Friday, November 14, 2008

Team Lioness

I watched a documentary last night on PBS called 'Lioness' about female combat soldiers in Iraq.

Despite a Department of Defense policy banning women from direct ground combat, U.S. military commanders have been using women as an essential part of their ground operations in Iraq since 2003. The female soldiers who accompany male troops on patrols and house-to-house searches are known as Team Lioness, and have proved to be invaluable. Their presence not only helps calm women and children, but Lioness troops are also able to conduct searches of the women, without violating cultural strictures. Against official policy and without the training given to their male counterparts, and with a firm commitment to serve as needed, these dedicated young women have been drawn into the fighting in some of the most violent counterinsurgency battles in Iraq. Yet they are rarely—if ever—mentioned in news accounts of those battles.

I'm sure they are not mentioned because what they are ordered to do is illegal.

LIONESS profiles five women who saw action in Iraq’s Sunni Triangle during 2003 and 2004. As members of the U.S. Army’s 1st Engineer Battalion, Shannon Morgan, Rebecca Nava, Kate Pendry Guttormsen, Anastasia Breslow and Ranie Ruthig were sent to Iraq to provide supplies and logistical support to their male colleagues. Not trained for combat duty, the women unexpectedly became involved with fighting in the streets of Ramadi.

Told through interviews, journal excerpts and archival footage, LIONESS offers a portrait of five soldiers who are also wives, mothers and daughters, and who have long coped with the demands of military life, especially the sacrifices involved in leaving behind spouses and young children. These combat-tested women exemplify what it means to be a good soldier, and illustrate the complicated role that women play in direct war combat. Reflecting on their recent deployment, the Lionesses display strength and candor, bridging the gap between the perception and the reality of the essential role women are playing in Iraq.

There's some humor as well. I paraphrase:

"The Marines do things a lot different than the Army. Those guys go lookin' for fights!"

Out of contact with her fire team for a minute in the middle of a firefight and thinking she had been abandoned, upon reuniting with them:

"I kicked the squad leader right in the nuts!"

Who amongst us has not wanted to do that? Get 'im, girl!

I'm a tough ol' bird in some respects, but this film kinda broke my heart. Whatever you think of women in combat, it's happening as a result of cultural necessity. The women face the same risk of death, injury, PTSD, etc. that the men do. At least the Army is training them for it now. I highly recommend you see it somehow. Start with the quite extensive link. Please.

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