Guide Eavesdropping: As Real Women Talk About the Gifts and Challenges of Aging

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Just consider the issue of injury. So women can qualify: but what then? Army and Marine combat research reports indicate that in basic combat training women suffered injury at more than twice the rate of men.

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Particularly, injury risks were most prevalent in occupational specialties requiring regularly moving on foot for extended distances under heavy loads. This is the coin of the realm for infantry and special operations. Physiology matters: on average females possess significantly less lean body mass, a slighter build that affects stride and stride frequency as loads increase, smaller aerobic and anaerobic capacity, and less absolute VO2 max production than males.

Beyond rendering women far more susceptible to musculoskeletal injuries, the physical differences manifest in lower performance in negotiating obstacles, evacuating causalities, and registering hits on targets while firing weapons while fatigued.

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When it comes to making peace through killing the enemy and blowing things up, if female combatants do not advance combat effectiveness then why ought we to integrate them into the direct combat force? Infantrymen find it famously difficult to describe the mysterious chemistry that forms in and that forms an infantry unit. Members of such units deliberately reduce the individual and collective level of humanity and avoid all distractions so that its actions are fundamental, instinctive, and coldly efficient.

Polite company, private hygiene, and weakness all step aside…In this direct ground combat environment, you do not fight for an ideal, a just cause, America, or Mom and apple pie.

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But what destroys this alchemy — and, therefore, combat effectiveness — are pettiness, rumor-mongering, suspicion, and jealousy. And when fighting spirit is lessoned, death is the outcome. There is a reason, Gen. Newbold reminds us, that we tend to send young men to war. Eighteen year olds, overloaded with testosterone, are quite convinced regarding their invincibility. This leads to unsavory antics in civilian America but is ideally suited for the combat zone.

Men, even testosterone-addled teenagers, have — or ought to have — a natural predisposition toward gallantry. If women are in their ranks, then either gallantry risks jeopardizing combat effectiveness as commanders honor it and shield their women from danger or commanders override gallantry and treat their women indiscriminately, thereby — to my mind — jeopardizing an important facet of human nature.

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As the son of a mother, as the brother of a sister, as the husband of a wife and, most powerfully, as the father of a daughter, I know — I know — that included in the array of obligations not status symbols of being a man is the protection, care, and preservation of our women. Now, having said all that, I want to get back to the heroic American woman.

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There is a place for women in the defense of the nation — there always has been. Whether serving in support units, the medical corps, the WAC, the WASP, producing the tools of war in factories or shipyards, keeping the families and civil society strong, or in any of the other myriad ways that women have served at home and abroad in times of national emergency, women have done and continue to share the burden of national defense.

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In many cases, women prove themselves to be better at human intelligence gathering than their male counterparts. Everybody knows that the most informed people in any given village anywhere in the world is likely to be the village women. Especially in the Middle East, local women are more likely to talk to American women than to American men. In some circumstances it makes military sense to embed women in infantry or special operations teams in order to interact with local women.

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They could and did do it all. So, why have many of these capable women stopped thriving mid-stream, as if everything worthwhile is behind them? Kendra Brown asked a group of interesting women to meet with her regularly and examine this perplexing question. Their meetings over three years became sources of support and empowerment for the members as they pondered topics of love and loss, obstacles and opportunities, surprises and sticky situations.

Listen in with the Eavesdropper to their lively discussions filled with honesty, wisdom and lots of laughter. They make this book a page-turner for the reader and encourage all of us to continue reaching for our fullest potential regardless of age.