was much better being with our platoon.

Yes, we did have some issues with soldiers having sex and one who got pregnant–but it wasn’t because they were living in the same tent.  It was because we were there under very stressful circumstances and also because we were there for a long time.  It’s one part of the war experience that military tends to pretty much pretend like it doesn’t exist, then blame the women for being there, as if only one person was responsible not the stressful situation.

Navajo Women May Have Been the First Enlisted in the Military

A historian discovered the women’s names in the records for the late 1800s:

While compiling a lengthy list of Sandoval County veterans — from the Civil War through Vietnam — retired Army colonel and amateur historian David C’de Baca made an intriguing find: Two Navajo women who served as scouts with the Army’s 20th Infantry Regiment in the summer of 1886 could be the first women to have officially been enlisted in the U.S. Army.

The rest of it is in the Army Times.  I thought it was pretty cool that it wound up in this publication.  There are four sold on every military base–one for each service, so this is going out to the military.

The first woman who did military bomb disposal

This is the story of the first woman who did bomb disposal for the military:

More important, she was captivated by the job from the first moment she plugged a blasting cap into a block of TNT. We can really blow things up? she recalled thinking, as if she was getting away with something. She could put explosives on anything — a pile of old land mines, cardboard boxes, a wooden table — and it would cease to exist and “turn into air.” It was a revelation.

Fascinating to read about.  Still not something I would have volunteered for.  Much better to write about fictional characters and fictional explosives!  Much safer, too.

Tangling with the Obstacle Course

This is a rare photo of a woman soldier in an action shot.  The original photo is on the DOD Website.

A woman soldier climbs across a horizonal ladder

U.S. Army Spc. Julie Neff participates in the “team reaction lane” during the 2015 European Best Warrior Competition at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany, Sept. 14, 2015. Neff is assigned to the 5th Battalion, 148th Aviation Regiment. U.S. Army photo by Gertrud Zach

The “obstacle course” is what everyone outside the military calls this course, because it has obstacles that a soldier has to get through.  It’s actually called a Confidence Course.  This is a video of the Army showing male and female soldiers going through a course. Watch at about the 3 minute watch during a balance test at what the soldiers use to aid in their balance.

Part of the teamwork aspect is everyone cheering you on to get over one of the obstacles.

As you can see, a lot of this really pushes the soldier’s skills. Everything about military training is preparation for war, since you will never know what you need.

Military Women Doing Casualty Evacuation Training

The Maryland National Guard conducted a training exercise for casualty evacuation.  I remember us doing something like this years ago.  We’d get this box of injuries (no that isn’t one of my typos) from the training equipment organization.  The box contained Hollywood-style applications of injuries that could be applied to casualties.  Kind of cool and gross at the same time.

Check through the slide show for more images, but here’s one for you:

Guardsmen conduct casualty evacuation training with a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on Warfield Air National Guard Base in Middle River, Md., July 29, 2015.
Guardsmen conduct casualty evacuation training with a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on Warfield Air National Guard Base in Middle River, Md., July 29, 2015.

Rocking Women Army Rangers

This week, we had the historic first: Two women survived Ranger training.  I’ve obviously never been to Ranger training–nor would I have wanted to–but I knew people who went through it.  Not for the faint hearted.

Of course, it comes with an awesome action photo.

In this file photo, soldiers test their physical stamina during the Ranger Course on Fort Benning, Ga., April 21, 2015. Soldiers attend the course to learn additional leadership, and technical and tactical skills in a physically and mentally demanding, combat simulated environment. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Paul Sale
In this file photo, soldiers test their physical stamina during the Ranger Course on Fort Benning, Ga., April 21, 2015. Soldiers attend the course to learn additional leadership, and technical and tactical skills in a physically and mentally demanding, combat simulated environment. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Paul Sale

My basic training was in New Jersey, starting about May (I was actually there in April, but we didn’t have enough women for a whole class).  It was typical New Jersey weather–hot and humid.  Lots of mosquitoes.  The BDUs–similar to what you see in the photo except for the camo pattern–would get soaked through with sweat.  The uniform is fine when it’s dry, but when it’s wet, it’s like wearing cardboard.

We were out on the range one day changing these big targets and soaked through with sweat.  Just so hot out.  Then it started to pour all of sudden, and we were out there, hands raised to the sky, because the rain felt so good!

Soldier, Storyteller Available!

My Desert Storm book is finally out! I honestly didn’t expect this would happen. I knew I wanted to write a book about my experiences even a year after the war. But it was such a difficult subject to talk about that it took almost 25 years before I could actually write about it.

Soldier, Storyteller: A Woman Soldier Goes to War

On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Within twenty-four hours, he controlled the entire country. Five days later, the United States was deploying soldiers and had named the military operation Desert Shield.

This would be the largest deployment of women at the time. Over 40,000 women went to war. It was so new that people questioned whether women should be there, and what would happen to the families they left behind.

Linda Maye Adams was one of those soldiers. Soldier, Storyteller is a rare inside look at war from a woman’s perspective.

Her memoir answers the question: “What was it like?”


Drill Sergeants–Respect Them and Hate Them

I had to work pretty hard to find this photo.  I went through 15 pages of Air Force photos, and I could only find one of a woman that wasn’t very good.  Fortunately, DOD did have the photo below, though it was the same problem–a lot of awesome photos, but women were nowhere to be found.

14378351610_6ef14c0d55_zU.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Ben Sedlacek, a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft boom operator with the 350th Air Refueling Squadron, directs the boom to connect with approaching aircraft for midair refueling June 26, 2014, during Red Flag-Alaska 14-2 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Red Flag-Alaska is a series of Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. and partner nation forces, providing combined offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support, and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment. (DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. William Buchanan, U.S. Air National Guard/Released)

I had two male drill sergeants in Basic Training and one for the training.  Both classes were all women.

It’s quite a shock getting off the bus, and these people are screaming at you.  Their screaming prompted us to race off the bus, and then race up two or three flights of stairs in the barracks, and then race down the stairs again.

Even in the Mess Hall line, the drill sergeants stalked back and forth next to us in the line, telling us to hurry, hurry, hurry.  We’d sit down and barely get the first fork in, and then the drill sergeant was screaming at us to go, so we’d be in line to turn the tray in and still gulping down all the food.

At one time, we saw the drill sergeant’s hat on the table, and we were like cats checking out something that we didn’t trust wouldn’t attack us.  Of course, no one touched it.

But by the end of basic training, some of women were starting to imitate the drill sergeants, which was a shift in how we thought about them.  We’d survived, and they’d helped.

The Soldier Conversation is Missing the Women

There was a photo that went viral over the last few days, identified as disabled women soldiers. It turned out to be models. There was some angry “How dare this happen?” on the veteran Facebook pages.

I think the reason people got excited over it is that there is so little of anything about women veterans. The press makes women out to be victims because that sells stories, and then focuses on the men for everything else.  The official military sites don’t post many photos of women. I just went on the Army website, searched through eight pages of photos (20 each page), and there were only four of women soldiers.

It’s particularly bad because they have more pictures of Afghan women, celebrities, and even children. Yet, they default straight back to the male soldiers.

So I’m sharing one of the four pictures from the Army site.
Two women soldiers practicing hand to hand as man watches.

Staff Sgt. Kevin Wright, center, unarmed self-defense instructor, explains an unarmed self-defense technique to 1st Lt. Sovannchampa Touch, left, and 1st Lt. Erin Kan, members of the 724th Military Police Battalion. Unarmed Self Defense is required training for units preparing to conduct Detainee Operations in support of Overseas Contingency Operations. Division West, First United States Army has the responsibility for training all deploying National Guard and Reserve Units conducting Detainee Operations. U.S. Army Photo by CPT John Brimley.

My comments:  When I was in, we didn’t do anything like the this.  The closest was in basic training.  We used pugo sticks, which look like giant cotton swabs.  As a joke, the drill sergeants paired the two least likely to be soldiers (me and another woman).  We put on helmets and hit each other with pugo sticks.  Times have changed!

Publication Schedule — Books for Release

This is a list of my books coming out for the next few months.

June 2015

Writer's Guide to Military Culture

A Writer’s Guide to Military Culture

This was from an online class I did for Forward Motion in 2012.

July, 2015

Cover art for Curseo of the Cat

Curse of the Cat

A Steampunk fantasy short story

Cover - Layers2 - May 2015

Layers: A Desert Storm Veteran and September 11

It’s surprising to think that we aren’t that far away from the 20th anniversary.  This was originally published in a collection curated by Holly Lisle called Together We Stand in 2002.

August, 2015

Cover for Panters Guide to Writing You are Not BrokenPantser’s Guide to Writing: You are not broken!

There are only TWO other books for people who don’t outline by people who write that way.

The other two:

  • Story Trumps Structure by Steven James
  • Writing into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith

Soldier, Storyteller: A Woman Soldier Goes to War

Soldier, Storyteller: A Woman Soldier Goes to War

This is a compilation of my blog posts from last year, but it also includes some additional entries and a poem that did not appear on the blog.