Women… What Are They Good For?

Women… what are they good for?
Gideon D. Asche

I don’t ask this in jest or out of any hidden misogyny.
I look at things in black and white and I mean it is a legitimate question requiring a legitimate answer.

A question that must be asked and answered if we are to understand the dangers or advantages of allowing women unfettered equal opportunity in the military.

Headlines like: “Women in the infantry – NO THANKS”, “Why Women Do Not Belong in the U.S. Infantry”  and a long list of others make it appear that women have no place in jobs that men believe that only men can do.

It is hard to come away from the current media trend regarding Women in combat without the impression that common sense tells us women and men are not equal –How can you expect a 130lb woman to be able to carry a wounded 220lb comrade out of the fray.

Can you imagine having things turn to shit, calling in air support,  you throw purple smoke then you hear some high pitched squeaky voice on Fox-Mike:

“Ah’ see goofy grape… Lavender Unicorn is inbound… Weapons Hot”

Sure there are some great children’s stories that depict women doing a man’s job and doing it well. Women like BoudicaAbigail, Joan of Arc and my favorite childhood story – the Women from the town of Weinsberg.

cover womenWeinsberg had my kind of women… I even dated a woman from there when I was in my 20’s.

In the 11th century, the town was under siege by a much larger army and, as was Germanic custom, the attacking King offered terms of surrender that would allow the women and children to flee the city and live.

The Women of Weinsberg petitioned the enemy King to allow them to take some of their belongings for the journey.  The King agreed that they each be allowed to leave and to take whatever they could carry on their backs.  The next morning, when the women marched out the city gate, each one was carrying one of the town men on their backs.

The King’s Generals protested – They wanted to attack and kill the men but the King had integrity and allowed them to pass un-harassed saying, “a King does not break his word.” The women of Weinsberg saved their men, fairy tale or not, it is a cool story of women saving the day.

That is all nice and the stories are truly inspiring but they are myths – stories made up or embellished to serve a purpose. I am more interested in real-world documentable history and I just don’t know about this “women in combat” stuff.

Maybe I should do some research and find my point before I try to prove it.

How about if I make a list of Women to tried to prove they could do a man’s job. The failure rate will surely make a woman’s actual limitations clear and put this nonsense to bed.

The US Military was born on June 4th, 1775 so that is where we will start. Surely there are cases of women serving in the Revolutionary War…  let’s see how they did.

One can’t think of women at war without considering the likes of Catherine Moore Barry – “Heroine of the Battle of Cowpens” or the young patriot girl, Sybil Ludington who rode through Putnam and Dutchess Counties warning the militia that Crown Troops were burning Danbury.  At only 16 years old, she made her courageous 40 miles ride. It required evading enemy troops and loyalists all the way – Young Sybil’s ride makes Paul Revere look like a wimp.

Then there is one of my favorite characters in US history; Nancy Hart. Nancy was known to have a hot temper and “to take no shit” from anyone.  She was also Gen. Daniel Morgan’s cousin and close friend – apparently “badass” ran in the Morgan family.

Early in the revolt, Hart showed her metal when six British soldiers in pursuit of a rebel leader ransacked her farm searching for the Patriot. Hart denied knowing the man, although she had just helped him escape. The Tories didn’t believe her and for some reason, they shot one of her turkeys, then demanded she cook it and serve it to them.

They stacked their weapons in a corner of her home and demanded something to drink… Nancy Hart complied and as the soldiers drank wine, Hart sent her daughter to fetch water and secretly alert the militia that Tories were in her home.

Hart then discretely passed the loaded weapons through a space in the wall to her daughter outside. One of the soldiers noticed ½ their weapons were gone and tried to grab the remaining muskets. Hart gave one verbal warning, then shot the soldier dead to make her point. She held off the rest until militiamen arrived.

It was suggested that they shoot the prisoners but Hart said no, it would be a waste of powder, so she hanged the surviving Tories. In 1912 workmen grading a railroad near the site of the old Hart cabin unearthed a neat row of six skeletons – Evidence of the Patriot Nancy Hart’s handiwork.

During the US Civil war, more than 400 women disguised themselves as men and fought in the Union and Confederate armies.

No student of military history is unaware of the Bataan Death March or the atrocities committed on prisoners, but did you know there were a number of Women Officers there too. The men who survived refer to them as the “Angels of Bataan.”

2 women nancyOn the Atlantic side of the war, there were women like Virginia Hall, a one-legged American woman who became one of the most sought people of the war.

The Gestapo passed out hundreds of wanted posters displaying a drawing of Mdm. Heckler (the name they knew her by) and the caption, “WANTED – The woman with a limp.” 

In 1944 she was reinserted into France where, although she was well known and continually on the run, she continued to kick Nazi ass, with her one good leg, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Then there was 1LT Sharon Ann Lane who was posthumously awarded the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm and the Bronze Star for Heroism. She was KIA in June 1969. You can find her name on panel 23W, line 112 of the Wall.

I even have some personal experience with women in a man’s role. I went to a school once that dealt with a lot of “breaking and entering.” I became an expert in picking locks both by hand and with a rake-pick gun; I could breach most of the top security systems available in the late ’70s with my eyes closed – I really shined when it came to burglary type skills… in the classroom.

When we did the exercises it was like I turned spastic. I discovered that B&E is a job much better suited to a 5’3” woman with gymnastic skills than a 6’3” knuckle dragger, with size 15 feet, like me. It requires way too much squeezing between and climbing in and out of things for me to be any good at it.

In my first critique, an instructor likened my entry skill to a “baboon trying to fornicate with a rugby ball” – He was right but the three women who went through that course with me had no such problems. They could get in, place the equipment and get out before anyone knew they were there. In that particular case, women were much better than the men were.

Still, the idea of having mixed combat units has a very bad track record. Oh, there are a few Hollywood units full of women like Mexican army women who paint their eyes red for parades, but as far as real live co-ed combat units; Israel has the most experience.

Israel has always had individual women in specific combat and intelligence roles and pre-1948 there were mixed combat units in the IDF. Haganah and Irgun were both always mixed, and Mossad is still that way but after Partition women were no longer allowed in combat units.

Special Forces units like Oketz and certain Sayeret Matkal assets are in fact mixed, but these women are the exception, not the rule. Much like the women who walk in the field with our SF teams are the exception.

Israel’s attempt to reinstate women in combat roles has failed. They stopped trying to integrate combat units with the exception of certain Special Operations units because it just didn’t work. We might consider the lessons they learned.

I am all for women having the opportunity to go to high-end combat arms courses. I’ve worked with more than one woman who was better qualified and better trained than I will ever be and it does not offend me to be subordinate to anyone with skills.

I did my research and I think I have a valid answer to the question I posed at the onset of this rant.

What are women good for?  

Just about anything they set their mind to.

Women can shine in combat, but not as part of line units – not yet anyway.
We will figure it out eventually, so let women shine in the roles they can shine in and there will be that occasional exception who takes her place amongst the best we have to offer.

She should have that opportunity and if she can make it, I salute her and I accept her as a fellow operator. I would be proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with her in a gunfight.

On a more pleasant caveat…There is new evidence that Viking Warriors included a large number of women Warriors. – It turns out Valhalla is co-ed… Excellent!



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