"In the Oven"
Hi, Submariner! I brought this argument from “Women in Combat - Food for Thought” (21 January 99) to the top. It’s part 2 of “Meatloaf Again?!?”, my post from last week. You’re killin’ me with all this research! I really must stop this and get back to frequency spectrums! =)
So here we go:
First, the LY SPEAR article. Although I did find the article you described in the June ’97 Proceedings Table of Contents, (entitled “Much Ado About Nothing By Captain Paul Ryan, USN Mixed-gender crews are not problem free--but they can work”) I couldn’t access the article and so can’t address your points.
I will say, though, that your assumption that a 24% loss rate for women is typical is a little out of control. The Navy’s FY98 figures show 2.4 (note the decimal point between the 2 and 4) percent loss to pregnancy. The Navy admits it hasn’t been keeping perfect track of pregnancies, though, so we can look at the other services as a sanity check. The Army (4.3%), Air Force (6%) and Marines (4.2%) all indicate that your 24% figure is WAY off target, if not just plain ridiculous. There were some other interesting loss statistics the Navy had, too…
HIV (M 293, .1%, F 14, 0%), Legal (M 685, .2%, F 29, .1%), Admin (M 13,642, 4.8%, F 1,804, 4.3%).
AWOL #s were very weird, so I’ll hit them separately. M .1% (337), F .7% (292)…. but if you look closer you’ll see that 31.2% of the female AWOLS (278 women) were E-1. What’s up with THAT? It would indicate some other problem that needs to be addressed. If we look at paygrades E-2 through 0-6, however, the numbers for F would be 0%… 326 men and 14 women. I know we can “manipulate statistics” however we want, but I do think this one is worth noting, as it’s so completely out of whack, and that this imbalance at the E-1 level is worth considering when looking at the figures.
One more Navy statistic worth noting:
There were 508 (.2%) men permanently non-deployable. There were 57 (.1%) women permanently non-deployable. There were 19,246 (1.6%) men temporarily non-deployable. There were 4,176 (2.5%) women temp non-deployable.
But wait… we know the Navy’s pregnancy statistics are off. To correct for that, let’s go with the highest rate reported by any other service, the Air Force, and assume we’re the same as them at 6%. That would make 10,022.4 (6%) of the women non-deployable.
Of course, the women permanently non-deployable would be much lower if we excluded that E-1 AWOL issue, but don’t worry, I’m not going to try & adjust for that.
So here’s the question for you: If non-deployability is such an issue, as we agree it is, then wouldn’t it make more sense statistically to take more of the women, who are only temporarily non-deployable then the men, who tend to be permanently non-deployable for reasons such as HIV, over the long haul? How many temporary pregnancies must we have in order to be “permanently” non-deployable?
My point isn’t to say that we ought to have women over men. My point is that your statistics, when accurate, can be used not only to negate your argument, but to work against it. Look big picture. Men and women are both needed, and statistically, women aren’t hurting deployability as much as it might seem at first glance.
NOW. That said… on to your other issues with pregnancy. We’ve discussed this before and we tend to agree on several points. Pregnancy can be a serious problem for forward-deployed units who will lose the member for a long period of time with no replacement in sight as an unplanned loss. I’d be blind, stupid or naïve not to agree with that. Where we differ is in our interpretation of this problem and how to handle it. You seem to think the answer is to keep all women from serving in combatant units. I say that’s knee-jerk craziness. There are many deployable, non-pregnant women, and it would be silly and a waste not to utilize their talents and skills. So what problems do we have? We have a management problem, primarily, and it’s not one we’re all too dumb to fix. What we need is, in my opinion, several things:
1. Better training & availability of birth control for both sexes. Say what you will, I think this is huge. I think birth control should be issued to everyone, and they can then choose whether or not to use it.
2. In the event #1 fails…Abortion services overseas. Congress has AGAIN (225 to 203) made it impossible for a servicewoman to get an abortion overseas in a military hospital, even when she pays for it and a Doctor’s available who is not morally opposed to and is willing to perform one. I think it’s outrageous that they’re not given this last-ditch opportunity to terminate an unwanted, accidental pregnancy while serving overseas defending their country, while their civilian counterparts have no such restriction on their freedoms. I had one gal in my division who opted for an abortion in a Japanese hospital, if you can imagine. How many others don’t have the money or leave to fly back to the US, are afraid of the sanitation or development of a foreign hospital, and just quietly wait until their pregnancy is advanced enough to be flown back to the US?
3. Better management. We have unplanned losses. Pregnancy’s the most significant, but by no means the only one. We have statistics, computers, analysts and analytical tools. Although some losses will be painful, they don’t all have to be. We are more than capable of planning ahead for a large % of these losses and building a buffer into the system. Contingency planning is supposed to be our forte. This problem is not unfixable, although it will likely never be perfect. The answer’s not to just throw up our hands and say “Well, don’t send the women, they may get pregnant” any more than “Well, don’t send the men, they may contract HIV or get into trouble.” The answer’s to plan. Education, Prevention, Management. As discussed previously, we need people. We need to manage our limited assets more smartly.
Finally, I should address the other issues you bring up related to pregnancies. I disagree with your statement that pregnancy is a voluntary condition. If you play sports, you take a risk of being injured. If you have sex, you take a risk of contracting a disease or if a woman, becoming pregnant. Although it’s certainly possible to get pregnant “on purpose”, it is NOT always a “voluntary condition”. I wouldn’t compare sports related injuries with pregnancy either, though; they’re different. Nor would I compare an intentional injury with pregnancy; they’re different. As far as punishing a woman for becoming pregnant? I don’t think you seriously want me to respond to that, do you? Shall we punish the men who have gotten women pregnant as well? That’s not realistic or logical. You mentioned that women can’t be given negative fitness reports/evals as a result of their pregnancies. I sure as hell hope not! You’re not looking at the big picture here, though. Your implication would seem to be that women who are sent home from a deployment due to pregnancy are just as competitive for promotions as men who aren’t, making the system unfair. Sure, no negative input on an eval due to pregnancy. But let me ask you this: You have 2 sailors going up for rate. One has 2 points extra for the NAM he got on deployment, and an eval filled with accomplishments while deployed in the gulf. Another has a very mundane eval with mediocre marks and little content because she’s been at SIMA pregnant Who will be advanced? The guy. Is that fair? Yes. The gal may not think so at the time, but realistically, if she’s not out doing the things that will get her advanced and he is, it’s fair. I delivered both of my kids on shore duty, and of course I was gone on convalescent leave after both. I was accustomed to being ranked #1 or #2. I was ranked #7. Did my performance drop? No. Were my evaluation marks dropped unfairly because of my pregnancy? No. I was physically at work less, and so had less content to put in my evaluation. I didn’t accomplish as much as my un-pregnant counterparts, men and women. In my case, that was a choice I made… a brief slow-down in career in order to start our family. It was the right choice for me, but not without an effect. You should also consider that the pregnant woman who leaves during a deployment will lose her sea pay, hazardous duty pay, family separation pay, etc. Is that fair? Yes. Is it “equal pay for equal work”? Yes. And finally, you leave off the last part of the woman’s pregnancy. If she became pregnant while on sea duty, she will return to sea to finish her sea time about 4-6 months after delivery. Again, you are not looking at the big picture.
I’m not saying you don’t have any valid points, I most definitely agree that you do, as I have before. I am saying that the way you’re proposing to fix them is wrong. I sometimes query people on what they would do to fix it, and have received answers like yours, mine, and some more conservative or radical. The point is that there ARE solutions, and to limit women’s roles isn’t a good one.
This is much longer than I’d intended, (and it’s just a scratch on the surface,) so I’ll address your other issues another time. It takes me forever to answer your persuasive arguments, and I get tired of these debates anyhow sometimes, so I may not be back for awhile. You’re not forgotten, though! (I think of you whenever I think ASW…. ) (Kidding! Kidding!)