War and American Women: Heroism, Deeds, and Controversy

By William B. Breuer | Go to book overview

17 "General, You Are a Male Chauvinist!"

A short time after Secretary of the Army Clifford Alexander had taken charge in early 1977, the brass in the Pentagon decided that MAX WAC, the field exercises held the previous year to test the effectiveness of sexually integrated combat-support units, had been inadequate. MAX WAC had lasted only three days and been held in favorable weather. Consequently, a second field test of longer duration was laid on.

Code named Braveshield, the exercises were held in the Mojave, in southeastern California, a vast desert wasteland where many small, isolated mountain ranges and extinct volcanoes break up the great stretches of sandy soil. Launched in the oppressive heat of July, Braveshield, as had been the case with MAX WAC, resulted in an atmosphere of unreality among the women soldiers, who continued to wear makeup, washed and put up their hair, and carped about the lack of privacy and having to use slit-trench latrines.

After the conclusion of the Mojave field tests and the observers turned in their evaluations, the official Braveshield report stated, in part:

Many of the troops, particularly the women, had not thought it through to the realization that had it been a war, both male and female soldiers could have been killed or wounded . . . was known that sexual intercourse was occurring, but not more than occurs in garrison.1

It did not mention that sexual activity in garrison is harmless from a military point of view, whereas such relations during a battle situation could conceivably result in a disaster for the unit involved.

In September, the Army staged a third exercise, code named REF WAC 77, involving coed units. It was held in the midst of a large NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) war game in the mountainous, heavily wooded region south of Stuttgart, Germany, and lasted for ten days.

REF WAC 77 was far from a success. Twenty-nine percent of the women, as opposed to 14 percent of the men, were excused from going into the field for "personal reasons." Many of the females who did take part were not required to participate in heavy labor, resulting in much griping from the men who had to carry their burdens.

-118-

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