Women + Front-Line Service = Disaster
For years, Sgt. Kelly Logan* believed that women should be allowed into combat units, that "it didn't matter if you were a man or a woman—there is one standard, we all meet it, bond, and drive on with the mission." Then came her 1997 tour of duty with peacekeeping forces in Bosnia. "I had a complete change in attitude," she says. "When we had to do things like digging and reinforcing bunkers, the guys ended up doing most of the physical work. The women tended to move themselves to the sidelines." Logan watched resentment build until it undermined the unit's morale.She also observed that many women were "so unprepared for heavy-duty soldiering that they would have endangered the unit in a crisis." Patrolling in Bosnia required soldiers to remain on high alert and in full battle gear, including flak vests and ammo. Says Logan: "The equipment prevented many of the women from moving as quickly as men, let alone being combat-effective."While some women may be up to the rigors of combat, she says, "they are the rare exception. And for some individuals, it was only a matter of time before the platonic bonds progressed to sex, and then all kinds of disruptions ensued."Logan has reluctantly concluded that "women cannot bond with men in a unit the same way men do." But she cannot say so openly, and insisted that her real name not be used. "It can definitely hurt your career to speak your mind publicly about these things."The expectation in military units has always been that you pull your own load. But an Apache helicopter pilot told me that his female crew chief simply refused to carry her tools, which weighted 60 to 80 pounds."The Army is supposed to be about not showing favoritism," says Desert Storm veteran Sam Ryskind, who was a mechanic in the famed 82nd Airborne Division. "But the females I trained with were de facto exempted from any heavy-lifting jobs."Whether it was changing truck tires, loading cargo, or even moving heavy cooking pots into position on the chow line, Ryskind says men "always pulled the hard work. Pretty soon this made it an us-and-them situation."While these experiences do not reflect actual combat conditions, they point to the kinds of intractable problems that would arise if women were in combat units.In 1994 an Army rule barring women from hundreds of "combat support" positions was eliminated. Meanwhile the Army tried to institute tests to match a soldier's physical strength to a specific "military occupation specialty," or MOS. Then it was discovered that the tests would have disqualified most Army women from 65 percent of the more than 200 MOSs. The tests were scrapped.