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Wolfowitz Salutes Women's 'Spectacular Display of Military Professionalism'

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 9, 2003 – Today's military women are dedicated professionals who play key roles across America's armed services, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz told members of DoD's military women's advisory group.

America's military women, have provided important contributions -- often while in harm's way -- in support of recent military operations, Wolfowitz today told members of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services. The panel was in Washington for business meetings.

"We've had so many women involved so integrally in our armed forces," Wolfowitz said, pointing out U.S. service women's "spectacular display of military professionalism" during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

For example, Wolfowitz cited the bravery of former prisoner of war Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, still recuperating from her injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

He also praised the skill and tenacity of a female A-10 "Warthog" pilot who brought back her badly shot-up warplane on manual control. She was so proficient at destroying enemy troops and equipment in Iraq, he added, that some of her flying mates claimed her real-name initials, K.C., instead stood for "Killer Chick."

Wolfowitz also commented on the May 8 launch he attended at the military Women's Memorial in Arlington, Va., of the publication of DoD's "A Day in the Life of the U.S. Armed Forces" book of photographs that depicts service members performing their missions worldwide.

The deputy secretary said 125 of the best American men and women photographers -- including military -- deployed around the world Oct. 22, 2002, to capture the U.S. military's story that day as shown through the actions of its troops.

He said 250,000 total photos had been shot and a couple of hundred of these were selected to appear in the book, which he called "fantastic."

Recalling "Day in the Life" photographs he saw at the book launch, Wolfowitz told the committee that many of the "most captivating scenes" taken by the photographers "involved women in the armed forces."

Wolfowitz said he was especially impressed with a photo taken of a determined young female Marine in training at Parris Island, S.C.

That military women are greatly represented in the book is only natural, the deputy defense secretary pointed out, since military women today perform "such integral roles in the armed forces there's no hiding it."

The DACOWITS chairwoman, retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Carol G. Mutter, told Wolfowitz that the advisory committee had recently visited some stateside military installations, with overseas trips planned as well.

This year, Mutter noted, DACOWITS is focused to examine three areas: women's health care, particularly obstetrics-gynecology; military women's retention issues; and military deployment issues.

Thousands of active duty and reserve service members -- of both genders -- have been or still are separated from their families back home while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and other military operations in recent months.

"We're certainly very interested in what the impact of the deployments are on the (military) families and how that will manifest itself on retention," Charles S. Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, remarked to DACOWITS members at May 8 meetings.

"The deployment concerns are cross-gender," DACOWITS member Dr. Lynda Davis reported to Wolfowitz. "We think it's very timely that we're looking at that to get feedback directly from spouses and the persons serving themselves because of the situation that's just happened" in Iraq.

"I think we'll have some very good information and recommendations to come back on that," Davis asserted.

Wolfowitz agreed with Davis that family separation "is a big issue" across the U.S. military today.

Yet, the U.S. military has "an enormous opportunity now to reset where we deploy our forces, how many we deploy, what patterns we use," Wolfowitz pointed out. He noted, for example, that DoD officials are re-examining the practice of assigning one-year, unaccompanied military tours of duty to places such as South Korea.

"That's the way we've done it (in Korea) for 20 years or 30 years," he remarked, adding, "It's not clear that's necessarily the best way to do it."

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