The Military and Women
A panel of three women hosted a discussion on women in the military comparing the past, present and future roles, on Thursday in the First Year Center from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
The panel consisted of retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Anne Campbell, Air Force Academy professor of political science Dr. Fran Pilch and active guard Major Jodi Vittori. Each panelist shared specific information on the various aspects which concern women in the military.
Campbell covered an overview of the history of women’s roles in the military; she said 1980 was the first year women were allowed to attend the USAFA located in Colorado Springs, Colo. Incidentally, Campbell graduated from the academy in 1983.
“I didn’t deal with the combat side in my day,” Campbell said, “but I was involved with the business side of things.”
The lieutenant colonel said her focus was on the study of inquiries on drug trades, weapons of mass destruction and various other aspects that accompany warfare.
Pilch, who has not directly served, said she had an interesting position in regards to the military issue.
“I was actually born in West Point, New York,” Pilch said, “and that was before women were even allowed to enlist in the armed forces.”
The USAFA professor said her father was on base and she was born on the base during his service.
On the other hand, Vittori is currently enlisted and also graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1994 and has since deployed several times. Vittori said she has toured in places like Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and Saudi Arabia.
The major said she is mainly involved in the intelligence field and she is currently working on a doctorate in international studies at Denver University.
“Since ‘47, women have been a part of Intel in the Air Force,” Vittori said. “Even in Iraq, the amount of women in this field is around 30 percent.”
However, the panel agreed that women are not equally distributed amongst their qualified fields because of remaining restrictions in the military opposing women.
One of the main restrictions is that women are not allowed to be in direct combat, according to Pilch.
“Since ’48, women have been barred by congress and not allowed to be in full combat,” Pilch said.
In addition, the professor said she understands that the term combat means that women are to be excluded from going below brigade level and coming in contact with any direct hostile force or fire. Generally, Pilch said women are to be no where near any direct physical contact which can be construed as dangerous.
However, Vittori said she has been on assignment when women have been killed while dismantling and IED or an improvised explosive device.
“What can be more dangerous than being a sitting duck on top of an IED?” Vittori asked the group.
As well, Pilch said statistics have shown that it is more dangerous to kick in a door in Iraq than to drive through red zone at times. Overall, the panel discussed that there is no real way to decide when and where specific soldiers will be protected or safe.
Another issue concerning women in the military, Campbell said was the matter of pregnancy. The lieutenant colonel said some women may use pregnancy as a way to get out of an assignment, but it can also be an unplanned one as well.
“There have been several concerns from congress on the pregnancy issue,” Campbell said. “Back in ’71, women were allowed waivers by the Air Force if they became pregnant at any time.”
Presently, Vittori said the Air Force is extremely understanding of pregnancy and also pays for all hospital expenses and allows maternity leave as well. However, the major said there is always a chance that women might be given deployment soon after their baby is born.
“In this case, the branch of military will then decide how crucial the woman’s deployment is,” Vittori said. “If it is not 100 percent necessary, she may be granted a waiver from assignment.”
However, the panel also added that there are some cases where women have to be deployed as soon as three to six months after giving birth.
Overall, Campbell said that aside from all the ups and downs, the Air Force has actually been one of the more fair branches of the military in the respect that they treat women equally in all aspects and she has never seen or felt any discrimination either. In addition, the lieutenant colonel is also an adjunct professor for continuing education at CSU-Pueblo