Heading Logo

Panel urges more segregated military

By Susanne M. SchaferAssociated Press Published: December 16, 1997 12:00 AM

At both the entry and advanced levels, recruits and students in all services should live in totally separate barracks, and the Army, Navy and Air Force should consider keeping the most basic organizational units _ known as platoons, divisions or flights, depending on the service _ segregated by sex, the panel said. Those segregated units then would be integrated by sex at the next higher level, the company level.

The study also called for toughening basic training and physical fitness standards for both men and women; increasing the number of female trainers; and ridding the system of sexist and disparaging remarks about women from the training system.

The panel, which was releasing its report today, was appointed last summer by Defense Secretary William Cohen in the wake of the sex scandals at the Aberdeen (Md.) Training Center, where female trainees were abused by male drill sergeants at the advanced training base. The controversy raised questions about the military's gender-integrated training and the amount of sexual harassment in the military.

[Article continues below]

Cohen was to request that all the services study the panel's recommendations and report back to him on their feasibility and cost and whether they would affect readiness.

Headed by former Kansas Republican Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, the panel was tapped to look at the current policies of mixed-sex training, and to ensure that female trainees are treated fairly and with dignity.

[Article continues below]

In the Army, Navy, and Air Force, men and women train together at basic and advanced levels, the first two levels of training. Only the Marine Corps separates men and women in basic training.

The Kassebaum panel's report, in essence, slammed the current system for not doing what it is supposed to do _ train men and women to work, and possibly to fight, together in the best possible manner.

"The committee observed that, although the main aim of the Army, Navy and the Air Force's 'train as we fight' doctrine is to instill teamwork and discipline, the present organizational structure in integrated basic training is resulting in less discipline, less unit cohesion, and more distraction from the training programs," the study said.

While the study does not recommend totally adopting the Marine Corps pattern, it suggests that the Army, Navy and Air Force keep men and women together at the basic training installations, but put them in units of the same sex. All-male units and all-female units would then train together, the report suggested.

"At gender-integrated training installations, organize same-gender platoons, divisions and flights, and continue gender-integrated training above this unit level," said a copy of the recommendations made available to The Associated Press.

The panel "does not believe that this will affect female morale," but will build confidence in the women, and ensure that the men know that the women are being held to the same standards that they are.

The panel observed "impressive levels of confidence, team building and esprit de corps in all female training platoons" at the Marine Corps training base at Parris Island, S.C.

In fact, the panel found that concerns about charges of sexual harassment had become so overwhelming, that trainers in some units had a "no talk, no touch" policy, which actually kept men and women from the same unit from talking with one another unless a witness was present _ which ended up in far less contact and inferior training for all.

"Many trainers now insist their recruits refrain from talking to the opposite sex at all times," the study stated. "As a consequence, it is very difficult, if not at times impossible, for male and female recruits to work together in their own units."

In a telephone interview Monday, Mrs. Kassebaum Baker stressed that the recommendations shouldn't be seen by women as a return to the past, when women were discouraged from military service. "We view this as a step forward, not a step backward," she said.

Women constitute almost 14 percent of the military, compared with about 2 percent a quarter century ago.

The panel also recommended:

That men and women no longer be allowed to live in the same buildings or wings during both basic and advanced training, but in separate barracks.

Toughening basic training requirements and enforcing consistent standards for both male and female recruits.

Increasing the amount of money going into training because it has been cut by 22 percent per recruit since 1991.

Increasing the number of female trainers and improving the quality of trainers overall.

Improve training about values, what actually entails sexual harassment and what professional working relationships are supposed to be between men and women.

Enforce tough policies against false accusations regarding sexual harassment.

Rate this article

Do you want to leave a comment?   Please Log In or Register to comment.