MARCHING SIDE BY SIDE
APRIL 30, 1997
In recent years all the military services, except the Marine Corps, have eliminated separate training for male and female recruits. But the rape trial of army drill Sgt. Delmar Simpson, which ended yesterday in 18 convictions and scores of allegations against other instructors, have reignited debate about the wisdom of gender integrated training. Margaret Warner takes up the debate.
JIM LEHRER: Now, the joint gender training issue that has emerged from the army's sex scandal. Margaret Warner takes up the debate.
MARGARET WARNER: In recent years all the military services, except the Marine Corps, have eliminated separate training for male and female recruits, but the rape trial of army drill Sgt. Delmar Simpson, which ended yesterday in 18 convictions and scores of allegations against other instructors, have reignited debate about the wisdom of gender integrated training. We get two views on the issue now. Andrea Hollen was the first female graduate of West Point in 1980. She served in the army until 1992, when she retired with the rank of major. She is now a software consultant in Denver. Elaine Donnelly is president of the Center for Military Readiness, a public policy group on military personnel issues. A longtime Republican activist in Michigan, she was named by President Bush to the Presidential Commission on Women in the Armed Forces in 1992. Welcome, both of you. Elaine Donnelly, what does the case involving Sgt. Simpson say about whether men and women should train together in the military?
ELAINE DONNELLY, Center for Military Readiness: Well, it sounds like perhaps justice was done. There were some victims at Aberdeen; however, the larger question is: Should we have coed basic training? Should we perhaps reassess the kind of a program that was ended back in 1982, it was tried late in the 1970's, coed basic training? Aberdeen is more advanced training. But it was brought back. Why? Because the rules are changing with regard to women in combat. Now, everybody who's concerned about the violence and abuse at Aberdeen certainly should be even more concerned about the kind of problems we're going to face when our armed forces go into another war. I think we need to consider perhaps going back to the system we had before. I think for the most part the marine corps does have it right. We also need to do something about recruiting quotas that are increasing numbers of women and it's not the women's fault. It's the policy's fault. We need to rachet back perhaps and let numbers reach their own level because women serve well in the military but we don't need these quotas. And I think we need to look at the long-term, the cultural values of this nation. Is it really acceptable for young mothers to be sent to fight our nation's wars, and how will the nation react to that in a real emergency?
MARGARET WARNER: Okay. I'd like to keep just basically on the coed training issue, though, and Ms. Hollen, what is your view about whether training together works?
MAJOR ANDREA HOLLEN, U.S. Army (Ret.): I feel that the decision sends a very strong message against the abuse of authority and the sexually predatory behavior at Aberdeen. I feel that integrated training works very well, and I think it would be a big mistake to eliminate it. I have observed and led--conducted training in my units with men and women together. And I feel it's important for soldiers to work together under very adverse and often absolutely miserable conditions that many civilians can't even imagine. I can see that the military is a very different place from the civilian workplace, but I maintain that that adversity can generate an intimacy among soldiers. It's a remarkable intimacy that can transcend the many differences in the military, and it can certainly transcend the issue of sexuality.
MARGARET WARNER: Elaine Donnelly respond to that point. Can--can training together transcend these issues of sexuality?
ELAINE DONNELLY: I think we have to be realistic here. Let's not be naive. We did have incidents of abuse. We also heard testimony of sexuality being used as a weapon of the female kind. I'm a little troubled by it, although I understand the concept of constructive rape, the abuse of authority. Surely, a person in authority should be punished for that much more severely, but I'm not comfortable with the idea that women who may have used their sexuality to perhaps receive favoritism or engage willingly in a sexual relationship with a superior, to excuse that and say that's all right just invites more disciplinary problems in the future. I will be watching very closely to see whether the authorities in Aberdeen will, indeed, enforce the rules that have to do with in discipline among the women, as well as the men. And I'm not saying they're identical. But there is a problem with consensual sexual activity in the military. And I think it's very naive to suggest that just leadership or getting along and all these touchy feely kind of things, that that's going to solve the problem. I think that that would make it worse.
MARGARET WARNER: Andrew Hollen, the crux of the prosecution's case was that consensual sex isn't possible between a drill instructor and a trainee. Is it--I mean, can there be consensual sex in that situation, or is this the drill instructor, as the prosecution contended, in such a position of authority that it's just an abuse no matter what?
MAYOR ANDREA HOLLEN: The drill instructor is clearly in a position of authority, and there's absolutely no excuse for the behavior exhibited at Aberdeen. And I do believe very strongly that leadership can make a difference. It hinges on leadership. The military is not some kind of out of control mob. And if soldiers feel that their leaders take a personal interest in them, if they feel that an open-door policy truly is an open-door policy and not just a facade, if their leaders have the charisma to really align the unit around its mission and focus on readiness, it can make a tremendous difference.
MARGARET WARNER: And so, Elaine Donnelly, are you saying--you just heard Andrea Hollen say the military is not a mob--are you saying the sexuality cannot be controlled; that it's unrealistic to forbid sexual relations between the drill instructors and the trainees?
ELAINE DONNELLY: Well, of course, leadership should encourage discipline. You hope that people will always act in a professional way, but let's face it, people are human, and we can't run the army as if they are something else, as if sexuality does not matter. It matters. But I'm also concerned about if there were repeated rapes and women did not report it, and certainly the systems were there to do so, it raises questions about their ability to deal with a physical threat under fire. What are we saying about the ability of women to deal with abuse at the hands of the enemy? And there's also the question, people keep saying, well, the answer to the problem is to put women in combat. Well, several years ago there was a scandal at West Point involving cheerleaders and football players, but no one suggested that the cheerleaders should be put on the football team in order to solve that problem. Is football less important than lethal warfare, where physical strength and unit cohesion and all of the factors we're talking about are so much more important? I think we need to have policies that live in a real world, not a fantasy world.
MAYOR ANDREA HOLLEN: I would like to make the point that the readiness of units is my primary concern, and with respect to the issue of physical prowess I have observed during my 12 years' of experience in the mechanized infantry division that physical prowess does not always match directly or correspond directly to the ability of the soldier to make a contribution to the unit I've observed very strapping men that look like they just walked out of the pages of "Flex" Magazine just fall apart in the field. They don't have the mental endurance, combined with the physical stamina, to contribute to the unit. And I've seen relatively diminutive women, they're just dynamos. They can--they can take it in the field. They've got the grit. So it's not that simple.
MARGARET WARNER: Ms. Hollen, let me stay with you for a minute and ask you to respond to something Elaine Donnelly raised earlier when she said that the women, though they're in very junior positions here, also have some responsibility, and it concerned here that the way these cases are being prosecuted seems to absolve the trainees of that. Address that point.
MAYOR ANDREA HOLLEN: I would agree with her. I'm deeply concerned about that, but by the same token, I'm also distressed by those who would point the finger solely at military women, pointing out that they are some type of, you know, distracting social experiment. In fact, I think the issue is much broader than that. In fact, to the extent that my first sergeant and I when I was a company commander had problems related to sexual misconduct in the unit, it was never the women, it was never the gays, for example; it was generally Sgt. Jones sleeping with Sgt. Smith's wife, those sort of scenarios, and I think that the military has to stop winking at that sort of thing and deal evenhandedly with sexual conduct matters across the board.
MARGARET WARNER: Elaine Donnelly, do you think there has been a double standard on these matters?
ELAINE DONNELLY: Yes, there clearly has been a double standard. In the Tailhook scandal there were many women known to have been involved in misconduct. None of them were punished. Even a woman who lied about being gang-raped by several officers, she was not punished, not for the misconduct, not for the lie that she told. We cannot go on like this. We cannot be naive about it. If we are going to have evenhanded standards not only should we do that, we have to allow for human failings and not pretend that sexuality doesn't matter, or as the major just said, that women are just as strong as men. We know that all the evidence is to the contrary. You may have an exceptional person every now and then, but we can't go make our policies based on a faction, and by the way, if it was--if we change the rules--let's suppose that it was a drill sergeant who was a man who happened to be a homosexual and he made an advance against a man, do you think that that man--I don't know any men who would take that several times over, and not report it. Obviously, there's something wrong here. Why did the women not report it? Yes, there were some victims, but I think this issue is much more complicated than that, and we have to base policies on reality, not social fiction.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, thank you both very much. We have to leave it there.