Saturday, June 18, 2005

We Need More Women In Combat

Women have been in combat, as victims, since the beginning of time. Now in the coalition armies, they have guns and can fight back and win. We should build on that, not bemoan it.

Here's a report on Sergeant Hester's citation.

Caught in an ambush south of Baghdad the soldier, a sergeant in the military police, helped to rally the 10 servicemen in a unit protecting an unarmed supply convoy. They were attacked by rocket propelled grenades before they launched an assault on the two ditches from which insurgents were firing.

The citation says the trooper maneuvered the team through the kill zone into a flanking position before assaulting a trench line with grenades and rounds.

Throwing grenades and shooting an automatic rifle, the trooper killed three of the enemy, helped to force the rest to flee and then turned to provide medical aid to fallen comrades.

But she's Leigh Anne Hester, from Lincoln's Bluegrass State, Kentucky. And the story describes attempts to remove women from combat.

The award to 23-year-old Leigh Anne Hester has focused attention on the dangers female soldiers are facing in Iraq at the very time when political moves are under way to ensure another woman does not repeat her heroics.

Pre 9/11, I'd have agreed with this. Women carry the future of the race, male chivalry is probably genetic since males are more expendable. But women are tough - plenty of my professional colleagues, particularly in the US, have been mentally and physically tougher than their male equivalents.

Closer home, the fragrant Mrs G is more ruthless in a fight than me, and devastatingly accurate with a 45 Magnum. Because modern weapons are equalizers - a small woman with a chain gun and night vision can (and in Iraq often does) kill dozens of male assailants.

Now, after 9/11, we face an enemy that makes us all targets: old, young, men and women. Following the doctrine on "asymmetric warfare", they go for soft targets: teenagers in nightclubs, women at prayer, old men at funeral services, military supply columns.

I don't suggest infantry assignments - most women I know would have a hard time not washing for weeks. But force protection and occupation roles don't have that requirement.

So, let's make the soft targets hard. And train and arm women and respect them as soldiers.