Thank you, Vickie [McCall, Director of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services], for the kind introduction and for your fine leadership of DACOWITS. As some of you may know, this is my third tour in the Pentagon. Secretary [of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld says he's going to keep bringing me back until I get it right. [Laughter.] But the first time, which was some 24 years ago, when I first heard the word "DACOWITS," I thought maybe it was some long lost relative who had misspelled his name. [Laughter.] But I got quickly straightened out about that and learned what DACOWITS is--it's an outstanding organization, and I'm particularly proud to be here on your 50th birthday celebration.
On behalf of everyone here, may I extend a special welcome to Princess Colonel Aisha bint al Hussein. She's the first woman colonel in the Jordanian armed forces. She carries the same distinguished name as the prophet's wife, Aisha, who was the first woman commander in Islam. This Princess Aisha has devoted herself to improving the quality of life for women in the Jordanian armed forces and for the wives of servicemen. And through her personal example, she's inspired other women to set their sights high. So, Your Highness, we are honored by your presence. [Applause.]
We're also honored to have the first, but no longer the only, woman Justice of the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor, with us. Justice O'Connor, thank you for being here. [Applause.]
[Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness] Charlie Cragin, whom I've had the pleasure of getting to know in the last few hectic months, and who is also celebrating an anniversary--15 years with DACOWITS. Thank you for your fine service in the Department on behalf of our men and women in uniform, and welcome to your wife Maureen, who is a Navy Reserve Commander, and who understands DACOWITS' concerns so well. [Applause.]
I'm delighted to be here, and I'm delighted to bring you greetings from Secretary Rumsfeld along with his personal best wishes on this 50th Anniversary.
Since I realize that I'm the only thing standing between you and dinner, I promise to be brief. [Laughter.] But let me begin with an old story that may be familiar in DACOWITS circles, but I was told about it tonight.
It's a story about a car accident after which a woman came onto the scene and began to help the injured driver. A crowd had gathered, and eventually a man elbowed his way through the crowd, found a woman tending the injured driver and he said, "Step aside. I've had Red Cross first aid training." He went to work on the injured man, and as he was doing so, she tapped him on the shoulder and said, "When you get to the part about calling the doctor, I'm right here." [Laughter and applause.]
That story illustrates two facts. One, the fact that you can find women doing just about every kind of job, of course; and two, there's always someone who doesn't get the word. [Laughter.] Those are two of the main reasons why Secretary of Defense George Marshall established DACOWITS 50 years ago.
When we speak of General Marshall, we are speaking of one of the great figures of the 20th Century. He was the great American soldier and statesman, who came to be known as the organizer of victory during the Second World War, he was the father of the Marshall Plan that helped bring about the rebirth of Europe, and he was the father of DACOWITS.
He was a man of great vision who looked to the future, who knew that women would play much greater roles in America's armed forces. And he knew that a key to making that happen was telling America about the opportunity for women in the services and maintaining an impartial and ongoing dialogue with the services themselves.
This evening, we are celebrating General Marshall's vision for America's armed forces and we are celebrating his charge to the members of DACOWITS who first accepted that call to serve as the Defense Secretary's trusted advisors. It's in this role that DACOWITS has been a voice for the concerns and capabilities of the women and the men in uniform for the past five decades.
This evening I've had the pleasure of meeting some of you who carry on this tradition of service and it's a measure of how far we've come that we now have men as well as women on this committee--women and men of great accomplishment and great experience who willingly and at their own expense look closely at America's military for the benefit of all who serve. You are not only the Secretary's eyes and ears, but you also ensure a valuable connection with America.
Dr. Dorothy Height, one of the first to answer General Marshall's call, can attest to the fact that while America's military women have indeed come a long way, the need for their service was evident more than 50 years ago.
In fact during World War II the shortage of soldiers at the front was so acute that women were called upon, in the phrase of the time, "to free a man to fight." In the process they quickly disproved thinking that was common at the time that women could only fill jobs as telephone operators and typists or cooks and clerks. By the end of the war women were not only teaching men to fly, they were flying themselves--towing targets for anti-aircraft exercises, and ferrying airplanes and cargo. I'm told that most or all of the B-17s that arrived in England were ferried by women pilots.
When DACOWITS was formed in 1951 following the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, manning was so short there was talk of a draft, for women. Interestingly, the person General Marshall put in charge of getting more troops was, of course, a woman. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower, Anna Rosenberg, told the first Committee that "womanpower" had to be included in any further discussions of manpower.
As we consider the issue of womanpower in the service today it's not just a matter of women being entitled to serve this country. It is a simple fact that we could not operate our military services without women. And as skill levels essential to our missions continue to increase, it will be even more essential that we draw from all our citizens, that we draw from the largest pool of talent available.
Today women are serving in every theater, at every front. There were three women that were part of that Navy EP-3 crew that performed with such professional skill and bravery recently in the skies near China.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a USO awards program that recognized one of three hospital corpsmen on board the USS Cole for exceptional skill and bravery. And, of course, that corpsman was a woman. We heard the story of Tayinikia Campbell, how she set up an improved triage area in the cramped passageway, how this 24-year-old helped teach other sailors to tend the wounded. Her story moved everyone in the audience truly to the point of tears. Corpsman Campbell reminded us once again that the risks faced by those who choose to serve in harm's way are enormous.
As our President has said, "Peace is not ordained, it is earned. It is earned by the hard and often dangerous works of our men and women in uniform."
In a letter to the Virginia Pilot, Lieutenant Commander Chris Peterschmidt, the Cole's executive officer, responded forcefully to a reader who had claimed that women did little to save their ship and shipmates during the tragedy of the Cole. He told about gas turbine systems technician 1st Class Margaret Lopez who, while badly injured, led one sailor through a tiny opening in the hull and out into the fuel-coated waters of Aiden Harbor. Then she swam back into the disabled ship to look for others.
He wrote about how the ship's chief engineer, Lieutenant Commander Deborah Courtney, worked around the clock for nearly four days to reverse flooding and isolate exposed electrical cables that threatened to turn thousands of gallons of fuel into a blazing inferno.
And he described giving an order to man a .50 caliber machine gun on the flight deck to one of the ship's best marksmen -- a woman -- Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Jennifer Long.
Peterschmidt said, "It didn't cross my mind that the first person I ordered to such an exposed position was a woman. And by the speed with which she raced to man that dangerous post, it obviously didn't cross her mind either."
Peterschmidt says, "Bravery came in many forms that day. We had fighting sailors on board the Cole, not men or women." He concluded with a reminder that two women were among the 17 aboard the Cole who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
The American people have accepted women as an integral and essential part of our nation's defense. They know that women's contributions in Vietnam, especially in the medical services, were indispensable. More recently, they saw more than 40,000 women serve in Desert Shield and Desert Storm -- the largest single deployment of women in military history. To date, women's have supported operations in the Balkans in numbers of over 24,000.
The recent report of your executive committee on their overseas trip suggests one measure of how well women have been integrated into the services. Their complaints are now exactly the same as men's. [Laughter.] According to the report, top concerns were universal across rank, gender and service lines. Children, children care, operating tempo, and personnel tempo topped the list. That's not to say that gender issues no longer exist. Of course they do. But we have, indeed, made progress.
Secretary Rumsfeld and I look forward to the advice that will come from your conference here this week. This Administration is dedicated to working on behalf of our forces and families who risk so much. We must continue to improve military pay and improve quality of life. We must continue to improve the balance among force levels, commitments, and deployments. And of course we must, as all members of DACOWITS know, continue to build teamwork between our women and men in uniform and further strengthen the power of America's military.
I'd like to close with another story that seems appropriate this evening. It's one that George Will told not so long ago in a talk to the midshipmen at Annapolis. Apparently late in life the hotel magnate Conrad Hilton appeared on the Johnny Carson show, and Johnny said to him, "Mr. Hilton, you're a giant of American attainment. You're a legend in your time. You've built hotels all over the world. This is your opportunity. Look that camera right in the eye over there, look your fellow countrymen in the eye, and tell them the one thing based on your life's work that you would most like them to know." Hilton rose to the challenge. He turned to the camera, looked his countrymen in the eye and said, "Please put the curtain inside the tub." [Laughter.]
George Will calls that practical and eminently sensible advice. And that is exactly what we've come to expect from DACOWITS -- practical and sensible advice that cuts to the heart of issues as it considers the overall good of the armed forces.
So my thanks and the thanks of Secretary Rumsfeld to each of you for your dedicated service, for your selfless interest in the welfare of our men and women in uniform. On behalf of the Secretary and myself, best wishes to you, the dedicated members of DACOWITS, as you celebrate your first half-century. Thank you. [Applause.]