Same Old Story for Women in Uniform

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Army photo / Pvt. Andreka Johnson

A pair of U.S. female troops pose with four burqa-clad Afghan policewomen outside Kabul.

The Army’s Women’s Health Task Force has just issued a paper dealing with the concerns of female soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

As usual, it contains both bad news and good news.

In terms of bad news, the themes are remarkably similar to what we were looking at 15 years ago. More than a decade ago I authored an article for Military Medicine echoing many of the same concerns.

Here’s what the new white paper said:

Nearly 275,000 women have deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, and Operation Enduring Freedom. During our assessment, it was clear that female Service Members are participating, contributing, and excelling at all levels in the Afghanistan Theater of Operations…Major issues identified by the participants in the Afghanistan Theater of Operations Assessment were the lack of education on birth control, menstrual cycle control, and feminine hygiene during deployment. Women’s health issues are compounded by the findings that many women hesitate to seek medical care when they have a female health concern.

These are old complaints.

The good news is that the task force made its report public, under the leadership of my former colleague, Colonel Anne Naclerio.

The Womens Health Task Force is a team of 43 professionals focused on the gender specific health needs of women in the military. Army Surgeon General Lieut. General Patricia Horoho created task force last December.

After traveling to Afghanistan in summer 2011 and speaking to 150 Army women, the task force found six recurring themes:

— Women’s health education

— Barriers to seeking care

— Uniform/personal protective gear fit

— Psychosocial effects of deployment

— Effects of deployment on children and families

— Sexual harassment/assault response and prevention.

The task force is now trying to push its recommendations into reality. Several products expected out by year’s end include improved deployment comfort packs; an updated guide to warrior readiness which includes expanded female topics; and self-diagnosis kits for women to detect urinary track and vaginal infections.

Where is the impetus to fix these issues?  Hopefully the white paper will add to the push to add more sanitary places to go to the bathroom, develop equipment that fits women, and develop policies that allow women to both nurse babies and serve their country.

Fifteen percent of the military is female.  They are critical to the fighting force. We need to pay attention and act, and not wait another 15 years to deal with these issues.

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anonguest:  We have signed a previous confidential settlement agreement that we are having reviewed by a legal firm.  We speak in generalities as we have been muzzled, but the muzzle will come off soon.  For your information, the individuals in this very picture are relevant to our story. Those who have been up close and personal with the "brass" have insider information.  If Army Officers were as golden as you wished them to be, there would be no use for whistleblowers.  They would do their job and call out BS.  But they don't - they have to march on to their pension and their next rank. 


This is an interesting picture.  I'll save it for the day that we break our silence on preventable Army suicides later in the month.  We always said that eventually the story would come out - the Army Officer corps moves up and out and leaves their carnage behind.


LW-i'm sure you have a compelling story, and you or your loved one was mistreated by someone with brass on their collars. But to paint *all* officers as bad would be the same thing as painting *all* soldiers bad every time some incident like SSG Bales or the corpse urination thing comes to light. There are bad officers. There are bad ncos. Heck, there are even bad Soldiers. But you lose credibility every time you use some unrelated event to bash the *entire* officer corps as a whole.  

Kendall F. Person
Kendall F. Person

Thought this was a really interesting article. So very glad these issues are being written about. Only for a solution to be had. New blogger writes a beautiful new blog that kind of sums the time for equality for over 50% of the world's population. Can be found at  and is called Michelle Obama's Legendary Speech modernizes 19th Century Masterpiece.  


After spending 20 years in the AF all I can say is good luck getting the military to spend a dime on women's issues. 


Get those shameful women some clothese i can still see fingers on two of them and thats discracful.

I agree all muslim women should be covered immedately as theyre not nearly as attractive as those girls we can see their faces....

IDIOTS self imprisonment for nothing more than brutal husbandry. 



you think this is SELF imprisonment?

like these women were given a choice about this? like they're given a choice about anything? like it wasn't the genius males over there who came up with this, and still constantly sexually harass women in burkas anyway?

like it's not the genius males that run the american military who choose to neglect women's health issues, not care about harassment and rape, and just go about their amazing lives too? since afghan men are totally different from american men, at their core.

you need to wake up, my dear.


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