BOOT CAMP REVISITED
April 6, 1998
After a series of sex scandals rocked the military, Defense Secretary Cohen ordered some changes to basic training procedures. Following a background report, Phil Ponce and guests discuss whether male and female recruits should be trained training together or separately.
PHIL PONCE: For more on men, women, and basic training we get two views. Andrea Hollen was the first woman to graduate from West Point in 1980. That was the original class with female cadets. She served in the Army for 12 years and specialists in tactical communications. And she's now a software consultant. John Hillen was a reconnaissance officer and paratrooper in the Army from 1988 to 1992. He's currently an Olan Fellow for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. And welcome both. Ms. Hollen, we just got a glimpse of what basic training is like in the Marines. Should the other services follow the Marine Corps example?
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
April 6, 1998
A background report onbasic training programs.
March 16, 1998
The defense secretary orders some changes to basic training programs.
December 16, 1997
A special commission suggests separating military training by gender.
April 30, 1997:
A discussion on mixed-gender training in the military.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of military issues.
U.S. Department of Defense.
ANDREA HOLLEN, Former Army Officer: That was an excellent piece. And I would like to address it from the perspective of a commander. I worked for over 10 years training men and women together to fight wars, a grave responsibility. And my perspective is that the Marine Corps approach is flawed. I'm concerned in two respects: First of all, I'm afraid that it flies in the face of the realities, the harsh realities and the vagaries of day-to-day life in units, particularly units that deploy often. Men and women must work closely together under the most miserable, grueling, and, indeed, intimate conditions imaginable. And secondly, I'm worried that the policy in effect undermines the most important core value, in my estimation, and that is the selflessness, the absolute subjugation of personal comfort and individual preferences to the readiness of the unit.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Hillen.
JOHN HILLEN, Former Army Officer: Well, I think I have a slightly different perspective. I think the Marine Corps program definitely works well for the Marine Corps. And I think there's a powerful argument to if it ain't broke, don't fix it. How do we measure that? Well, the Marine Corps is probably one of "the" most effective fighting forces in the world today, and I'd only say out of service loyalty, maybe the Army's a competitor, but one thing we have to recognize is we often hear train as you fight, train as you fight. But we have to also flip that on its head and say, we'll fight as we train, and when Sen. Nancy Kassebaum-Baker took her commission out to investigate gender integration in basic training, she found out that gender integration is a worthy goal and, indeed, one we should pursue, but the way in which we pursued it--and in many services--led to--in the words of her commission report--less discipline, less rigorous training, and more problems with unit cohesion. And so she concluded and her commission concluded that ultimately the way in which we were integrating genders--and there's a lot of different ways--and that's where the real debate is--was damaging the force.
PHIL PONCE: Ms. Hollen, less discipline, less cohesion?
ANDREA HOLLEN: I would disagree. I would like to return to my point about service in units in the Army. Field deployments are very difficult propositions. And there simply is not time. There's no rationale for segregating men and women under those circumstances. Operations are very fast-paced. We displace constantly, following the infantry and the artillery. Sometimes you break down a site at 2 in the morning dressed in chemical protective gear. Establishing separate accommodations for women under those circumstances is simply ludicrous. Moreover, the accommodations or places where people sleep in the field often double as operation centers. So if women--particularly women in leadership positions--need to be where the action is, where the problems are solved, where decisions are made, they need to stay in quarters with men. I think the words of a sergeant serving in Bosnia--a male sergeant serving in Bosnia--sum it up perfectly. "It's not like we're sleeping together; we're just sleeping together." And I feel--and I feel strongly that we cannot miss the opportunity presented by basic training to socialize young men and women to work together. Of course, it takes adjustment. It takes--it takes leaving behind some assumptions that we grow up with about decorum and privacy. The military is a very gritty, sometimes coarse place. It's also a very rewarding place, I might add. But young men and women need to learn that self control, that self discipline, I would even say the habit of tolerance in order to work together in units. I realize that this certainly was not the intention of the very distinguished members of the Blue Ribbon panel, but I feel that in some ways we're avoiding the problem, a problem that we need to address through the tremendous authority of drill sergeants in basic training.
PHIL PONCE: Ms. Hollen, so what you're saying is that if the issues of integrating the sexes is not addressed in basic training, by the time you get to the operational deployment stage, then it's--that's not the best opportunity to deal with that. Mr. Hillen, just how much of a distraction, in your opinion, is the whole issue of mixing the sexes?
JOHN HILLEN: Well, it depends on what--on what the unit is doing in the services. You know, there's very much a different structure, different folks' attitude. The Air Force and the Navy and the Army and the Marine Corps do different things. And for the most part, the Army, the majority of Army basic training is conducted single sex, and I think that's something a lot of people don't realize. All the combat units are connected to single sex training along the Marine Corps model. But I want to return to a point about the training evolution of a soldier. The commandant said it well. Basic training is about cultural transformation. We are taking a young civilian man or woman and introducing them to the culture of the profession of arms. And, as you can see, it's an intensely physical experience, as you saw from your report. And it is distracting during that culture transformation for many units, especially units that--combat units in the field, to have that integration at low levels. It can be integrated at greater levels, at larger levels of organization, but to just sprinkle men and women throughout the force during--while you're trying to effect this culture transformation, what it did is it made basic training into basically high school with salary and fresh air. And they weren't able to accomplish their mission. So there's good reasons why the Kassebaum-Baker report concluded what it did and why the Marine Corps stays with that model and the Army trains its combat troops separately as well.
PHIL PONCE: Ms. Hollen, do you buy that analogy to a high school camp, so to speak?
ANDREA HOLLEN: I don't, and I would strongly agree that physical standards for women should be improved. They have historically been far too low. I would like to sum up my concern using these--using these terms. As a commander, I face the formidable task of helping new soldiers adjust to a unit and learn how their individual tactical and technical skills fit in, how they contributed to the mission of the unit. I submit that they also need to arrive at units with social skills, being comfortable working together in integrated units. I would not want to have to send a new young man, just arrived in the unit, off to a site let's say with a female sergeant. In the Signal Corps we often sent--had to send integrated teams off to remote sites together to get the optimum of technical skills. I wouldn't want that young man to--if you'll forgive the colloquialism--freak out over that possibility. I'd like him to arrive at the unit with some level of comfort and having learned to respect women soldiers as individuals and look at their individual capacities.
PHIL PONCE: Ms. Hollen, along those lines, how do you react to the Secretary's order that while the basic training, itself, is still going--there's no change for the moment in the integration of sexes in the Army--that he did ask that there be greater separation of the sexes in housing--how do you feel about that, that part of his decision?
ANDREA HOLLEN: I'm concerned about that as well. Even in garrison, that is, in the barracks, my non-commissioned officers were adamant about keeping those core units--the platoons, the sections, the squads--together. Certainly, women roomed with women, men roomed with men. But we kept those units together in contiguous blocks of rooms. It greatly facilitated inspections. It made them more efficient, more thorough, certainly more consistent, and most importantly, it provided for that informal exchange, that informal interaction among members of those teams. I realize that that's the kind of interaction that strikes fear into the hearts of people who are worried about what James Webb once called the roar of hormones. But, in fact, in units, that's critical time to prepare for the next field deployment, to joke about mistakes that have been made in the past.
PHIL PONCE: Let me get Mr. Hillen's response to that. How do you come down on the Secretary's order to make the housing aspect of it a little more separate?
JOHN HILLEN: I think it's a step in the right direction. You know, the training of a soldier, a sailor, an airman, a Marine is an evolutionary process. Basic training is only a small component of that. It's that initial component. You take an 18 year old out of society and you subject them to unnatural stresses in a cauldron and you teach him a whole new ethos, a new code of conduct, a new social construct, it's a very difficult time. It's a very physical time, as you saw. And while we recognize it's eminently fair for men and women to compete separately in many sports that they play together, we've also recognized there some of those same imperatives that drive them during this critical time, and they can learn better and learn from each other, as I think the clip showed, when they're measured by their own standards. Many times when you mix units in this initial entry training, and they're going to be mixed later, so it really is--as you said--it's a false debate about whether they're not going to meet up later in training. They'll be mixed later in training. But in initial basic training, units tend to do best when they measure up against like soldiers. And in this case it's really gender.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Hillen, how do you react to the argument that to the extent that women are kept separate, that if there is a separation then of necessity, women will be perceived as "second class" warriors?
JOHN HILLEN: And that was an argument brought up. But there's also--there's also the case of if they train together in small units, for instance, go through that obstacle course together, many times the physical disparity between men and women become apparent, and the men resent that the women are held to a lower standard, and the women resent that they're held to a lower standard because they want the high standards too, and they want to succeed at those standards. So I think you can see from the Marine Corps model I don't think you lose that much unit cohesion by not having 18 year old men and women new to the force stay together 24 hours a day. But I do think you lose unit cohesion if you try to blend them and pretend that gender is just a social construct and that there's no differences and that 18 year old men and women don't see themselves differently and their relationships don't form and tensions don't form and unit cohesion isn't affected. I think that's a social fiction.
PHIL PONCE: Ms. Hollen.
ANDREA HOLLEN: I would be concerned about the "us" versus "them" mentality that inevitably develops in situations like that. I speak from personal experience. The first group of women at the service academies were not distributed among all the companies, and in the companies where we served with our male colleagues, it took some time but eventually we reached a point where we were recognized not as one of those women--and that phrase was always dripping with contempt--at least initially--but finally we were recognized as individuals and bonds of respect and trust grew. In those companies where women were not integrated at first, the resentment and hostility were just palpable. And I would rather not let that develop. I'd rather have men and women work together from the very beginning and recognize their individual talents and then be better prepared to serve in the fast-paced units that they will join.
PHIL PONCE: That's where we'll have to leave it. Thank you both very much.