USA — Mullen Praises Trailblazing Military Women

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2010 — The chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flanked by two of the nation’s top female mil­i­tary offi­cers, today recount­ed the ear­ly days of women’s inte­gra­tion into the ser­vices and said “we would be nowhere as a mil­i­tary” with­out trail­blaz­ing women.

“In com­bat, in every part of who we are as a mil­i­tary right now, women have been extra­or­di­nary,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said at For­tune magazine’s Most Pow­er­ful Women sum­mit here today. 

Mullen took the stage before an audi­ence of most­ly civil­ian women lead­ers along­side Gen. Ann Dun­woody, com­man­der of Army Materiel Com­mand, and Navy Vice Adm. Ann Ron­deau, pres­i­dent of Nation­al Defense University. 

At the summit’s Lead­er­ship Lessons pan­el mod­er­at­ed by CNN’s Kyra Phillips, the three senior lead­ers recalled how far the ser­vices have come in inte­grat­ing women since they entered the mil­i­tary — Mullen in 1968, and Ron­deau and Dun­woody in 1974 and 1975, respectively. 

Mullen recalled serv­ing on the Naval Academy’s admis­sions board in Octo­ber 1976 when the acad­e­my received a telegram from the White House announc­ing that women would be per­mit­ted to enter the acad­e­my in the next aca­d­e­m­ic year. Only one woman served on the admis­sions board, he recalled, and they would have to move quick­ly to pre­pare for the change. The chair­man acknowl­edged it did­n’t go smooth­ly that first year. 

“As I look back, I real­ize now how lit­tle I knew about how to inte­grate women,” Mullen said, adding that he learned from the expe­ri­ence. “Through­out my career, I’ve tried to lis­ten to peo­ple and view the sit­u­a­tion through their eyes. 

“For me, it’s about how we cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ties, then sink or swim,” he con­tin­ued. “If the tal­ent pool is there, we need to rec­og­nize that and make sure doors stay open.” 

Those first female grad­u­ates opened doors for oth­ers, Mullen said, not­ing that the mil­i­tary now stays between 20 and 25 per­cent female. The Navy con­tin­ues to under­go sig­nif­i­cant inte­gra­tion efforts, the pan­elists not­ed, with the first female sub­mariners cho­sen last sum­mer, 16 years after women were per­mit­ted to serve on sur­face ships. 

“We would be nowhere as a mil­i­tary if some­one not had the wis­dom to send that telegram way back then, and if we had not had women like this ready to step up when the mil­i­tary was­n’t ready for them and blaze a trail,” Mullen said, refer­ring to Dun­woody and Rondeau. 

The Navy’s lack of prepa­ra­tion for inte­grat­ing women in the 1970s “was pret­ty pro­found,” Ron­deau said. What that meant for her, she said, was try­ing to find a men­tor she could trust to help her grow, deter­min­ing where she could make a dif­fer­ence, and know­ing which bat­tles to fight. 

Asked whether women ser­vice­mem­bers must prove them­selves more than men, Ron­deau said, “I’m not sure that it is as much about who you are, as where you are, and what you bring to the table. You come with a cer­tain amount of com­pe­tence and con­fi­dence, then you just lead.” 

Dun­woody, the military’s first female four-star offi­cer, joined the Army just after the Women’s Army Corps was dis­band­ed. “Our jour­ney was to forge -– and some­times force -– women into the full spec­trum of capa­bil­i­ties,” she said. 

For Dun­woody, that meant jump­ing out of air­planes, doing 12-mile ruck­sack march­es, and com­mand­ing troops in war zones, she said. “That’s our jour­ney and our lega­cy,” she added. 

That was the jour­ney we had to build through­out our careers.” 

Phillips asked about the evolv­ing role of women in com­bat and whether women might soon serve in Spe­cial Forces. While none of the three would spec­u­late on when law or pol­i­cy might change in that regard, all acknowl­edged that women already serve in com­bat and that the nature of war­fare has changed such that the issue will con­tin­ued to be addressed. 

“We are in an asym­met­ri­cal envi­ron­ment with­out front and rear bound­aries,” Dun­woody said of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Every sol­dier is in dan­ger. What’s so good about the mil­i­tary is that we con­tin­ue review those [poli­cies]. The doors con­tin­ue to open, and poli­cies con­tin­ue to change to cap­ture the tal­ent of men and women in uni­form. All in bat­tle are mak­ing sac­ri­fices, and we can nev­er for­get that.” 

Mil­i­tary lead­ers need to assess what has been learned from com­bat in Iraq and Afghanistan regard­ing women ser­vice­mem­bers, Mullen said. “It’s very impor­tant that we take a look at what we’ve learned in these wars and look at whether we should eval­u­ate those poli­cies. Bat­tle is nowhere and it is every­where right now; every­one is in a com­bat zone. We’ve got to under­stand what that means and roll it into the future.” 

Ron­deau also said she expects laws and poli­cies to evolve to open more doors for women. “We’re putting women on sub­marines, we’ve had them at sea for a while, and we’ve had them in the air a while,” she said. “You can’t win the cur­rent fight with­out women on the field, and that just is a fact.” 

The issue sur­round­ing women in com­bat roles, Ron­deau said, is about not only capa­bil­i­ties, but also mind­set. She recalled a time when she was com­man­der of Navy acces­sions train­ing and a female sailor just out of boot camp went out of her way to ask the com­man­der a ques­tion. “Am I ready to fight and win?” the young woman asked Rondeau. 

“I’d put her in war any day,” the admi­ral told the audi­ence. “Being a warfight­er is not just about the com­pe­tence to fight. It’s also about the spir­it. A warfight­ing spir­it is some­thing that comes from the heart.” 

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twitter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →