Archive for the 'women veterans' Tag

keeping-time-with-biological-clock-articleIn our up-or-out system, not everyone can or should have a full active duty career option. By design, you need a large cohort of the young that will neck-down over time in to a small wedge at the top. Performance, boards, and life decisions of service members have always helped the culling as people progressed over time.

That many people leave early, even very promising people, is a requirement of our system. This simple fact should not be seen by itself as bad. With the many variables as are in retention, especially with abrupt budget derived demand shocks, adjustments will need to be made. However, we have enough historical aggregate data on retention vs. economic variables that in admittedly clunky ways, we can adjust the sweeten/sour knob to get our end numbers more often than not.

We have run in to a little problem though. A difference that was manageable with a once small sub-groups of personnel, as that sub-group has grown by design as of late, has become a problem. A problem that is creating a more inefficient personnel system. One that is running in to a wall on the path to an externally derived end-state benchmark.

That problem is life. As reported in NavyTimes by Meghann Myers and David Larter;

For the first women to earn the coveted dolphin pin, it’s decision time about whether to stay in the Navy. And so far, only three of the original 24 have signed up.

“I would probably expect that most of the women are going to get out,” Lt. Jennifer Carroll told Navy Times. “I don’t know exactly what everyone’s personal reasons are for it, but I think a lot of it has to do with co-location.”

Carroll said she is considering leaving the Navy instead of becoming a department head, principally because it’s unlikely she’ll be able to find orders in the same area as her husband, an E-2 Hawkeye pilot.

Everyone here is aware of the top-down desire for a high % of female senior officers, sooner more than later, but is that achievable without excessive abuse to the larger system? Is such a targeted number of female senior leaders so high because it meets someone’s sociopolitical metrics? Sure, you can do that … but you will have to assess a lot more women coming in the pipeline. To make that number work, geometrically more, but the retention percentage difference won’t change. You will not be able to change biology and psychology. You will always be chasing the dragon as the ratios will always be skewed.

“Regardless of community or gender, committing to a department head tour requires dedication and sacrifice by our junior officers and their families,” SUBFOR spokesman Cmdr. Tommy Crosby said in an email. “Submarine force leadership remains committed to mentoring our junior officers, male and female, as they face this challenging decision.”

Factoring in those unplanned losses leaves the retention rate at 16 percent for the first submarine officers, Crosby said. … Crosby noted that retention for nuclear-trained women in surface warfare stands at 14 percent …

But within those communities is a great disparity. While 41 percent of male SWOs stick around, about 22 percent of their female colleagues do.

The problem is that we have a very powerful political movement that does not understand the military, but does know how to make a living off the heavily male skew in the military. A skew that, in many ways, exists for the same reason one exists in the NFL.

There are more varied physical requirements in our Navy than the NFL, thank goodness, so there are more opportunities for the average female to serve – but even that hits a wall unless you start to artificially pump the system.

Though women make up over 50% of the population, even if you removed all physical and cultural barriers to a desire to serve, you could never expand female numbers higher than they already are in a volunteer military, nor would you.

The reason? No matter how many people you try to brainwash in the socio-political reeducation “Lean In Circles,” most women want, if they have found a good enough mate, to have as full of a life as they can – as they define it. Biology gives a woman a very small window to do that.

For many women, two of the most significant parts of pursuit is to have a successful marriage and to raise the next generation.

For an officer that receives her commission at age 22, she comes off her first sea duty at age 25 to 28+/-. Let’s say they are average for their college graduate peer group and get married at 27. In line with most of their cohort, the average age of their first child is 30. Age 30, yes, you know that age. That is also the age that female fertility starts a steeper downward curve – dropping off very fast at 35.

What if they want to have 2 kids? 3 or even 4? Look at what is required in your 30s for a career officer. Grab a calendar. Grab a clock. Benchmark your life. Do the math.

As outlined in the referenced article, I am OK with this retention rate. As a son, husband, and a father; I respect that for women, life choices are more difficult and nuanced than for men – and in their 20s and 30s less flexible. Biology does not have a reset button or reward late bloomers.

The lower retention makes sense given the realities of life. In the end, we get a few years of service from outstanding JOs who just happens to be female. Smart, driven professionals who served their nation for a few years active duty, and then leave to raise the next generation of leaders, citizens, and even blogg’rs.

Maybe some will transfer to USNR, some not. Either way, we should support their decision and celebrate their service. We are a free nation, and this is the lifestyle choice of a free people. Let them leave with a smile and leave them with a smile … that will support the recruitment of the next cohort of servicemembers.

For those dual service couples who stay and try to make it work with the female staying on active duty? Well, here is some advice from my personal experience. The only 2-child female career active duty officers who have successfully made it work (success defined as an intact marriage and children not being raised by a 3rd country national), was when the husband shifted to USNR and became a full time house-husband. Good men, good officers all – but that kind of man is hard to find, and you have to find them. Men like that come as-is with their own sets of life goals; you can’t force-break one in a “Lean In Circle.”

Of course, some smart people know this math and social construct, but ignore it. Why? For some, it is complicated. They have zero top-cover to tell the truth. They are just trying to keep their head down until the PCS cycle makes it someone else’s immediate problem.

For others, it is simple; they need the issue. That is what justifies their job. It is what brings their paycheck. Create a crisis that cannot be solved? If you can make that a business, well hey – good work if you can get it.

What is our Navy to do? Speak the truth. Look for ways that produce more operational good than bad. Fight the need to make metrics for the Potomac Flotilla happy talk when they hurt the Fleet. More importantly, stop making our female Shipmates feel guilty or that they have done something wrong by wanting what is the right of every woman – to choose the lifestyle that they find fulfilling.

Half a decade or so of service as an officer in the world’s greatest Navy followed by raising a gaggle of great kids? Beats two divorces, weekend visitation, and a dusty 20-yr shadow box any day.

Run your memory back a decade or so ago if you will, especially in the run up to the invasion of Iraq.

Even before 9/11, there was a lot of discussion how as the WWII generation passed on and retired, that fewer and fewer members of Congress had military experience. With each generation, fewer and fewer people served in the military as a percentage of the general population, and you saw a similar drop in those in political power who had even a few years of seeing the world through that lens. When it came to making decisions about war and peace, that lack of experience at the national leadership and policy making levels was not seen as a net good.

While superior ideas, leadership, and vision can come from those who never served one day in uniform – it is always helpful to have a cadre of those who know the practical vice the theoretical working of the military. If they can do both, then even better.

As the build-up and discussions on if we should lead an invasion of Iraq gained steam, when you looked around the Hill, there were a scattering of WWII, Korean War Veterans, as well as a Cold War skirmisher here and there, and even closer in time – a core of Senators, Congressmen and members of the Executive Branch who served in Vietnam.

Experience with actual combat covered the spectrum. Some with quite substantial exposure to combat and sacrifice you could find humble in word, and often in the background providing counsel. On the other end, there were some with limited service who seemed to crow and remind everyone at every chance about their “special” perspective – and would take a peer out in the rush for a camera.

As their experience was varied, so was their advice in quality and quantity. What was generally appreciated, from exceptionally honorable service on left and right such as Senators Inouye (D-HI) and McCain (R-AZ) on down, was that in the Hearing Room and briefing table, there was someone who at least had an understanding of the “So What” and “What Next” when someone gave them the “What.”

Some memories fade with time, and the experience in one conflict may not translate well from then to now – but for those being asked to go unto the breach once more – it was reassuring to know that someone knew what they were asking other to do.


So, here we find ourselves a dozen years in to war – and of this cohort of veterans quite a few have made it in to Congress. Not just the professional politicians who are also Reservists JAGs and Intel Officers (not that there is anything wrong with that); but combat arms personnel who, after their service, decided to serve in another way.

As we look to opening a door to a dark room again, before we step in, to answer the question, “Where do these veterans in Congress stand?”, I think we have our answer.

Via TheHill;

The majority of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans serving in Congress are lining up against President Obama’s plan for military action in Syria.

Of the 16 veterans of those two conflicts serving in Congress, only GOP Reps. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) and Tom Cotton (Ark.) have publicly supported the White House’s plan.

Three other members — Iraq War veterans and Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio, Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) and Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) — are undecided.

A fourth, Scott Perry (R-Pa.), said he hasn’t made up his mind either, though he told a town hall this week he wasn’t inclined to support a resolution authorizing force.

Ten of the remaining members have announced their opposition to a military strike.

As of Saturday when that article came out, that is 2/10/4, for/against/undecided.

Two of the more vocal opponents are of the President’s own party – one from his own state and the other from his adopted state; both Army;

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii bemoaned the carnage in Syria after a chemical weapons attack, which the U.S. says killed hundreds of civilians, including children, last month. However, after participating in public and private sessions on Capitol Hill, she said a U.S. military strike would be a serious mistake.

“As a soldier, I understand that before taking any military action, our nation must have a clear tactical objective, a realistic strategy, the necessary resources to execute that strategy, including the support of the American people, and an exit plan,” Gabbard said in a statement. “The proposed military action against Syria fails to meet any of these criteria.”

Gabbard, who served near Baghdad for a year and was a medical operations specialist, is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Gabbard joins other Democrats from Obama’s native state, including Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, in opposing aggressive U.S. military intervention in the Syrian civil war.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., lost both legs and partial use of an arm in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Iraq. She has not made a final decision on whether she would vote for a resolution authorizing force, but the freshman lawmaker from Obama’s adopted state has serious reservations about any strike.

“It’s military families like mine that are the first to bleed when our nation makes this kind of commitment,” Duckworth has said.

Seniority means a lot in DC – but so should personal authority, one would hope. Many in DC asked for more military experience in Congress, well they have it in both parties. The Long War Caucus seems to have reached a bi-partisan consensus.

Does it matter?

In a report issued last month, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) concluded that the VA is woefully unprepared for the surge of female veterans trying to access their system and obtain quality and timely care. What a surprise. Why is the VA always caught flat-footed?

The VA’s services for women’s health needs are highly fragmented. Few VA facilities are able to serve all of a woman’s health care needs in one place. Consequently, patients need to travel to multiple facilities to get all of their health care issues addressed. Indeed, the VA recognized this in 2003 and mandated that all VA hospitals and clinics provide basic women’s services – but only where it was feasible. Talk about an edict with no teeth! Six years later and comprehensive women’s primary care clinics are still scarce, with only 14 percent of them providing a one-stop shop for women veterans.

Adding to this inconvenience is the inaccessibility of many VA facilities, as many veterans have to travel long distances to get to any one facility – especially for those veterans who live in rural areas. As the fastest growing segment of the veterans’ population and one that is expected to more than double in the next 15 years, women veterans should be able to access quality care more easily.

I like John McCain’s 2008 campaign proposal: Give veterans a type of debit card that allows them to go to the doctor of their choice in their hometown. Why does the VA have to provide all the resources, when they have already proven that they can’t keep up with the growing demand?

For more info, read the full IAVA report, “Women Warriors: Supporting She ‘Who Has Borne the Battle,'” at the IAVA web site (