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DACOWITS Meeting Conducts Business on Women's Status in the Military

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Jan. 16, 2003 – Here's bad news for folks who argue that women don't belong in the military: Recruitment and retention rates are up; their roles in the military continue to grow; and they're just as good as men at their jobs -- or better.

"Naysayers" may find the above facts discouraging, but they're good news to Carol Mutter, who said she's not surprised by the capabilities of women in uniform.

Mutter is a retired Marine Corps three-star general and the first woman general to command a major deployable tactical command. She now chairs the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, a group that advises the secretary of defense on issues affecting military women and families.

In recent years, the committee has studied and provided the secretary recommendations on such issues as women's health care, retention and the effects of deployment on recruitment, retention and military families.

"I came into the military 35 years ago," Mutter said. "When you look at where we were then versus where we are now, there has been an evolution over time of many changes with regard to the role of women in the services, and it will continue to evolve."

The group conducted its first semiannual business meeting here today. About 30 civilian and military personnel gathered to hear progress reports from service representatives on how well the military is integrating its more than 60,000 women in uniform, and what roles women may play in future military operations.

Of particular interest: Men are changing the way they view women in the services.

Morris Peterson, chief of the Army Personnel Survey Office, Army Research Institute of Behavioral and Social Sciences, in Alexandria, Va., reviewed findings from a recent survey of male and female officers. He said concluded that both officer and enlisted males have positive attitudes about women in the Army, that the attrition rates of men and women are nearly the same, and that men have gained confidence in their female counterparts' abilities.

"Women are doing the work, and they've proven themselves, just as they did in (Persian Gulf War operations) Desert Shield and Desert Storm," Peterson said. He pointed to a survey entry that showed most male officers and enlisted personnel say women are just as capable of handling "male jobs" as men.

"They've proven that they can do the job and that if we go to war, they will certainly do it again," he said.

"Women have largely been integrated into the military. There are still some acceptance issues, but the integration is less of an emphasis at this point because a lot of it has been done," Mutter said. Now DACOWITS is turning its attention to making sure that women are trained, that unit readiness is high and that women still have good careers.

Much of the meeting consisted of briefings. Committee members sat through talks on such subjects as retention and readiness, defense strategy, operational readiness, transformation and technology, global security -- and even military tactics. A Navy representative, for instance, explained in detail Sea Power 21, the Navy's sea-based support plan for land warfare.

The topics may have been esoteric to some members, but also necessary, Mutter said. Committee members have to see how the services are transforming for the 21st century so they can understand the future needs of military personnel and their families, she explained.

Members need to understand "operational readiness" because whatever recommendations they make to the secretary need to have the bottom line of maintaining or improving that readiness, she said.

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