WOMEN IN THE MILITARY
APRIL 4, 1996
Charlayne Hunter-Gault conducts a conversation with Major General Carol Mutter, recently promoted to the highest rank of any woman in U.S. military history.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Carol Mutter joined the Marine Corps 28 years ago straight out of college. Last week, President Clinton nominated her to be a lieutenant general in charge of manpower and policy planning. She is the first woman to achieve a three-star rank in the history of the military. Gen. Mutter joins us now. And congratulations! I see the-- how many on there now? You haven't been confirmed, you've only got two on the--
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER, U.S. Marine Corps: Right.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: --epaulet now. All right. Now, what exactly is your job going to be, manpower and policy planning?
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: It'd be manpower and reserve affairs, and I'll be responsible for working policy and planning issues for the people in the Marine Corps both military and civilian, as well as working quality of life issues.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: What is that?
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: Quality of life includes things like quarters, housing for both bachelors and families. It includes, umm, the, uh, recreational activities available on bases, our dining facilities. There are just a lot of different issues, money, pay, and allowances, a lot of--
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: It seems like you've got all the basics there--
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: Yes.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: --all the fundamentals.
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: And I don't work all of those alone, either. There are others who work various aspects of those problems.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Well, tell me a little bit about the manpower part that you're going to be doing because we talked to various other, uh, officials in the military, and they say that the manpower needs of the modern 21st century military are really changing dramatically.
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: We certainly need to have people who are well qualified, who can do things in a technological way because we are going to, uh, lot more technically sophisticated kinds of systems. We are looking for people who are motivated and who are very much in tune with the Marine Corps core values of honor, commitment, and courage, and attitude has got a lot to do with it, as well as intelligence.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: How difficult is it going to be? We hear so much criticism these days about the American public education system, and Adm. Owen was saying to us not long ago that the challenges are going to be great, given the problems that the American civil system is having. How do you see it, and what kind of people--are you going to be able to find the people that you need?
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: It's certainly a challenge because there are a lot of other corporations and people out there looking for the highly qualified graduates of today as well. But we are looking at our basic training and we are trying to ensure that we incorporate what's needed in our training. But I have to tell you, as well, that having been a commander in the last almost four years now, that I am very encouraged by all the young people I see in the military. They are very smart; they are very motivated; and they are doing a wonderful job for us.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: All right. You said you've been a commander in the field in the past four years. One of the concerns that commanders, I hear being raised these days is the--what they call the, the fact that the Marines are becoming the nation's foreign policy 911, that you're being called to serve in Haiti and Bosnia, Somalia, Liberia, and that the, that the Corps is just being stretched too thin.
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: There certainly are many, many requirements, many areas that require our deployment, and our special talents and abilities. It is difficult, and we are constantly worrying about--that's another quality of life issue--about how often our young Marines are deployed, how much time they spent away from their families, and how we can minimize the impact on that time.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Have you had time to think about in your new capacity how you're going to deal with those problems?
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: Well, as a commander, you certainly think about those as well. I have not really thought too much about it yet for my new job. It'll be several months before I would take over should I be confirmed by the Senate. But they're, they're just hard problems to deal with and big issues that we have plans in place already working many of those issues, and I'll be looking forward to getting briefed on those plans and trying to carry them forward.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Do you have any sense yet what your greatest challenge, what your greatest challenge is going to be?
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: We certainly have a challenge with resources, both people and money. It is a time of, of reduced resources in general, and it makes it very challenging for us to try to continue to do the things we need to do for our people, as well as do all the trading and accomplish our mission.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: But you feel confident as you embark on this new mission?
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: Absolutely. There are a lot of very wonderful people out there, very capable people to help come up with the plans and programs to help deal with those challenges.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Well, speaking of challenges, when your appointment was announced, I think women everywhere, and especially women in the military, were very excited, feeling that this was a great step forward for women. How do you see it?
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: I think it's one more door that has opened. I've seen many of them open over the years, my career, many, many changes in the past twenty-eight and a half years, and, uh, the doors just open one at a time, and that's one more. I haven't been the first one through many of those doors but I just happen to be that person this time.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Well, when you first entered the Marine Corps, what, 28 years ago, straight out of college, as I said, there weren't any women generals. Did you have an ambition of where you wanted to go in the Marine Corps, that one day you'd become a three-star or two-star?
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: No, indeed. In fact, I thought I would just stay for my three-year initial contract and I might get out after that. I did not have a long-term military career ambition at that point in time. It was not part of my family and it was not something that had been a big ambition.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Why did you join the Marines--I mean, the most--well, the service with the most macho image of all to be sure?
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: Because they're the best. There's no doubt about that. I--
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: You weren't daunted by this macho image of Marines? You just wanted to be where the best were?
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: Absolutely.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Why weren't you daunted by that?
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: Well, I had been to officer candidate training, and I had seen what it was like and been able to work with Marines and be trained by Marines, and I felt like it was nothing that I couldn't deal with.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Some women were quoted in the papers when your appointment was announced saying that although there have been great strides made, that you came into the Marines at a time when women were treated as little sisters. Do you remember that time? I mean, and did you have any of those barriers to cross during the--your way up?
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: It was certainly a very different time, and we were limited in the types of jobs that we could hold and the responsibilities that we had. But I had equal pay for equal work. I looked around at some of my civilian friends and what they were doing, and in many of their jobs, they didn't get the respect that goes with the rank that's on your shoulders when you're an officer in the military.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Mm-hmm. What do you think prepared you for dealing with the things that you had to deal with on the way up?
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: I think I certainly had a terrific foundation of values that my family gave me at home, good common sense, the ability to act like I had confidence sometimes when I didn't, curiosity, ask a lot of questions, get a lot of help from people, and then, uh, the confidence to go ahead and make a decision when one had to be made.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Some of the women in the Marine Corps still complain that they're being stunted in their ability to advance. They talk about the fact that it's only in combat or primarily in combat that you get to advance to the higher levels of the service. What--how do you see it?
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: I think all of us in civilian or military life have had doors that were not opened to us that we wished were open that were closed, and I tried to look at those as opportunities to find other doors and other means of demonstrating my capabilities, and I think that there are ways to the top, and I have proven that. I don't think I'm that unusual, although I'm the first. I think there will be more to follow who--and women who have not necessarily had a combat experience, because we haven't had that opportunity.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Do you think they should have that opportunity?
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: I believe--we certainly have women who've been in combat zones and have had experience now because there is no real front line. Women performed very, very well in Southwest Asia, and it's because of their performance in Desert Shield and Desert Storm that the roles of women were questioned and many of them changed after that.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Well, General, we'll look forward to your tenure.
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: Thank you very much.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Thank you.
MAJ. GEN. CAROL MUTTER: Thank you, Charlayne.