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NOTE
: THE DEFINING GENERATION is a project begun by Doug and Pam Sterner in 2002 and completed in 2006. Initially is was prepared for publication as a book, however with their changing focus to development of a database of military awards, was postponed indefinitely so they could concentrate on that larger, more important work. The stories found herein however, need to be shared, and they have consented to make this compilation available in this format. While each story can stand alone, it is recommended that for continuity, readers will be best served by reading the chapters sequentially from first to last.

 

The Defining Generation

-

Defining the Role of the Sexes

The Modern Woman in Combat

In the process of simply doing their job, and doing it well, women in uniform slowly overcame prejudice to prove their worth. Lieutenant General Mutter notes, "Women have always felt compelled to do their part, to serve in whatever way they could. It had nothing to do with wanting equality, but everything to do with being equal to the task."

On December 20, 1989, U.S. Forces launched Operation Just Cause, a military action to restore order in Panama and depose and capture Manuel Noriega. Though women were still prohibited from combat roles, expanding opportunities DID allow them to serve in expanded positions that could place them in proximity to combat. On that day Captain Linda L. Bray, U.S. Army, commanded the 123-member 988th Military Police Company that arrived in theater from Fort Benning, Georgia. Ordered to capture a kennel that housed Panamanian Defense Force guard dogs, she monitored the progress of a 30-soldier MP force as they surrounded an enemy compound. When the Panamanian force refused to surrender she ordered her men to fire warning shots. When the enemy responded with return fire,  Captain Bray ordered discretionary combat fire to defend themselves while preventing nearby innocents from being hit. By the time she arrived by jeep to personally command her forces; most of the enemy had fled, though she was subject to occasional sniper fire as she directed the securing of the area. On that day, Captain Bray became the first woman in history to command U.S. soldiers in a combat action.

Little more than a year later, on January 16, 1991, American Forces again went to war, this time against the army of Saddam Hussein. More than 40,000 military women were deployed, many of them manning guns as Military Police and in other supportive but non-combat Military Occupational Specialties. Others flew combat support aircraft and not always in the back seat…many of them were pilots. During that brief and decisively victorious war 16 women died and two suffered as Prisoners of War.

In 1994 the Department of Defense rescinded the "risk rule," a standard to determine in which combat support roles a woman could serve. The intent was to keep women from direct combat, in keeping with long-standing military tradition, while reversing trends that had become so broad as to limit what aircraft a woman could pilot, on which ships she might serve, or what units she might command. While this DOD action still reserved such combat assignments as Infantry, Artillery, etc. for men only, it did greatly expand where and how women could serve.

Nearly a decade later American forces returned to the Persian Gulf to again confront Saddam Hussein and his tyrannical empire. On March 20, 2003, U.S. and Allied combat forces crossed the border into Iraq to engage the enemy. Behind them in their march on Baghdad rolled convoys of supply trucks, many of them driven by armed young women soldiers assigned to combat support roles. On March 23 one such convoy of the 507th Maintenance Company took a wrong turn, was surrounded by enemy fighters, and engaged. Two young women soldiers made history that day. Specialist Lori Ann Piestewa crashed her truck into a pole and was mortally wounded by enemy fire, becoming the first woman casualty in the Global War on Terrorism. Specialist Shoshana Nyree Johnson survived the firefight despite bullet wounds to both ankles, becoming the first Black female soldier in American history to suffer as a Prisoner of War. Twenty days later she and six of her comrades were found and rescued by U.S. Marines.

Not to be forgotten from the battle of that date was the fate of Private First Class Jessica Lynch who also survived the battle although injured. On April 1 she weakly greeted a joint rescue force of U.S. Marines, Navy Seals, Army Rangers, Air Force Pararescue Jumpers, and Delta Force with the simple statement, "I'm a soldier too."

These and other young women have proved they are equal to the task. As they establish their own legacy, they owe the fact that they have this opportunity to those that went before them, from the Molly Pitchers of the American Revolution to civilian contract nurses of later wars, to Vietnam Veterans like Karen Offutt and to peacetime achievers like Lieutenant General Carol Mutter.

As I have watched the news over recent years, as young women in uniform acquit themselves well on the field of battle, it has been with a mixture of both pride and consternation. I've come a long way since 1969 when I would duck into a building to avoid saluting a woman in uniform, but I'm still somewhat "Old Fashioned."

In all honesty, the concept of women in combat remains alien to my own thinking. Still, I won't challenge those who support it, nor will you find me speaking out against it. I simply leave it to the evolution of our society to determine when and where women will find their own roles.

Early in 2006 as part of my work to preserve the history of our heroes, I began establishing a digital database of military heroes who had received some of our nation's highest awards for valor. As I slowly typed the citations for awards of the Silver Star, the military's third-highest award for valor, I ran across the name of Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester. On March 20, 2005, two years to-the-day after American combat forces invaded Iraq; she became the first woman since World War II to receive the Silver Star, and the first woman in any war to receive it for valor in a direct combat action. Slowly, with my reservations about women in combat still coloring my thoughts, I entered the words of her citation on my computer:

"For exceptionally valorous achievement during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Sergeant Leigh Hester's heroic actions during combat operations in Iraq contributed to the overwhelming success of the Multi National Corps-Iraq mission. While serving as the Team Leader for Raven 42B in the 617th Military Police Company, Sergeant Hester led her soldiers on a counterattack of anti Iraq forces (AIF) who were ambushing a convoy with heavy AK-47 assault rifle fire, RPK machine gun fire, and rocket propelled grenades. Sergeant Hester maneuvered her team through the kill zone into a flanking position where she assaulted a trench line with grenades and M-203 rounds. She then cleared two trenches with her squad leader where she engaged and eliminated three AIF with her M-4 rifle. Her actions saved the lives of numerous convoy members. Sergeant Hester's bravery is in keeping with the finest traditions of military heroism and reflects distinct credit upon herself, the 503d Military Police Battalion (Airborne), the 18th Military Police Brigade, and the United States Army."

 

When I had finished typing the citation I re-read the words on the screen, still unsure how I felt about women in combat. Then, under my breath I caught myself muttering, "Damn, now there's an NCO I would be proud to follow anywhere!"

Doug Sterner

 

 

 

The Defining Generation: Copyright © 2006 by Doug and Pam Sterner
All Rights Reserved

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Cover & Introduction
     Preface
Out With the Old
     The Defining Generation

I. - Defining the New
     John Fitzgerald Kennedy
     Roger H.C. Donlon
     Robert Robin Moore
     Barry Sadler
     The Green Beret

II. - Defining Equality
     When Worlds Collide
     Dr. Martin Luther King
     Jimmy Stanford & Vince Yrineo
     Milton Lee Olive, III
     Specialist Lawrence Joel
     Sammy Lee Davis
     Black MOH Recipients - Vietnam War

III. - Defining the Role of the Sexes
     Evolution of a Husband
     Remember the Ladies
     Rosie the Riveter
     Dr. Marguerite Guzman Bouvard
     Linda G. Alvarado
     Karen Irene Offutt
     Women in Military Service
     Lieutenant General Carol Mutter
     The Modern Woman in Combat
IV. - Defining Human Rights
     My Brother's Keeper
     Who is My Brother
     Christopher Dodd & Christopher Shays
     Peace Corps Politicians (Memories)
     Don Bendell
     Sir Edward Artis
     General Colin L. Powell

V. - Defining Entertainment
     Life Imitating Art
     Troubled Waters
     Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
     Brian's Song
     All in the Family
     Adrian Cronauer

VI. - Defining Dissent

     From Berkeley With Love
     The Pen and the Sword
     General David Shoup
     Muhammad Ali
     John Forbes Kerry

VII. - Defining the Future of Politics
     An Act of Congress
     All Politics is....Hereditary?
     Hillary Rodham Clinton
     Condoleezza Rice
     James Henry Webb
The next Section is scheduled for posting on May 20, 2011
VIII. - Defining Memories
     Jaime Pacheco
     The Glory of their Deeds
     Jan Scruggs
     Delbert Schmeling
     Peter C. Lemon

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:
The authors extend our thanks to the following who granted personal interviews for this work
: Roger Donlon (MOH), Robin Moore, Don Bendell, Jimmy Stanford, Vince Yrineo, Sammy L. Davis (MOH), Linda Alvarado, Karen Offutt, Lieutenant General Carol Mutter, Sir Edward Artis, General Colin L. Powell, Katharine Houghton, Adrian Cronauer, Jan Scruggs, Delbert Schmeling, and Peter Lemon (MOH).
Our thanks to the staff of the following who either wrote or allowed reprint of their own works for this book: Dr. Marguerite Guzman Bouvard, Don Bendell, Congressman Sam Farr, Congressman Thomas Petri, Congressman Mike Honda, Congressman Jim Walsh, Governor Jim Doyle, and Scott Baron.
Our special thanks also to the staff of the following who provided information and fact-checked the chapters related to their subject: Staff of Senator John Kerry, Staff of (then) Senator Hillary Clinton, Staff of Senator Jim Webb
A SPECIAL THANKS also to Dr. Marguerite Guzman Bouvard for his assistance in writing and editing the entire section on the Role of the Sexes.

 

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