published Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Women waging war

by Lauren Gregory
Audio clip

Patricia Canerdy

When Evelyn Hall first approached Army recruiters three years ago, they told her she’d make a great cook or maybe even a judge advocate general in an office somewhere.

She just laughed.

“I don’t want to be a secretary. I want to serve my country,” the 26-year-old University of Tennessee at Chattanooga junior said.

She signed an eight-year contract with the Army Reserve in 2006 and now is training to become an officer through the school’s ROTC program.

“I still wear toenail polish under my boots sometimes when I’m not supposed to, but when it comes down to it, I’m like, ‘Let’s get down and dirty,’” Cadet Hall said.

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Dan Henry
    Claire Simpson, left, a freshman member of the Mocs Battalion at UTC, draw students interest during ROTC Challenge Day where two Apache helicopters, a climbing wall, and a shooting simulator are set up Wednesday afternoon.

Department of Defense and Army policy prohibits women from serving on the front lines of combat, but in the war on terror, those front lines are not clearly defined.

Cadet Hall said her job with the Chattanooga-based 212th Transportation Company is every bit as risky as being on the front lines of an infantry battalion because convoys carrying supplies are a popular target for insurgent attacks.

Army Pfc. Stephaine Patterson, a Dalton, Ga., native said though women have been integrated into wartime missions since the 1940s, the long-standing policy on women in combat reflects another time.

“I understand why they started this before, but this is a different day of age and we have better resources then we did back then,” she wrote in an e-mail from Iraq.

Pfc. Patterson is a Dalton, Ga., native and the only woman deployed with her unit, the Army Reserve’s 591st Transportation Detachment.

Article: Looking for a few good (wo)men

PDF: Rand report

PDF: DoD policy

Article: Women waging war

Article: ‘They treat me just like one of the guys’

Article: Teachers fall in line

Article: Educator workshops a longstanding tradition

Blog: Sour ending to Marine Corps experience

PhotoGallery: The Marine Corps Educators Workshop

Video: The Marine Corps Educators Workshop

By the numbers

24: Number of workshops held each year between Parris Island, S.C. and Camp Pendleton, Calif.

2,000 to 2,400: Number of educators across the county who participate in workshops annually

68: Number of Marine recruiters in Tennessee

$123,000: Budget for four-day Tennessee/Alabama workshop


Tara Tharpe, English teacher, Red Bank High School

“At first, I really didn’t know why I was coming, but now I can’t wait to go back and talk to my (students) about this. There are opportunities (in the Marine Corps) other than combat; there are lots of educational opportunities as well... This just has really opened my eyes. I never really sat down and had conversations with people like this before.”

Shedrick Spencer, guidance program coordinator, Mobile County, Ala., Public Schools

“I’m really skeptical of this because of the times. I can’t in good conscience send these kids to war. I get the propaganda they’re selling over there at the Marine Corps base. They’re thinking that it’s most definitely good for a lot of kids, but I’m not going to suggest it now.”

Amy LeVally, biology and anatomy teacher, Red Bank High School

“I will definitely tell the kids more about it. It’s not for everybody, but I can think of a million different kids it would be good for. I really want to go do this with the other branches now to see the difference.”

Evolving policy

Lory Manning, a retired Navy captain, said the concept of warfare has evolved, as well.

“The policy on women in ground combat dates back to the early 1990s, and it’s based on Cold War-era, or even World War II-era, principles of warfare,” said Ms. Manning, who serves as director of the Women in the Military Project for the Washington, D.C.-based Women’s Research and Education Institute.

“It assumes a very definitive front line, and that you’re fighting another sizable army that’s like yourself,” she said.

That makes little sense in a war in which every service member — male or female, infantry or noninfantry — is vulnerable to insurgent attacks using improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers.

The policy has become an issue primarily in the Army because that service branch now makes up most of the ground forces in the Middle East, according to Ms. Manning.

“What the Army has done to avoid getting ensnared in that political nightmare is leave it up to the ground commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan to make that decision,” she said.

In line of fire

So while a woman can’t be assigned to a combat unit, she could be “attached” to that unit if needed. In effect, she could be in the same area as a combat unit but technically reporting to a different chain of command.

PDF: Rand report

PDF: DoD policy


* 73,390: Female veterans in Georgia

* 38,009: Female veterans in Tennessee

* 34,155: Female veterans in Alabama

* 1,802,491: Total female veterans

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs

* 102: Women killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom

* 602: Women wounded in action during OIF

* 14: Women killed during Operation Enduring Freedom

* 18: Women wounded in action during OEF

Source: Department of Defense


* 1942: The military creates women’s branches in each of the armed services.

* 1948: Congress passes the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act.

* 1973: Recruiting goals for women begin to increase with the abolishment of the draft.

* 1974: Army women become eligible for aviation duty in noncombat aircraft.

* 1980: Congress passes the Defense Officer Manpower Personnel Management Act, which abolishes separate appointment, promotion, accounting and separation procedures for women service members.

* 1988: The Department of Defense Risk Rule sets a single standard for excluding women from positions and units, allowing 30,000 new positions to open for them.

* 1994: The DOD Risk Rule is rescinded, opening 32,700 new Army positions and 48,000 new Marine Corps positions to women.

* 1998: Women aviators fly in operational combat missions for the first time.

Sources: New York Times Magazine, Women’s Research & Education Institute,

The series

* Today: Women in combat

* Monday: Finding a place in the ranks

A 2007 Rand Corp. study noted this discrepancy.

“Neither the letter nor the spirit of the policies is clear,” concluded Margaret Harrell, a senior social scientist at Rand and the lead author of the report.

The report stopped short of making any explicit recommendations, Ms. Manning said, but the implication is that leadership should clarify its policy. To make a change, military officials would have to notify Congress to create a new law on the issue.

Defense department officials maintain the existing policy is working fine.

“The policy has long and successfully balanced opportunities for women to pursue challenging careers, despite a clear limit on any assignment to ground combat units,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez.

“Women will continue to be assigned to units and positions that may necessitate combat actions within the scope of their restricted positioning — situations for which they are fully trained and equipped to respond,” she said.

Elaine Donnelly, president of the Michigan-based nonprofit Center for Military Readiness, agreed.

“To treat (women) equally would be unfair,” said Ms. Donnelly, pointing to physical differences between the sexes. “We’re proud of the service of women in our military, but where you get into problems is when you try to pretend that the men and women are interchangeable.”

Patricia Canerdy, who deployed to Iraq with the Chattanooga-based Army Reserve 591st Transportation Detachment in 2004 but since has retired to manage the unit as a civilian, said existing rules are OK for some women, but not all.

Individual capabilities are more important than gender, according to Mrs. Canerdy, a Flat Rock, Ala., resident who said she saw just as many weak men as weak women during her deployment.

Case by case

“If I were going to rewrite the rules, I think I would open (combat jobs) up to everyone on a case-by-case basis,” Mrs. Canerdy said.

Cadet Hall agreed but said she realizes she’s still going to have to go the extra mile to prove herself to some of her male colleagues. Though attitudes toward female service members have evolved, she said, there are some men who simply “hide (sexist attitudes) in this whole facade they call chivalry.”

“We can do a lot, but there’s still a lot of red tape,” she said.

Certain jobs such as field artillery require signing a contract that essentially says a woman should understand that males probably will be promoted faster than she will, Cadet Hall noted.

“If they would give us a chance, they would be amazed,” she said.

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
rolando said...

This may be "another age and time", but certain self-evident truths remain...well....true.

Throughout history, a society that failed to protect its women and children became...ah-h...history. Plain and simple.

There is a reason for our "chivalrous" attitude and it is a darn good every time. Protect the women; die for them and society lives on. Let 'em die; protect yourself; run away and society dies.

THAT is in our DNA and has been since Ug the cave man blocked the entrance with his body; blame it on the Y chromosome or whatever. It is NOT a voluntary thing and is still very operative today; ask any fireman.

In a combat or life-threatening situation, when push comes to shove men will go to great, self-sacrificing lengths to protect women; they cannot help it.

Which is NOT to say women are weak, gentle creatures; no, indeed...ask the Amer-Inds or the Israelis. Far from it, actually. But competent though they may be in certain areas, they are simply not designed for battle -- mentally or physically. They are the life-givers; men are the life-takers -- are now, always have been.

There are instinctive, in-the-genes reactions toward women [no pun intended] that could -- and have -- interfered with the mission. In any dangerous situation, it is ALWAYS "women and children first".

And society thereby survives; men are expendable, women are not. Works for us.

[All the foregoing deals with large groups in general and does not apply to individuals -- exceptions exist. As policy, however, it works.]

March 22, 2009 at 6:54 a.m.
dendod said...

Anyone who thinks that women can't fight, obviously has never been through a divorce with one. Anyone who fights for our country so we'll have a place to raise our kids should be applauded. You go girl!!!!!!!!!!!!

March 22, 2009 at 10:30 a.m.
Jack_Ryan said...

I seriously don't feel a woman can fight a man pound for pound. When taking martial arts years ago, the teacher would sometimes pair me up with a woman in a sparring match. One thing I noticed that she focused on my genital area as a key element for her to win fight. Most men know that already, and watches out for those things. I have yet to see a woman give a man a knock-out punch, it's unheard of.

Yes, a woman can hold a weapon and use it, but when all of the bullets are gone ...

March 22, 2009 at 11:18 a.m.
Jack_Ryan said...

BTW, that stuff Hollywood puts out on television and in the movies about women simply is not real.

March 22, 2009 at 11:26 a.m.
rolando said...

Women going through a divorce are NOT fighting for something as elusive as their country; they fight for those earthly things a woman always needs -- shelter, food, healthy kids. The divorced man STILL has to provide those for her. Talk about paying for a dead horse.

Thanks for demonstrating my point, dendod, intentional or not.

March 22, 2009 at 2:32 p.m.
please login to post a comment

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »

400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.