Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 16th 2014 Contents A43
Wednesday, April 16, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
An Afghan National Army soldier participates in an IED (improvised explosive device) defusing
training exercise in Jalalabad, Nangarhar province, yesterday. AFP photo
FORT BRAGG---Under a canopy of
trees on the edge of a large field, sol-
diers from Bravo Battery are lying in
a circle as they pore over targeting
charts. Nearby, others are preparing
the howitzer cannons as helicopters
swoop overhead. At the edge of the
circle, the platoon leader watches as
the field artillerymen go through their
No one seems to notice the small
knot of hair at the base of the lieu-
tenant s helmet, or that 1st Lt Kelly
Requa is the only woman on the field
at Campbell s Crossroads on the sprawl-
ing grounds of Fort Bragg.
By January 2016, the US military
must open all combat jobs to women
or explain why any must remain closed.
The Army in November officially began
assigning female officers to lead the
cannon platoons and plans to open
other jobs, including those of crew
members within the field artillery units.
The integration comes as the military
struggles with an increase in reports
of sexual harassment and assault and
as Congress battles with the Pentagon
over how those cases are prosecuted.
Some of those concerns were reflect-
ed in how senior commanders are
preparing the men as women arrive---
and what the men say concerns them,
from whether women can keep up to
whether the men s salty language will
be too offensive.
At the base near Fayetteville, Requa
is one of at least eight female lieutenants
who were brought into the 3rd Battalion
of the 321st Field Artillery Regiment
beginning late last year to lead the field
For now, she s the only woman in
her platoon. Later this spring, women
will begin serving as crew members---
soldiers who actually position the
4,000-pound cannons, zero in on tar-
gets and fire the rounds.
For the women, the integration
means more pressure and scrutiny. For
the men, it means more training in sex-
ual-assault awareness and prevention,
and more lectures on respect, team
building and moral character.
"From a leadership perspective the
biggest concern that we discussed was
possible misconduct," said Lt Col.
Christopher Valeriano, the 3rd Battal-
ion s commander. "Introducing females
into an all-male unit, at least for the
initial piece of it, could lead to a spike
Commanders, he said, were worried
about sexual harassment and assault
incidents as well as inappropriate con-
sensual relationships as they moved
women into the small artillery units.
He said platoon members on deploy-
ment can be on duty for 24 hours
straight, crowded together in the cab
of a rocket launcher the size of a large
So far, he hasn t seen any problems.
It s been "pretty impressive to see the
women coming in and running circles
around the men," he said. "Most of my
female lieutenants outrun my male
lieutenants. On overall strength, the
males are stronger. But the females---
endurance-wise and running---really
made these guys take their game up a
While men largely said they were
unconcerned about the integration of
women into their unit, commanders
said some initially weren t too thrilled.
So Army leaders are watching to see
whether Requa and the other women
can fit in, keep up and lead.
Men also worried about job standards
being lowered to allow women to qual-
ify. They wondered about favoritism
and whether the men would automat-
ically help the women, who might be
smaller. And they fretted about swearing
in front of the women.
Commanders also said younger sol-
diers, particularly those who fought in
Iraq and Afghanistan, are more accus-
tomed to working with women. The
greater adjustment may be among older
enlisted and non-commissioned officers
who have long served in men-only
artillery, infantry and armor units.
Requa, who just returned from
Afghanistan, says there haven t been
any problems so far. (AP)
In this photo taken February 18, 1st Lt
Kelly Requa is interviewed at a fires
direction centre at Ft Bragg, North
Carolina. Requa is breaking new
ground at Fort Bragg. She's one of a
small number of female lieutenants
brought in to lead a cannon platoon at
the North Carolina base. AP PHOTO
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