How the military went to hell between 1970 and 1980

In response to the recent news that that Navy is now going to include women in submarine crews, Ferg writes:

I have a somewhat unique service experience that gives me an insight into women in the military that most don’t have. I spent my first enlistment in the Army National Guard from July 1964 to July 1970. During that time there were no women in men’s units, but in separate units of the Women’s Army Corps, or WACs. I was out of the service for ten years and then re-enlisted in the Army National Guard in July of 1980, and went on active duty for training at Ft. Rucker, Alabama, in early April of 1981. Thus I was the frog who left the pot just before the temperature began to rise, and jumped back in just as it began to reach boiling point.

I can only say that it was massive culture shock. The modern Army was totally foreign to me. Discipline was far below what I was used to, and physical training was much degraded. I nearly fainted the first time I witnessed a trainee arguing with a cadre NCO over an order, in public! That would never have been tolerated during my first hitch. Females routinely dropped out of morning runs before they were completed, and were not punished for doing so. The same was true of morning calisthenics. The obstacle course had certain obstacles that the females could simply go around rather than over. Push ups were done from the knees, and pull ups were not done by females at all. Females were not required to keep their hair short. There were special liaison officers for women who had complaints.

The biggest shock however was the commingling of living accommodations. Not only were women in the same areas, but the same barracks, and on the same floors. In my barracks the women were in one wing, the men in the other, both on the same floor, separated only by the stairwell. Although it was against regulations for members of one sex to be in the room of a member of the other sex, it happened quite frequently. We lived in four man rooms and the second week I was there one of my roommates who had finished the course and was cycling out in a few days, had an overnight “guest” in his bed. Later, when I became student platoon sergeant for my platoon, I was aware that several of my best troops had overnight guests. I chose not to report this breach of regulations, because I considered that the system itself created them. Also, a man or woman caught in the room of the other sex even if fully dressed in daytime with the door open, would be subject to article fifteen punishment, there was an interesting exception to this rule. One morning during a surprise inspection in the other barracks, two women were caught in bed together, and nothing was done about it. This was when I decided not to report any of my people for breaking the room rules. The system itself was corrupt. Thus, the system bred insubordination by its very nature, even among the leaders.

The whole experience was unpleasant for me in many ways, although my tour was very successful as far as my training went. It left me feeling that something very important was gone from the military, and I found it hard to take much pride in my accomplishments, or in the service itself. I was forty years old at the time and had thought I would have to rely heavily on my buddies to get through the program, especially the physical requirements. Instead I found myself excelling in all aspects of the program including physical fitness and basic soldiering skills.

Always now when I hear male service members (current or former) speak of how well the women fit in I always suspect that either they never saw the service pre-women, or they were in during the transition and so experienced the water getting hot only slowly, instead of the shock I encountered. Imagine having gone to sleep in July of 1970 and not waking up until July of 1980. That is what it was like for me. I left the Guard after my enlistment was up in July of 1983 and did not return.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 26, 2010 12:41 PM | Send

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