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Don't Mention It

The irony of desegregation (gender-inclusive combat roles) and segregation (fraternization) policies in the US military seems to be little discussed.

The fascinating part of this story is how it deals with the most basic human reality. Procreation and death. The only two inevitable human realities to effect every human, every living thing. But only death, killing, destruction and mutilation can be openly discussed without legal repercussions. And that's the tragedy: Open conversation can never be open under such conflicting policies.

The Setup

Official Army policy1) expressly condemns “gender discrimination that involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” On the surface, this policy seems to be a no-brainer. Treat everyone equally, right? Not quite so fast. We'll come back to this.

For reasons and policies escaping the scope of this article, the US Army is attempting to open every combat role to women.2) But from appearances, this new change in mission is not due to protesters chanting along Pennsylvania Avenue for gender reforms in the armed forces. As it turns out, less than 10% of females in the Army even would consider participating in artillery, infantry or other traditionally male combat roles.

From internal discussions, this writer has been informed that the military is creating a culture of fear within its ranks. Every Army Soldier is required to participate in quarterly courses in Ethics, Fraternization and Sexual Harassment. This used to be one class. Once a year. Within 25 years, the same material has been expanded on, and as if under a microscope, has expanded into three separate classes. And every single one of these courses reinforce, among other things, one single theme: You are not safe with the Soldiers in your unit.

Consider, if you are female or male, those “locker room” conversations that you may have participated in or merely overheard. Sexual content. Some graphic. Some suggestive. But definitely some. Right? Maybe just a little? At least once?

Now consider Soldiers, training under intense conditions to fight wars. Consider also those same Soldiers fighting in war for well over the last 10 years. Harsh conditions. Your friends killed. You could be gone on deployment for a year and a half, under constant stress of being killed. And it's perfectly acceptable during that time to talk about death.

Dismemberment. Killing. Beheadings. Mortars. Small arms conflict. IEDs. Blood. Death. But if you verbalize anything of a sexual nature, well then, Soldier, you are in trouble.

The Tricky Part (i.e., the hook)

See, the Army is desegregating genders in all possible roles involving war.

But at the same time there is a program called Fraternization that expressly segregates genders.

The Conclusion

It's the same situation I encountered years ago while talking to a black Southern pastor. He wanted to begin a program to create small business in the black community to keep income within the community instead of exporting that money, which in his mind just enhanced poverty problems in those communities. This part of the discussion was overheard by another black pastor, who promptly retorted, “So after the Civil Rights movement, you want to reintroduce segregation?”

The conversation abruptly ended.

It seems to me that the US military is finding itself in a similar situation. I personally don't know the answer, but by teaching segregation and desegregation simultaneously, it seems to be counterproductive and confusing. Soldiers willfully withdraw themselves from briefings or situations where they interact with the opposite gender, for fear of saying something that might end their career.

But the fight must go on. And you are most susceptible to being forever offended by your most trusted companions. Those other Soldiers in your unit will rape you because they will probably wink at you which is directly a result of saying how nice your eyes are. Horrible reasoning.

Kill, kill, kill. Just don't compliment anyone on their appearance. You might end up at Gitmo.


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