A new defense secretary has just been confirmed and already he has a big issue to address: sexual assault in the military. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) (Full disclosure: I used to work in her office), and Senator Janeane Shaheen (D-NH) recently sent a letter requesting Chuck Hagel immediately review a decision by an Air Force Lieutenant General to dismiss all charges against an officer who had been convicted of sexual assault.
Lieutenant Colonel James Wilkerson, a fighter pilot, had been charged with aggravated sexual assault on former colleague Kimberly Hanks at Aviano Air Base in Italy. Hanks had been socializing with Wilkerson and his wife at their home and stayed the evening in their guest bedroom; in the middle of the night, she woke up to find Wilkerson on top of her. He was found guilty and sentenced to a year in the brig (AKA military prison). But he never served any time in prison because his superior, Lieutenant General Craig A. Franklin, dismissed the jury’s conviction and reinstated him. Senators Boxer and Shaheen and others are rightfully concerned that a troop charged with sexual assault was let off scot-free.
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Missed the State Of The Union address last night? Well, here’s a guide of some major points for those of you who still want to know where we’re at. The economy continues to dominate President Obama’s agenda, given how the first 20 minutes were a mixture of economic policies from spending cuts to boosting the middle class. Though we’re no longer arguing about the Bush tax cuts, bailouts, or the debt ceiling, we have new talking points: sequester cuts, deficit reduction, tax codes. Oh my.
Sam Seaborn, fictional speechwriting dreamboat from “The West Wing,” would argue the SOTU speech is not solely about policy, it’s about noble over-reaching that government should aspire to. So what’s on President Obama’s agenda? Where are we heading in the next four years? Keep reading »
Jon Stewart’s latest crusade: picking apart the right-leaning backlash stemming from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s decision to allow women to serve in combat roles. A former U.S. Marine penned a piece in the Wall Street Journal [second item] fretting that in combat soldiers often have to urinate and defecate in front of each other — often in close proximity to a fellow soldier’s face. Stewart points out: In a war zone, are you really worried about “dying from embarrassment?” Keep reading »
Bottom line: I was a female soldier in the combat zone. So why do I feel so uncomfortable about formalizing women’s placement in combat roles? I did a lot of soul-searching about why this bothered me so much. Ultimately, though, I’ve discovered there’s nothing I should be uncomfortable about.
When I first read that Defense Secretary Panetta had lifted the ban on women in combat roles, I felt queasy. While I left the military for the private sector in late 2011, I spent the first decade of my adult life in the Army, half of it on active duty as a Military Police officer. I have led and served alongside extraordinarily tough and competent leaders, male and female, while deployed in Iraq and in training all over the world. This was personal.
Yet, even as a woman who had been to combat, I couldn’t endorse lifting the ban. The more I examined my prejudices, though, I realize that they were just that — prejudices. Keep reading »
Earlier this week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta lifted a ban that prohibited women from openly serving in combat roles in the military. This would entail overturning a 1994 rule that bans women from certain ground combat roles, thus opening up more jobs to servicewomen. Women have already been attached to ground units performing these jobs — they just haven’t been properly credited for it.
Yesterday, Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Join Chiefs Of Staff, officially overturned the 1994 rule. “Everyone is entitled to a chance,” Panetta said. According to The New York Times, the Army is now creating gender-neutral standards for all their positions but will not be lowering the physical standards required just so that women can be admitted.
All week there have been reactions to lifting the ban, both for and against. I’ve rounded up some of the responses: Keep reading »