Archive | January, 2013
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Controversial Tuesday: Women in Combat, Part II

29 Jan

Women in Combat, Part II

Yesterday I watched a workmate with 22 years in as a USMC officer put in his retirement papers as a protest against the fact that the ban was lifted on women in combat.

Part I, above, is my experiences in the training command, back in 1981, as I went through the transformation from a naive Midwestern girl who knew very few people in the military to an officer, in fourteen painful weeks!

This part expands on my statement in Part I that the prohibition of women in combat was not going to remain forever.

I didn’t expect it to be lifted so soon, but I did expect it to be lifted.

Now, can I recommend to my young civilian friends who are females (or males uncertain in what they believe about combat) that they enter the military for a career?

This post will answer that question.

I now believe there was one period in U.S. history, from the time the service academies opened to women in 1976 until just now in 2013, that a woman could enter the military with an understanding they she probably would not go into combat, but yet expecting that she would be taken seriously on a parallel career path to her male colleagues that involved everything else the military had to offer.

That was a pretty good deal but one that could not last forever.

I graduated high school in 1976 and could have been in that first class of women attending the U.S. Naval Academy for college.

Only I wasn’t thinking about that then.  I went on to a state university in Michigan and only thought about the military five years later, when I graduated from college during a recession that hit the auto industry in Michigan very hard.

I checked with Army, Navy, and U.S.A.F. recruiters, then settled on the Navy, as they guaranteed me officer candidate school and follow-on training in a compatible field for me (if I survived officer training!).

At the time, women did not deploy on combatant ships, only support ships.  And people in my career field did not deploy on support ships.  So, by a weird catch-22, I was not eligible to be on board ships at all, initially.  I later served for two weeks on a cruiser as a reservist.

What I did do was deploy overseas with a patrol squadron (land-based) for the first three years of my career.  I went to Spain (Rota), Iceland (Keflavik), the Azores (Lajes), and Bermuda.

And everywhere I went, I worked inside an aircraft hangar, in an office, with a skirt on.

In fact, it turns out that the only time I worked in slacks in a 27-year career was during my initial officer training and for those two weeks onboard ship.

Did I plan it that way?  No.  Do I believe women should only wear skirts?  No (that is just who I am–I don’t project that on anyone else).

Remember, I was the naive Midwestern girl.  My career worked out in spite of me sometimes.

But it truly was an amazing time to be on active duty as a woman.  I was born ten years after Israel became a nation again.  That means in the Post World War II Baby Boom.  And World War II had first brought women into the services as auxiliaries.  WAVES, the Navy called them.  They were not intended to be full officers, nor to be permanent officers, but they filled some Navy jobs so that men could concentrate on combat.

Not because men were thought to be cannon fodder.  But because men were thought to be stronger physically and more able to handle combat.  If women did some of the office jobs, they freed the men up in wartime to handle the enemy directly.

That concept of freeing men up by doing office jobs away from combat areas continued post-World War II.  It is the concept that was understood when I entered the military in 1981.

Today, that concept seems antiquated.  But it must be taken as the intermediate step it was.  No woman entered the military in my generation thinking of men only as combat-worthy grunts, nor intending to deprive them of anything by taking office jobs.

But our realm slowly expanded and eventually involved jobs where women were taken POW as early as 1991, in the first Gulf War.

Once that became a reality, the ban on combat for women could not last forever.

In insurgent wars and irregular warfare, women were already venturing across the “front lines” without even knowing it.

Thus I know women in all four services who have already been in combat areas.  Navy, too, as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have both used Navy folks to augment our ground forces from the Army and the USMC.

And, that being the case, the combat ban needed to be lifted.

Now, would I recommend the military for a young woman nowadays?  Or a man unsure what he believes about combat?

No, don’t come in unless you are prepared to possibly go into combat.

Right now we are saying women can volunteer for those positions.  But that is due to the fact that there are currently more than enough volunteers for the infantry in both the Army and the USMC.  That will probably always be the case.  But that can’t be guaranteed either.

It is a custom and a convention, not a law in either service.  And customs and conventions can change, as you have just seen in my description of my career.

Within one generation, we will be like Israel, expecting women to go into combat without batting an eyelash.  And there are certain women who are just as tough as any man around (or tougher in some cases!!!) who will jump on this and perform admirably.

But for those like me who want to serve their country as an analyst, in a skirt, working for the Department of Defense as a civilian should now be your goal.

Inconsistency, Thy Name is Human: Can We Encourage Each Other Already?

28 Jan

You have seen it before in this space, more than once.  Acknowledgement of how inconsistent we humans can be.

Yesterday, Pastor encouraged us to be encouragers of each other.

That  isn’t a default setting in most of us.  Honestly.

In our never-ending drive for self-vindication, we tend to trash other people with our words more than we encourage them.  Not sure why that is.  Are we really that desperate to look good that we believe everyone else around us has to be made to look bad in comparison???

I think we can do better than that.  We know we can, by Christ’s power.  He didn’t save us to leave us in middle school our entire lives!!!

I saw a classic example of how not to encourage that I thought I would bring up after an appropriate amount of time had gone by. 

One male friend admonished another to not praise himself.  He used the verse about letting another praise you, not yourself.

(Here it is:  Proverbs 27:2, “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.”)

Only thing is, the friend who said that never praises anyone.  He has one those personalities that kind of unfailingly points out the weaknesses of everyone around him.

When he told our mutual friend to let others praise him, I almost interjected, “Who might those others be?  You gonna give him a month of not praising himself and then start praising him?”

Except I am sure I would have gotten some faux Puritan statement about people needing to learn to exist without praise and encouragement.

Why should they have to do that?

What is it with that particular inconsistency?  Telling others to not brag on themselves but to rather wait for praise from others that . . . rarely comes?

How about if we quote Bible verses to others about letting other people praise them, we follow it up with some heartfelt praise and encouragement sometimes?

It just might work.  It also just might help us to grow into encouragers, along with the recipient of the praise and encouragement, too .  .  .

Have We Totally Stopped Teaching Critical Thinking to our Children? (An Abortion Comment)

26 Jan

(I wish I could insert the photo I saw yesterday on Facebook, but even with proper attribution, there might be copyright issues found after the author saw the reason I am using it).

Yesterday on Facebook I saw a sign posted by someone named Edward Abbey.  It read:  “Abolition of a woman’s right to abortion amounts to compulsory maternity:  a form of rape by the state.”  

What???  You know, I had been looking for a statement to use to write a post about the fact that we seem to have left off teaching critical thinking skills to our children for the last generation or so.  But this one was so brutally in that category that it both broke my heart and enraged me at one and the same moment.  

There are so many things wrong with that statement it is hard to know where to begin.

Many pro-life sources with many more years of experience in the issue than I have make statements explaining that we can’t blameshift the responsibility for pregnancy to anyone other than the two people involved.  Or one, if it was a sexual assault. 

But calling it a sexual assault by a state??? Really? 

And why?  Not because the state was involved with beginning that pregnancy but because it might regulate the woman’s “right” to end it?  Really?

Will the next sign say that failure to pay for said abortion will render the state a rapist (and all the taxpayers, including the pro-life taxpayers, who did not use their personally earned dollars to finance that abortion)?

Will the sign after that inextricably link supporting that child for his entire life to the child support the “rapist state” owes for making it difficult to abort him? (I actually think we are already there with that one).   

Maybe there should be a sign saying that since fourteen-year-olds can’t drive, if one gets pregnant, the state has to pick her up and deliver her to her abortion at taxpayer expense.  Or else the state is a rapist . . .

See where I am going with this?  Take an outrageous, illogical statement, build it to new heights of ridiculousness, repeat it often enough, and you will convince some of our young people that it is true.  

Because we are failing in teaching them critical thinking.  

A lot of them are raising themselves.  

Even in homes where they have food, clothes, a bed, and warmth on a cold winter morning like today, many of them are not nurtured, if you know what I mean.

And I blame my generation of self-obsessed Baby Boomers as starting this trend.  It has only gotten worse since the children we raised have reached adulthood.

No, I am not condemning everybody across the board.  But I am saying we all have periods in which we act as though childrearing is our most banal job, with the lowest priority.  

Sometimes we are scrambling on days when we have twenty things to get done.  I get that.  

But we shouldn’t end our lives having never attempted once to teach our children critical thinking skills.  

Ya know?

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Women in Combat

25 Jan

Picture 017Women in Combat

Ya’ll knew I was gonna do this. After 27 years of service as a naval officer, and as a self-respecting blogger (most days), I have to do this.

I love the anecdotal story at the end of the above article in which the woman being interviewed spoke of finding a hidden insurgent and calling her male colleagues in to help her with the capture.

Thing is, my stories are anecdotal, too. When I came in, I went through Aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida for my career path, although I was not going to be a pilot or a navigator. And there were three separate standards for women in that strenuous program: 1) we did not have to take the boxing block (our entertainment before we were allowed liberty was the “smokers” or boxing matches that our battalion would conduct against our sister battalion) 2) we did not have to scale the low wall on the obstacle course but just had to run up and tap it 3) we did not have to scale the high wall on the obstacle course but just had to run up and tap it. The first wall required a pull up with the upper arm muscles–it may have been eight feet tall. The second one required a pull up with a rope–it may have been twelve feet tall.

Various studies over the years confirmed the wisdom of the obstacle course exemptions. They showed how young women could ruin their shoulders for life by utilizing muscles in ways they were not equipped (or trained) to exercise them. In other words, we aren’t built the same as men and, if we are going to take on some of the same tasks, we need a long curve of prior physical training in that task before we take it on. Some women will never make it in those tasks. I am probably one of those women.

That said, I do applaud the opening of the combat door to women as inevitable. Some women are strong enough physically to handle all the same aspects of combat that men handle. Some women will handle those better than some men. C’est la vie.

I look back and smile as I remember some of the things I did in AOCS that I have never done before nor since. Kind of seems like someone else’s life in many ways. But I smile because I did them and no one can ever take that part away from me.

I parasailed behind a truck (because there were sharks in the bay that day so we could not do it behind a boat). I was lifted from the bay another day onto a helicopter (“remember, guys, let the lead hit the water before you touch it or you will be electrocuted with the charge the helicopter has built up!”). I went in the Helodunker which was a simulated helicopter cockpit, submerged upside down underwater in a pool. We were plunged into the pool, blindfolded and belted into our seats, rolled inverted, and then had to escape the cockpit after counting to ten once the machine stopped moving.

I learned to run like the wind, although I am the anti-athlete, so that the DI’s would not yell at me. I would say I tried to escape being singled out for DI attention, but as one of only four women in my class (two of the others dropped out as we went along; the third one was held back into the next class), it was impossible to avoid being singled out for extra PT. The best I could do was not be yelled at every moment of the entire training day!!!

The way I have always described it was that the DI’s seemed to really bend over backwards to get the women to drop the first six or seven weeks of the fourteen week program. But after that, I sensed a change. Although they still yelled at me, they did it with a sense of humor behind it. We never dared look DI’s in the eyes (it was against the rules), but if I had dared, I think I would have seen a glimmer of amusement there as they trashtalked me. By the end of the course, they would openly say humorous things when they were gigging us and not punish us for laughing a little bit under our breath.

I remember our beach run, near the end of our course, with Gunnery Sergeant Clark, USMC, leading the charge. He was about six foot six and had a huge stride. He ran that beach at around a seven minute mile for about three miles. And I, who have struggled in the best years of my youth since then to ever make an eight minute mile, kept up somehow. My male classmates were dropping out, crying and throwing up, and . . . I just didn’t want the hassle of him yelling at me so I gutted it out.

At the end, Gunney Clark turned to me in astonishment. “Gardner, you’re still with me?????”

“Yes, Gunnery Sergeant Clark, United States Marine Corps, I am still with you,” I gasped.

I swear, with my peripheral vision, I saw something that was almost a smile cross his face.

(Photographs are of:  1) Gunnery Sergeant Clark, of the famed beach run, with me 2) Gunnery Sergeant Walker, my class’s DI, doing the first salute ceremony with me after my commissioning)

My Hero!

24 Jan

Today I was privileged to take a long look into the milestones our beloved Joey has reached.

I did the Vineland Assessment of Adaptive Behaviors for him, in advance of a psychological testing session he will have before going off to college.  When he is at college, we will have at least four states between us, no matter how we complete the journey!  So this is a huge step!

I am so proud of him!  And so thankful to God for having brought us thus far.

Remember, when we first heard the word “autism” in 1996, when he was four, we didn’t know where the upper end of his scale would fall!

I spent years in prayer and worry that he would “top out” somewhere in the lower elementary school range of skills, both intellectual skills and life skills.  And the life skills part always scared me the most.

Now as I check mostly “can always do this” on the list of skills, I see my cup as 95% full.  Sure, he doesn’t drive and doesn’t meet friends socially without one of us facilitating it.  Oh, well.

And the part about maintaining the home can stand some work.  He might be quite capable of running that vacuum cleaner or that load of laundry.  It is just that I haven’t checked lately.  It is easy to get used to being busy at work, come home, and just do it all myself.  Easier than teaching the skill, but short-sighted.

But I must underline that all of this is a great, great comfort for me.  When a parent first hears about a disability, there is no guarantee about how far that child will go.  Everything is unknown.

Granted, everything is unknown with our other children, too.  They could become disabled after being born normally.  But the idea is that we have more assumed milestones for our normal children.

Joey was a big question mark.

And I am so very comforted that he has hit so many milestones, sometimes late, but almost always there.

We can call him a late bloomer.

And we can rejoice in our family and in our God!Image

Thinking Aloud . . . An Update on Blogging!

22 Jan

I was thinking about these past six months of blogging.  I love it and want to do it forever.  It is the best job I have never been paid for!

I thought also about the fact that blogs can’t always be upbeat.  Well, they can, but would anyone seriously believe I could be Mary Poppins 24/7 for 365 days a year?  Say “no”!!!

Note:  My first set of military orders was in a squadron where they honestly did call me Mary Poppins for much of three years, but that is another story . . . ha!

So, when we venture carefully onto the less than pleasant topics, how do we keep from slamming living people?  

It is good to be general in those posts.  

But sometimes we have a specific example that is very instructive.  If we write it without the names.  

For that, I attempt to wait a long period of time before I say anything.  So long that the person would perhaps have forgotten the details.  Since my blog is available worldwide and all . . . (there is no way of guaranteeing that the person of whom I am writing would not see the post).   

But, if that person were to ever see the post and recognize himself, I would assume that that falls within God’s sovereignty and I would deal with it however I had to at the time.

You see, I am realizing one thing about Facebook and blogs as tools of our faith in Christ.  

We are all inconsistent sometimes.  We can be inconsistent in doctrine.  We can have good doctrine but be inconsistent in practice.  

When we are inconsistent, it is loving for people to point out the inconsistency.  Not necessarily to our faces.  Not even necessarily for us.  But, using us as a teaching point for others can work very well.  It guards the dignity of the person who has done something while letting others learn from it.  

If not, how could we ever talk about sin as anything other than a vague concept?  How could we teach on it within the Body of Christ if we could not cite actual things we have seen in our lives and hold them up to the light of God’s Word to show why they were wrong?

Oh, I believe it is so kind to comment on things that are wrong.  We as the Body of Christ do need to take a stand sometimes.  Not on every little thing (nitpicking).  Not on things that are personal preferences (I don’t like seeing people lick their fingers).  But on things that are clearly sin, it is truly kind to speak out sometimes. 

We need to do this kindly, aware of our own frailties, but we need to do this.  

Otherwise the church just goes on making the same mistakes again and again.  World without end.  Amen!

When I started Iconobaptist, I said I would be commenting on some of the things that are mistaken in our faith.  I have done just that, and by God’s grace I will continue to do it.

Some of the best times I have had have been discussing the posts with others after they were written.  I have had a few comments on-line, but many more in person.  And that is the place where I, too, get to learn and grow.  

This blog is very worthwhile for me.  I hope it is for you, too. 

Do What I Say, Not What I Do . . .

22 Jan

I John 3:18, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but indeed and in truth.”

A number of years ago I sat under the teaching of a Bible study leader who taught us the book of Romans.  At the end, she pointed out the diversity of the people Paul greeted, slave and free, black and white, Roman, barbarian, and Jew.  She held that up as a model for our response to the diversity we see around us, mentioning that the church should embrace diversity more than any other body.  She specifically mentioned ministry to people with AIDS, as that was a new subject back then.

I was overjoyed at that teaching and very respectful of the viewpoint.  I told her how thankful I was that she had gotten into AIDS ministry and asked how I could do the same.  There was a pause and a cleared throat.  “Oh, I don’t do AIDS ministry.  I only mentioned that as an ideal for us to shoot for . . .”  Oh!

My friend knew the Great Commission and how it calls Christians forth to go evangelize the world.  She knew it so well that she taught it to us almost every week.  So I was later surprised to find that she did not practice this herself either.  She told me her job in the Body of Christ was to equip others to fulfill the Great Commission.  Wow!

Only . . . she was just being honest in an area where other people are not, right?  How many Bible teachers believe that their job stops as soon as they have told others how to go fulfill the Great Commission?  How many don’t try to fulfill it personally?

Fact is, our human nature is lazy and wants to give us a free pass while we tell others to go out and do the Kingdom work.  We just need to be aware of this fact about ourselves.  Jesus called the Pharisees out about that tendency to lay burdens on others that they would not pick up themselves.  

There is a great work to be done and none of us is exempt from the call to do it.  Let’s go, okay?

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