“You fire eating young bucks, listen to me. You don’t want to fight. I fought and I know. You all don’t know what war is. You think it’s riding a pretty horse , and having the girls throw flowers at you and coming home a hero. Well, it ain’t. No, sir! It’s going hungry, and getting the measles and pneumonia from sleeping in the wet. And if it ain’t measles and pneumonia, it’s your bowels. Yes sir what war does to a man’s bowels – dysentery and things like that–”
—Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind.
It was announced this week that women in the military will now be allowed to serve in combat roles. Some have hailed this as a step forward toward equality of the sexes; some have not been so sanguine, if I may use a non-risque double entendre.
Lawyer Ryan Smith writes that he “served in the 2003 invasion of Iraq as a Marine infantry squad leader. We rode into war crammed in the back of amphibious assault vehicles. They are designed to hold roughly 15 Marines snugly; due to maintenance issues, by the end of the invasion we had as many as 25 men stuffed into the back. Marines were forced to sit, in full gear, on each other’s laps and in contorted positions for hours on end. That was the least of our problems.
“The invasion was a blitzkrieg. The goal was to move as fast to Baghdad as possible. The column would not stop for a lance corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, or even a company commander to go to the restroom. Sometimes we spent over 48 hours on the move without exiting the vehicles. We were forced to urinate in empty water bottles inches from our comrades.
“Many Marines developed dysentery from the complete lack of sanitary conditions. When an uncontrollable urge hit a Marine, he would be forced to stand, as best he could, hold an MRE bag up to his rear, and defecate inches from his seated comrade’s face.”
Smith goes onto say “when we did reach Baghdad, we were in shambles. We had not showered in well over a month and our chemical protective suits were covered in a mixture of filth and dried blood. We were told to strip and place our suits in pits to be burned immediately. My unit stood there in a walled-in compound in Baghdad, naked, sores dotted all over our bodies, feet peeling, watching our suits burn. Later, they lined us up naked and washed us off with pressure washers.
“Societal norms are a reality, and their maintenance is important to most members of a society. It is humiliating enough to relieve yourself in front of your male comrades; one can only imagine the humiliation of being forced to relieve yourself in front of the opposite sex.
“Despite the professionalism of Marines, it would be distracting and potentially traumatizing to be forced to be naked in front of the opposite sex, particularly when your body has been ravaged by lack of hygiene. In the reverse, it would be painful to witness a member of the opposite sex in such an uncomfortable and awkward position.”
I take no position on the Defense Department’s decision, I have to assume they know what they are doing. While not officially in combat roles, female soldiers have been killed, wounded, and exposed to nasty and brutish condition in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and even in former wars. So it seems like a small step to officially include them in those roles. Those women in the front lines will now receive combat pay, and those who want a long term career will get their ticket punched for better promotion prospects. Few, if any, officers make it to flag rank without combat experience on their record. Anyway, I understand that the new policy still restricts women from serving in the infantry, which is mostly where the conditions Mr. Smith describes exist. I can’t speak for others, but, while it would not be any more disgusting for a woman rather than a man to poop in my face, I’m not sure, mechanically speaking, how they would whiz into a bottle. Not sure I want to know.
For Smith’s full article, see click on this link.