The pregnant-navy syndrome
It isn’t politically correct to even discuss this in the services, but. . . a large percentage of women soldiers are electively aborting their fetuses after they’ve served their purpose of enabling them to avoid their tour of duty in Operation Desen Storm… It is wrong to use a fetus to shirk the responsibility’ for which you have signed up, and then to kill that fetus.
Name Withheld, Army Physician, Kuwait22
The mentality of valuing self also produces the “pregnant-navy syndrome"; the phenomenon of a woman benefiting from the technical training and then, just prior to her ship’s being deployed, becoming pregnant so as to qualify for shore leave and not being deployed; or becoming pregnant immediately after her ship is deployed, thus allowing her increasingly to shirk responsibilities, forcing her shipmates to pick up the slack. This is all compatible with valuing self, but in a military situation – when more than 40 percent of the women on ships like the USS Acadia become pregnant during workup for deployment*’ – this bailing out puts men’s lives in danger. Why?
The navy trains teams. Each person on the team is trained to interact with the others in situations where a split second can save or lose a life. When part of that team is suddenly missing, they cannot just be replaced because pan of what made them valuable is the way they learned to interact with the particular personalities who are pan of their team. In essence, when even one woman is lost, the entire team is lost. The consequences? Imagine if Lieutenant Conklin were a pregnant woman when the two Iraqi missiles tore a fifteen-foot hole in the side of the USS Stark. . .
The missile attack caused a rapidly spreading fire that threatened to blow the ship and its 200 men to pieces.24 Twenty-seven-year-old Lieutenant Conklin (real person, true story) was severely burned and wounded in both feet, both hands, and both arms. Yet he knew that crawling through the burning, mangled wreckage to the crew cabin to shut off the firemain valves might possibly save the ship from exploding.
The path to the crew cabin was pitch black and about 400 degrees (paper bursts into flame at about 451 degrees, hence h’abrerilyeit 451). Yet he entered, protecting himself only with a T-shirt doused in salt water, keeping his eyes closed so that his eyelids would bum away rather than his eyes. Feeling his way through the piping system, each time he touched a searing pipe the skin was stripped off his fingers and hands – he described it as like walking into a blazing pizza oven and putting his hands on the hot griddles. He persisted until he closed off the firemain valves, worked his way back out, and then, discovering the ship was now in danger of sinking and still in danger of exploding, he continued his acts of protection.
While Conklin was doing this. Seaman Mark Caouette, whose leg had been blasted off and was bleeding profusely, refused his shipmates’ efforts to drag him to safety. He chose instead to shut off other firemain valves. His charred, dead body was later found over one of those valves. Simultaneously Electronics Technician Wayne Weaver pulled between six and twelve men to safety before his own body was found clutching the body of another man he was trying to rescue.
These men, ages 19 to 36, saed the lives of 163 men as 37 died. To them, being a team meant being able to count on each member s willingness to make her or his life secondary to others. It did not mean receiving the benefits of training and finding a way to get shore leave just before deployment.
In the past decade or two, we have viewed it as sexism against women when men like this reacted defensively to the idea of women being on board such a ship (or joining a crew of volunteer firemen). One serviceman explained it to me like this: "We don’t wait until an emergency to discover who’s gonna risk his life and who’s gonna walk away. When a new recruit arrives, we set up hazing situations, making it appear that someone’s life is at risk. We wanna see if the new guy’s gonna save the guy in trouble or save his own skin. But when we do this to women, they shout Discrimination.’ Not all women, of course. But if a woman s wearing nail polish, well, I’ve never seen a woman with nail polish who didn’t want to be saved.”
The pregnant-navy syndrome ls only the outward sign of a problem reflected in almost every armed forces study – from the U. S. Signal Corps25 to the U. S. Army.26 Each stu^ found that the men felt the women received easier assignments or undeserved promotions, often by offering sexual "favors.” They felt resentment when these women nevertheless drew equal pay.
Questions about the seriousness of women in the military were reinforced by studies finding that only 21 percent of the women were considering a military career, compared with 51 percent of the men.2′ The men felt this attitude was reflected by female soldiers using skin cream, putting up their hair, and wearing makeup – even under simulated comhat conditions.28
The service academies have responded to differences such as women at West Point going on sick call four times as often as men29 not by making women s standards equal to men s, but by making a double set of standards. For example, a marine boot camp had to excuse women altogether from the infantry held training and all the obstacle courses.30 The result? In the Gulf War, men were often expected to pick up the slack when women couldn’t change truck tires, push a vehicle out of the sand, move heavy – fuel cans, move a wounded soldier.51 More importantly, though, the men could severely hurt their careers by complaining about this discrimination.52 Ironically, complaining about discrimination would make them vulnerable to charges of discrimination.
The larger picture is two different mentalities, the combat-if-necessary mentality of "his army" and the combat-if-desired mentality of "her army"; an army of men who devalue their lives and an army of women who value their lives. It reinforces the feeling that women are bluffing in their demand for equality. It splits the armed services in two.