"The Water Cooler Quotidian Column"

water cooler combat
Columnist's "Weapon of Choice"

The Water Cooler Quotidian commentary - or how quisling columnists twist the truth - and the wonderfully stated reply from a career soldier.

The backstory:

A recent commentary in a Washington D.C. newspaper raled and ranted against military women in combat roles. The writer's lead paragraph described her attempt to lift a water bottle onto the office cooler - with the help of a co-worker, also female.

Her diatribe included the pedantic use of the word quotidian - quotidian meaning everyday or commonplace. Used ironically where an everyday or commonplace word could have sufficed.

From the water bottle, which according to her "illustrates one of the ways in which women (in general)are less well-equipped than men (in general) to perform tasks essential to military success", she transisted into the same old worn out rhetoric used by these hackneyed columns.

The column rolled downhill into the depths of an organization that espouses military retardation, advocating shoving women in the military back into the 19th century.

The greatest thing that resulted from this petty piece of palaver was the reply that it elicited from career soldier SGM Toni Ross.

Here is Sgt Ross' letter:

Dear Editor:

I am writing regarding the Mona Charen column you ran on July 23d titled "Military Combat Roles for Women." As a 27 year Army career soldier, who happens to be a woman, I am compelled to give the other side of the story. The water cooler analogy is a poor one. Most likely two men would have performed the same task. The task was to replace the cooler; the standards were to do it with the minimum amount of spillage and have the cooler work once completed. In my Army, we would have stressed that two soldiers, male, or female perform the task for safety's sake. What this so-called "quotidian" or everyday detail has to do with the Army's mission escapes me. In the Army, we emphasize teamwork, teambuilding, esprit de corps and safety in all that we do.

Here is some earth shattering news for Ms Charen & Ms Donnelly: women have been in combat for centuries -- from Dr Mary Walker in the Civil War to the women of the USS Cole! Today, three soldier teams of military police men and women patrol through hot spots such as Macedonia, Kosovo, and the like. In the past, women have been fired upon, injured and died in Panama, Grenada, Haiti, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Kosovo/Bosnia to name a few. Combat service, you bet! Like the wars of the past? No! Warfighting has changed with technology. Women in these and other deployments are exposed to the same enemy that our combat arms soldiers are, perhaps even more so since MPs and other support troops are far more mobile than the infantry.

Before we send our most precious commodity, soldiers, into real world situations we must ensure they are trained - there should not be an adjustment based on gender. That is an issue only because conservative zealots such as Ms Donnelly make it so. The Military Police Corps has had gender-integrated training since at least 1974, when I entered the Army and still today, soldiers, male and female, are eliminated because they cannot meet the standard. The British study of strength tasks may or may not be slanted to support Ms Charen's intent. I will tell you that map reading and first aid are much more important than strength tests. And how did Mr. Clinton get dragged into this - women have endured prejudice long before he came along - I have firsthand knowledge as an active duty soldier.

I cannot comment on the Navy, its training and pilot assignments but I can speak to the lack of credibility that Ms Donnelly and her basement operation has. Ms Donnelly uses her three-year DACOWITS term of service as a basis for her so-called vast and superior knowledge as to how the military works. I use my 27 years as a soldier and leader. I can tell you there are double standards EVERYWHERE... Single vs. married soldiers; pay; assignments; officer vs. enlisted; combat arms vs. combat support vs. combat service support units; the list goes on. Life is not fair and neither is the military.

I will tell you when there are double standards because of gender, race or ethnicity it is because of the leadership, the leadership allows it to happen. The Army constantly emphasizes the seven values of a soldier: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage - LeaDeRSHiP!

Will women ever be combat arms soldiers, not likely - would I like to be one? Not at age 45 but at 18 I would have loved to be. I, like many other females, do not want to see standards lowered, we just want an opportunity to compete or participate at the standard, a level playing field. I have seen the best and the worst the Army has, and it is still the strongest in the world, that is until the zealots win out with their slanted survey questions and skewed results... Ms Charen uses her column to solicit financial support for Ms Donnelly; I would urge you to explore organizations such as the Alliance for National Defense (AND) which serves as an objective and nonpartisan organization for women in the military. It is not a fly-by-night group of radicals but one of distinguished military and civilian men and women of all services.

SGM Toni Ross
MP Team Proponency Sergeant Major
St Robert, Mo

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