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Center for Women Veterans Hosts ‘Lioness’ Documentary Screening
American Forces Press Service ^ | Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden, USA

Posted on 03/20/2009 3:58:56 PM PDT by SandRat

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2009 – In April 2004, at the height of the insurgency in Iraq, five female soldiers unwittingly found themselves fighting alongside Marines in the battle for Ramadi and Fallujah.

Their story is told in a documentary film bearing their unit name, “Team Lioness,” which has been shown in private and public screenings throughout the United States and Europe in the past year. The Center for Women Veterans hosted the film at the Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters here yesterday.

“These stories are important to us at VA, because women veterans are coming to VA in great numbers, and we need to make sure we understand their experiences,” Betty Moseley Brown, associate director of the VA’s Center for Women Veterans, said as she introduced the film to an audience of about 50 viewers. “They became the first female soldiers in U.S. history to be sent into direct ground combat.”

Since the American Civil War, women have played important roles in the U.S. armed forces during war time -- as nurses, journalists, pilots, engineers, logisticians and much more. But what they’re not, still, is infantry, armor or artillery -- combat-arms specialties.

Still, many female servicemembers have been wounded and killed as a result of enemy fire. But it wasn’t until the start of the Iraq war in 2003 that women began finding themselves engaged in direct fighting.

Team Lioness pioneered women in direct fighting, although somewhat unintentionally. The women were intended to augment combat-arms platoons to search Iraqi women for money, weapons and drugs smuggling at checkpoints and on patrols. But eventually, their new roles in the ranks of combatant units led to ground combat alongside infantrymen, cavalrymen and artillerymen on the frontlines.

The film opens in a wilderness setting with b-roll of trees and damp leaves lining a still-flowing creek. The only sounds for several seconds are crickets chirping in the background. The tranquil silence of Mena, Ark., is suddenly broken by the boom of several shotgun rounds fired at a turtle in the creek.

The documentary’s introduction of Shannon Morgan, a former Army mechanic and Lioness, shows her innocence as a country girl, but with an obviously troubled past. Much of the film follows her around her family’s farm as she hunts squirrels with her shotgun and shares emotional testimonies of her time in Iraq.

“I don’t watch the news. I don’t read newspapers,” Morgan says in the film. “But the memories of war never go away.”

Morgan and the other Lionesses said they never expected to have to fire their weapon. But they quickly found themselves performing combat patrols, raids and house-to-house searches with the Marines in what was considered the most dangerous region of Iraq during what was arguably the most dangerous period of the entire campaign.

The Lionesses talk about their first enemy encounters and the stress of seeing dead bodies for the first time, while fighting to stay alive. Morgan recalled battling with the darkest side of war just before shooting an insurgent in a firefight.

“It’s something you learn to deal with,” Morgan said. “I don’t regret what I did, but I wish it had never happened.”

The soldiers also talk about the difficulties of learning the tactics and vocabulary of the Marines they worked with. The transition from their Army ways, plus the frequency of enemy engagements, didn’t allow for much of a learning curve to make up for their lack of knowledge of various weapons systems, Army Capt. Anastasia Breslow, a signal corps officer and former Lioness, said in the film.

“If everyone [in the platoon] had been hurt, I would have had no idea how to get back to the forward operating base,” Breslow said. “I didn’t know how to use the biggest casualty-producing weapon we had. I felt we needed to know more.”

Although the film takes place primarily on the home front with Lioness and family interviews, it brings to light the realities today’s generation of military women, and all combat support troops, face in Iraq and Afghanistan. The line that separates the front from the rear is blurred by the urban and guerilla warfare troops encounter fighting terrorism within the Middle East.

The nature of modern warfare -- fighting counterinsurgencies in random locations, as opposed to nation states on prescribed battlefields -- has made it difficult to define what constitutes a combat-arms military specialty and what doesn’t.

Military women today still cannot legally serve in combat-arms positions, but they serve competently and are trained in a variety of roles and capacities in Iraq and Afghanistan because of the lessons learned from the original Team Lioness. Their experiences prompted training for women that was never done before. They learn infantry tactics, qualify on more weapons, and are better prepared for the chance they may have to engage the enemy.

“As a result of their experiences, now each military service trains female servicemembers to be Lionesses, training that was not offered whenever this documentary was actually filmed,” Brown said, referring to the weapons and tactical training female military members now receive.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Government; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: documentary; fallujah; frwn; iraq; iraqiwomen; lioness; marines; ramadi; women

1 posted on 03/20/2009 3:58:56 PM PDT by SandRat
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To: 91B; HiJinx; MJY1288; xzins; Calpernia; clintonh8r; TEXOKIE; windchime; freekitty; A Navy Vet; ...
If you would like to be added to / removed from FRWN,
please FReepmail Sandrat.


2 posted on 03/20/2009 3:59:19 PM PDT by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country! What else needs said?)
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To: SandRat

The point against women in combat is NOT whether they can actually perform the duties or not. It’s been shown that some can perform quite well. The question is we really want women, who are the backbone of our nation, the hand that rocks the cradle, the gender that civilizes the next generation growing up, to be involved in combat? Ollie North says this much more eloquently than I.

3 posted on 03/20/2009 4:04:58 PM PDT by MuttTheHoople
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To: MuttTheHoople

“The point against women in combat is NOT whether they can actually perform the duties or not. It’s been shown that some can perform quite well.”

Not really, They can’t carry the load, and cover the ground.

Only about half of them can throw a hand grenade far enough to get it out of their own kill zone, and that is on flat ground on a sunny day when they are healthy and well fed.

There isn’t some great secret about the effectiveness of females as warriors that all of human history is hiding from us.

4 posted on 03/20/2009 4:19:09 PM PDT by ansel12 (Romney (guns)"instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people")
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To: MuttTheHoople

I disagree, fully.

It’s not so much about cultural issues, it is everything about physical issues.

Too many are falling in the too easy trap of assuming that Iraq is the future model of all infantry ops. Ain’t so. Ain’t never gonna be so.

There are times when females temporarily attached to ground combat units will have value. Most times, not any at all.

Infantry work is physically demanding in the extreme. Day in, day out, all day, every day, without break. It wears down and often breaks, strong men, physically. Also, there are too many areas of operations where the nice amenities and availability of separation while off patrol will NOT be available.

Infantry must be able to live a**hole to bellybutton for extended periods in primitive conditions with zero personal space or privacy for even the most basic bodily functions.

Infantry must also be able to survive in small units in isolation for extended periods. That means EVERY one there must be able to pull their own weight at all times in all weather, with limited sleep, no days off to recover or recuperate and have the physical strength to be able to fight on demand in whatever manner demanded by the situation.

The idea that females are capable of being folded into combat arms units, except for silly cultural issues, is idiocy put forward by the clueless.

There are specific instance/situations where females in a combat arms unit is a value added concept, but those are very very limited. In every other situation, the concept is pure liability and combat effectiveness compromised.

5 posted on 03/20/2009 4:23:18 PM PDT by Grimmy (equivocation is but the first step along the road to capitulation)
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To: Grimmy

“Infantry must be able to live a**hole to bellybutton for extended periods in primitive conditions with zero personal space or privacy for even the most basic bodily functions.”

I often have the feeling that civilians don’t know what we mean by close living and no privacy in ground units.

Here is an honest scene from an excellent and true film about an SAS LRRP mission in Desert Storm.

6 posted on 03/20/2009 4:38:52 PM PDT by ansel12 (Romney (guns)"instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people")
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To: ansel12
I stand corrected. I remember from my Basic Training days (I was in one of the first sex-integrated BT units in 1994) that the girls would get stress fractures from hauling the load we had (and in Basic it wasn't much). However, I seem to remember 2 or 3 (out of 25-30) who would've made fine soldiers.

That said, I still stand by my assertion we don't need women in combat because it says more about our society, that we would put our nurturers, into combat rather than protect them....even if they WERE capable of carrying all those loads. I think we agree about the basic premise (that women need to stay away from combat) but I'm not as eloquent as I should be.

7 posted on 03/20/2009 5:22:21 PM PDT by MuttTheHoople
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To: MuttTheHoople

“However, I seem to remember 2 or 3 (out of 25-30) who would’ve made fine soldiers.”

How are you measuring that? You saw them in a dumbed down, mixed sex basic, life was only going to get a heck of a lot more challenging once they got into combat arms units.

Did you guys ever hand them a 120 pounds or more of gear to carry on themselves as they started walking to work.

How were they at digging entrenchments and deep foxholes?

8 posted on 03/20/2009 5:32:12 PM PDT by ansel12 (Romney (guns)"instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people")
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To: MuttTheHoople

We are in a war to win. It is not an experiment in equal opportunity.

Because of the natures of the sexes, an all-male combat unit is more mission directed.

9 posted on 03/20/2009 5:32:50 PM PDT by bannie
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To: bannie; MuttTheHoople

I think we should be a little cautious about letting MutttheHoopple get dragged into a corner that isn’t his to be in.

We are using his post as a takeoff point but I don’t get the impression that he is trying to push women in the military.

10 posted on 03/20/2009 5:46:04 PM PDT by ansel12 (Romney (guns)"instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people")
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To: ansel12

You’re right. I just thought I was adding to The Correct Side of the argument.


11 posted on 03/20/2009 5:55:19 PM PDT by bannie
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To: bannie

LOL, Me too, but then I realized what we were doing, it has happened to me before.

12 posted on 03/20/2009 6:04:02 PM PDT by ansel12 (Romney (guns)"instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people")
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To: ansel12

“I think we should be a little cautious about letting MutttheHoopple get dragged into a corner that isn’t his to be in.”


And, in a limited sense, he does have a point. There have been, and will be, situations where having females TAD to grunt units will have advantages. My own assertion is that it is most very unwise to take those very limited situations and use them as the yardstick by which units get redesigned in personnel requirements.

13 posted on 03/20/2009 6:19:50 PM PDT by Grimmy (equivocation is but the first step along the road to capitulation)
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To: SandRat

Great story. But I’ll keep my opinions to myself, they obviously wouldn’t be too popular! :)

14 posted on 03/20/2009 7:11:26 PM PDT by swmobuffalo ("We didn't seek the approval of Code Pink and before deciding what to do")
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To: Grimmy

Those of us who have seen the grim horror at the sharp end of infantry combat (as I did in a Mech Infantry outfit in Vietnam) are concerned at the rhetoric of many of those pushing the women in combat agenda. Every action movie these days has a “Combat Chick.” Daily we are regaled by the sight of 110 lb. women routinely beating the stuffing out of 250 lb male behemoths in choreographed entertainment fantasies like Buffy the vampire Slayer, Dark Angel, Battlestar Galactica, Tomb Raider and the Matrix Reloaded. We all listened breathlessly to the initial (later revealed as inaccurate) reports of brave little Jessica Lynch mowing down hordes of Iraqis.

It is only natural that with this continual barrage of opinion shaping that an attitude will begin to form that women are just as generally capable of participating in infantry combat as men are, with a comensurate erosion of the rationale for excluding them in the first place.

This is not to say that women can not serve in positions that enhance military capability, they are already serving in them, and serving well and honorably. It was Nazi Armament Minister Albert Speer who cited the German failure to mobilize their women in the manner that the Allies did in WWII as a significant factor in the Nazi defeat. In situations involving large scale mobilization, they are essential. (Don’t forget that the Soviets only did it because of the hugely staggering quantity of casualties that they suffered, on a scale that we can scarcely concieve of) That is not the case now as most personnel requirements could be met with the available pool of qualified males. Today, the issue is clouded by feminists and their societal influence ranging from lefist cum Marxist to liberal gender equity advocates. All too often combat readinesss, morale and unit cohesion is secondary to remaking the military institution into one which advances a radical social agenda. The decision to incorporate such large numbers of women into today’s military is a political decision, not one of military necessity has was the case with the Soviets during World War II.

One of the problems in assesing the impact of this issue vis-a-vis the Iraq war is the fact that we handily defeated them with the forces that were already in place in the invasion phase. Due to a combination of the skill of our superbly trained, equipped, motivated soldiers; and the ineptitude of our enemy our casualty rate has been thankfully far lower than we should have been reasonably able to expect given historical precedents. Notwithstanding this the question must be asked as to what would happen should we face an enemy that could inflict the sort of casualties on us has was the case during the fighting in northwest Europe in WWII? The United States Army was forced to comb out military personnel who had been assigned to the Army Specialized Training program as technical personnel (aircrew, radar operators, etc) and convert them to infantry to replace the staggering losses. Since 14% of the Army is not deployable to such duty (women) this does not bode well for such an eventuality. While we can continue to pray that we will never again face an enemy that will be able to attrite us as the German and Japanese Armies did, we MUST not plan as though it will never again happen. The Iraq war as it is presently playing out IS NO TEST OF THIS PROPOSITION. Even though our forces are facing an enemy that is as vicious and nasty as any in history, they are not capable of inflicting a significant battlefield defeat on our armed forces as the German, Japanese, North Korean and Chinese Communist Forces were.

Many commentators are relentless in their determination to ignore the considerable body of factual evidence indicating that the present policy of sexual intergration is inconsistent with certain vital forms of combat readiness. Study after study (reinforced by my 20 yrs of anecdotal observation in the active duty military and NG) highlight the physical unsuitability of most women for the tasks of the combat soldier, and often even the support soldier. My personal observations include the inability to change the tires on military vehicles, clear routine stoppages on M60 medium MG’s and .50 cal HMG’s, carry heavy loads any appreciable distances at necessary speeds, lift and evacuate casualties, and an inordinate disposition to injury. The reason that the military adopted “dual physical training standards” was to ensure politically acceptable numbers of women, since 40-60% of them would be washed out if they were required to meet male physical training requirements. My son, a reservist in a NG chopper unit, is contemptuous of what he describes as continual coddling of female soldiers. He is planning to transfer to an infantry unit.

In situations of full mobilization, women are essential. I believe that women are a militarily valuable asset, provided that asset is used in a manner that makes the military ready to fight, and subordinates feminist social engineering to that end.

Hundreds of thousands of women have served and are serving their country honorably and well. I honor them for their service and accept them as comrades and fellow veterans. We can only hope that their service will be continued in such a manner as to enhance the ability of the military to fight. The potential consequences for the individual soldier and the military’s mission are too serious to subordinate to social engineering.

15 posted on 03/20/2009 7:16:22 PM PDT by DMZFrank
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To: DMZFrank

I don’t find anything to disagree with in what you said.

Another point that might need to be made is the Israeli military.

The Israelis, iirc, have females in combat roles. This is often pointed to as a “we should too” indicator. But...

The Israeli military is non expeditionary and fights from home bases. Israel is also manpower restricted and requires a substantial military commitment in standing army and quick access reserve pools that demand adjustments in who goes into what units that we do not, nor will we ever, face.

As you said, the Russians did it, for awhile. They don’t now. They don’t now because of the issues that arose then. Also, they only did it then because of the doctrine of mass attack/human wave demanded max bodies regardless of skill or real ability. There was also the issue of long term, harsh attrition in the Soviet at that time as well as the fact that they were fighting for survival of their homelands. Those are modifiers calling for the allowance of ability compromise of the individual soldier due to the necessity of simply having masses of armed fighters.

Ours is an expeditionary military. Such an organization has to be able to field units that can operate in relative isolation when required with less than optimal logistics/living conditions. What appears to be doable on the closed environment of the training grounds at home are not always transferable to the reality in the field. Women as grunts is one of those non transferables.

16 posted on 03/20/2009 8:56:45 PM PDT by Grimmy (equivocation is but the first step along the road to capitulation)
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To: ansel12

Thank you. I’m not advocating women in combat. as a matter of fact, I think women should go back to being auxiliaries. Until then, I’m going to do everything in my power to keep my three daughters from entering the military.

17 posted on 03/21/2009 5:23:40 AM PDT by MuttTheHoople
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