Today is our 4,146th day in Afghanistan.
We'll start this morning as we always do; with the latest casualty figures from our ongoing war, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 2,177
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,080
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through: $ 1, 422, 633, 567, 500. 00
I've got a lot of ground to cover today, so let's dive right in. First off....women in combat. Seems like somebody in power agrees with me
; there might be a decrease in sexual assault among our military as more women head off to combat. It's the old "safety in numbers" routine.
Repealing the longtime policy banning women from combat units will help the Pentagon’s effort to crack down on sex assaults, top military brass says.
The historic decision was announced Jan. 24 by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs. It potentially opens to women about 237,000 jobs across the services, including 53,721 in the Marine Corps, Marine officials said.
The reversal was billed as an effort to afford women equal rights in the military to the fullest extent possible. But it also could curb sexual assault, which senior service leaders have characterized as an epidemic.
“I believe it’s because we’ve had a separate class of military personnel, at some level,” Dempsey told reporters at the Pentagon. “Now, as you know, it’s far more complicated than that, but when you have one part of the population that is designated as warriors and another part that’s designated as something else, I think that disparity begins to establish a psychology that in some cases it led to that environment. I have to believe, the more we can treat people equally, the more likely they are to treat each other equally.”
Lt. Gen. Robert Milstead, deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs, said he likes Dempsey’s observation. Making it clear to male Marines that women need to be treated equally is “the way we need to be,” said the three-star manpower chief.
“He’s your brother. She’s your sister. Treat each other accordingly,” Milstead said, describing the mindset he wants Marines to have. “You and your sister fight, but by God, let anyone mess with your sister and they’re going to deal with you.”
Only time will tell. Speaking of time, it's been a very long time for justice to take place in the case of Ruth Moore. This sounds vaguely familiar, and I may have reported on it before, but nevertheless it bears repeating. Ms. Moore was once a Sailor, and she was attacked by her superior officer. Now a Federal bill in her name is working it's way through Congress
. Hopefully, it will make it easier for victims of sexual assault to receive care through the VA.
ELLSWORTH, Maine — When Ruth Moore was an 18-year-old Navy servicewoman, she was brutally raped by her supervisor, with the trauma ending her military career and beginning decades of misery and self-doubt. A quarter century later, the Milbridge woman is still serving her country — now fighting against sexual assault in the military.
It is still hard for her to tell her story. It begins when Moore enlisted in the U.S. Navy when she was a student at Washington Academy in Machias. Growing up poor in the tiny Washington County town of Pembroke, “college wasn’t an option,” she said.
Months later, she was violently sexually assaulted, twice, by her immediate supervisor when she was stationed at a base on the Azores. That trauma left her with a sexually transmitted disease, a false diagnosis of borderline personality disorder and a doctored-up military record. It also stole her innocence and her hope.
“My dreams were destroyed,” Moore, 44, said Friday.
But her story is also about what has happened in the 25 years since that awful time, as she stopped thinking of herself as a victim and instead became a fighter and worked to right the wrongs that had been done against her and against the many others who have also suffered sexual trauma while in the military.
“I’m still serving my country. Maybe not in a uniform, but I’m still serving my country,” said Moore, who has a ready smile. “This is a problem that America has right now, but we’re still Americans, and I have hope that we can fix this.”
She is heading this week to Washington, D.C., in the company of her husband, Butch, and their 11-year-old daughter, Samantha, to be present as U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree introduces the bill that has her name on it. The Ruth Moore Act aims to reduce the standard of proof for victims of military sexual assault so that they can more easily obtain benefits, similar to how the Veterans Administration two and a half years ago relaxed the burden of proof for combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, introduced the bill in the last Congress. It didn’t pass then, but its need has hardly diminished, said her spokesman Willy Ritch. The congresswoman gets calls every week from veterans who have been sexually assaulted while in uniform, Ritch wrote last week in an email to the BDN. Dozens of them have the same story — often the attack was never reported and never included in their records, so when they later try to file for benefits related to the attack, the Department of Veterans Affairs denies them for lack of proof.
Nearly 90 percent of victims do not report their attack out of fear of retaliation, he wrote. The Ruth Moore Act, if it passes, would make it so that victims need only a diagnosis of a mental health condition and a link between the assault and that condition to receive benefits.
But now with women heading to combat roles, here's something I bet we never thought off. Should women register with selective service now? I'm thinking probably yes.
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Pentagon’s new policy of allowing women in combat jobs has raised new questions about an issue that the U.S. Supreme Court settled 22 years ago. Should young women be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System just as young men do?
The U.S. Department of Defense issued a Jan. 24 memo that will give more women an opportunity serve in combat roles and military jobs that had been reserved only for men.
In a 6-3 vote in 1981, the Supreme Court ruled that because women were not allowed in combat, only men were legally required to register with the government under the Military Selective Service Act.
The selective service system has the names and addresses of nearly 15 million men ages 18 to 25 in its files, according to the agency’s website. The military is currently all-volunteer, so the service, once called ‘the draft,” isn’t used.
Richard Flahavan, a spokesman for the selective service system, said Congress would likely change the law and require women to register because the Pentagon has allowed women in combat roles. However, no bill has been introduced in Congress to do that, he said.
Finally this morning...meet America's newest recipient of the Medal of Honour.
Ssgt. Clinton Romesha is fortunately still with us, and joins the rarefied air of living MOH recipients. But alas...it's virtually unknown. I noted last night on FB that the story cross-posted from IAVA only had 12 likes. Kinda sad. I'm sure most of us can name a handful of historic MOH recipients off the top of our heads...the current generations just don't seem to care.
WASHINGTON — President Obama is awarding the Medal of Honor to an Army veteran for his courageous leadership during a daylong firefight in Afghanistan.
Former Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha is being recognized Monday at the White House for his actions during the 2009 attack on Combat Outpost Keating in the mountains near the Pakistan border. About 50 U.S. troops were at the outpost when it came under fire by hundreds of Taliban fighters, and Romesha led a fight against the enemy to protect the camp.
Eight U.S. soldiers were killed in the fighting and another 22 wounded, including Romesha, who was peppered with shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade but fought through his wounds. He dismisses his injuries as “nothing” compared to those suffered by some of his fellow soldiers.
“I’ve had buddies that have lost eyesight and lost limbs,” Romesha said in a news conference last month after Obama called to tell him he would receive the award. “I would rather give them all the credit they deserve for sacrificing so much. For me it was nothing, really. I got a little peppered, that was it.”
Jake Tapper, a CNN anchor who wrote a book detailing the firefight, said many key officers at the outpost were away the day of the firefight and Romesha rose to the occasion and filled the leadership vacuum. But he said Romesha remains astonishingly humble.
“Everything was just about his buddies and trying to save his fellow soldiers and trying to do everything he could, literally everything he could, at great risk to his own life over and over,” said Tapper, author of “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor.” “He’s still very broken up about how he couldn’t save everyone. He saved lives that day, without question, but eight of the guys died that day and that still tears him up.”
Romesha also served twice in Iraq and will be the fourth living Medal of Honor recipient for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. It is the nation’s highest military decoration for valor.
And so it goes...another week at war.