Thursday, May 05, 2005

Cultural sensitivities prompt use of women in combat - European and Pacific Stars & Stripes

Irony of ironies:

By Sandra Jontz, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Wednesday, May 4, 2005

“This is a major change in how we think women can be used in the military,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jill St. John, an embark officer with CLB-8.

Lance Cpl. Erin Libby, 21, hands out stuffed animals as part of humanitarian efforts following the raid.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jill St. John, an embark officer with Combat Logistics Battalion 8, tosses stuffed animals from the back of a high-back Humvee to Marines from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment who, in turn, handed the toys out to children in the city of Karmah.

KARMAH, Iraq — ...“We’re out here, and we’re rocking on the front line,” said Libby, a 21-year-old from Niceville, Fla., who pinned on the rank of lance corporal during a break in the mission.

In all, 14 women from Combat Logistics Battalion 8 were called away from their usual jobs of supplying ammunition, food, water, fuel and mail for the three-day offensive that kicked off in the pre-dawn hours Saturday about 15 miles northeast of Fallujah.

Cultural sensitivities precluded male Marines from searching women, so the female Marines were meant to deflate fears of Iraqi men and women, said the battalion executive officer, Maj. Larry Miller. It was a first in Iraq to have female Marines embedded at the lowest levels of infantry companies and working alongside their male counterparts, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jill St. John, 39, an embark officer with CLB-8.

“This is history. This is huge for us,” St. John said. “I’ve been in the Marine Corps for 18 years, and this is my first opportunity to be out with an infantry company. Even five years ago, the Marine Corps wouldn’t be doing this. This is a major change in how we think women can be used in the military.”

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