Sharing a handful of recent news reports focusing on the unique military service and civilian reintegration experiences of our women veterans. A good intro for our purposes from Jayme Fraser, Montana Kaimin:
Military policies banning women from the frontline are disappearing as the number of female veterans in the United States nears 1.9 million.
“I think we’re growing up,” Army National Guard Capt. Dawn Gray said. “If you look at other countries, especially Israel, women are not excluded from any combat role if they can physically handle it.”
The role of women in war has expanded significantly since World War II, when women moved into the workplace void left by men going off to war.
“There are only a few places that women aren’t actively assigned and I expect that will change, too,” Gray said.
Female pilots fly combat missions for the Air Force and Navy. Though Army policy prohibits women from the frontline, temporary assignments and test programs, as well as changing dynamics of urban warfare in Iraq, have put more female soldiers into combat.
In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.
Army Reserve Capt. Tracy Mitchell, an Iraq War veteran from UM’s Military Science Department, said she did not see major differences between the women and men with whom she served.
“I feel like gender wasn’t really an issue, we were all over there to do whatever we were assigned,” Mitchell said of her personal experience as a detachment commander for a postal unit. ...
More than 16 percent of all Montanans are veterans, the highest concentration of any state and higher than the national average of 12.6 percent, according to the Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Women veterans make up 2 percent of Montana’s total population, also one of the nation’s highest rates.
Mitchell said one-third of all students enrolled in UM’s Military Science Department are women.
Where and in what capacity women are allowed to serve in the military continues to evolve. Jennifer Grogan, The Day:
Twenty-four women will soon break through a longstanding gender barrier when they join the crews of U.S. Navy ballistic-missile and guided-missile submarines. Navy officials discussed the plans to integrate women into the Submarine Force on Thursday, when the time period for Congress' option to intercede in the plan elapsed and the Navy officially lifted the ban.
But the gender barrier, for now, will remain in place on fast-attack boats - the only type of submarine homeported in Groton - since the Navy's plans to integrate women into the Submarine Force currently do not include the fast-attack family.
"The berthing for officers is much more limited (on fast-attack submarines) than it is on the Trident submarines," Rear Adm. Barry L. Bruner, leader of the Women in Submarines Task Force, said in a press conference call. "Really, it's all about privacy. That's the reason we're unable to do it on fast-attacks right now."
Three female officers will join eight ballistic-missile and guided-missile submarine crews in Kings Bay, Ga., and Bangor, Wash., after they finish training in late 2011 or early 2012.
But, these advances in military opportunities also bring women closer to the front lines -- and all that the experience entails. NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday, part of the station's Impact of War Project, broadcast an interview with one female OEF/OIF veteran's struggle with PTSD -- and the resulting fight to gain recognition for her injury and access to appropriate medical treatments. Terry Gildea, NPR:
According to recent VA statistics, PTSD and depression are the top disability claims among America's female veterans — many of whom served in Iraq and Afghanistan. But many of them have trouble proving that they saw combat — a key to getting treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
A decorated war veteran, Marti Ribeiro's return to America — marked by a divorce and bouts of anxiety — highlights the struggles many female veterans face. Ribeiro, 30, spent eight years in the Air Force, achieving the rank of staff sergeant. She served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Sitting for an interview recently, Ribeiro smoked a cigarette, looking both tired and nervous.
Much later than should have been the case, the VA has begun rolling out updated services geared toward better serving this not-so-new client base. Jacqui Goddard for the Christian Science Monitor:
With women now accounting for 14 percent of active-duty military personnel and 17 percent of the Reserve and National Guard, the need is increasing for programs specifically tailored for women, as the program for Ms. McPaul was. Yet health and welfare services for veterans have traditionally been male-oriented, and they've struggled to keep up with the military's changing face.
Anxious to start closing the gap, the VA and Florida's Department of Children and Families are jointly funding the creation of Operation Home Front. It's a $1.6 million transitional housing facility in Cocoa, where 28 women veterans at a time could reside while undergoing substance-abuse and mental-health programs. In a unique twist, their children will be allowed to live there alongside them. ...
Florida is home to some 139,000 female veterans – a number that is rising. Larri Gerson, women veterans coordinator for the Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs, served in the US Air Force in the 1970s, when women accounted for 3 percent of the military. Today, that proportion is five times greater.
"This has been a man's place for many years, the VA.... Now, it's having to change," she says.
And so, change is coming to a VA near you -- and perhaps to a VFW, too. Deidre Williams, Buffalo News:
Marlene Roll came out of the Army in 1991 after serving in a medical unit for a year in Oman during the Persian Gulf War.
When she returned home, she went to Buffalo's Veterans Affairs Medical Center for surgery, put on a hospital gown and was told not to leave the room. Even if she had to use the bathroom, she was told, she had to let someone know. At the time, there were no provisions for women there, and no one wanted her walking around in front of a bunch of male veterans while wearing a flimsy hospital gown with the back out.
Experiences like that motivated Roll and some other female veterans to launch a drive to establish the state's first predominantly female Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Erie County. For too long, women have been underrepresented, they said.
The public perception is that the military is still a male-dominated community. And it is, said 42-year-old Kelly Carrigg. But a women-focused VFW post would be a good way to meet the needs of female veterans and could help change public awareness, she said.
Plus, it's nice to be around fellow female veterans, said Sandra Williams, a 50-year-old Cold War-era veteran.
"We need to break that [male-dominated] paradigm and accept women have accomplished great things in the military, and we're not going away," said Carrigg, who served in the Army for 20 years, including a tour in Iraq from 2005 to 2006.
Thirty-five eligible veterans are required to start a VFW post. So far the group has 20, including five men, some of whom are military spouses of women launching the post. Any eligible veteran — male or female — can join, but the group's goal is to establish a post geared toward women and their needs and issues.
If the group succeeds, it may be the first VFW post of its kind not only in the state, but in the nation.
- Study: 1-in-5 Combat-Deployed Air Force Women Show Symptoms of PTSD
- Female Vets 4 X, Male Vets 2 X as Likely to Become Homeless Vs. Non-Vets
- Study: 'Prolonged Exposure' Therapy Superior Treatment for Female PTSD
- One-Third of OEF/OIF Women Vets Suffer Psychological Injury
- A Look at the VA's Women Veterans Health Program
- Psychological Bulletin from APA: Females Have Higher Rates of PTSD
- Women in Combat: Females and PTSD
- Combat, Women, and PTSD: Details and News on Upcoming VA Retreat
- Female Faces of War - Part 2: Military's Leading Ladies Have Come a Long Way, Baby
- Female Faces of War - Part 1: Jessica Lynch and Lori Piestewa
- March 27-28: Celebrate Women’s History Month and 'Female Faces of War' on the Battleship Massachusetts