Women Were There!

The conflict in the Persian Gulf began on Aug. 2, 1990, after talks between Iraq and Kuwait did not resolve grievances over oil pricing. Iraq's president, Saddam Hussein, sent armies to invade Kuwait.

On the day of Kuwait's invasion, President George Bush placed a U.S. economic embargo against Iraq. The United Nations Security Council quickly followed suit. On Aug. 7, after Saddam Hussein refused to remove his troops from Kuwait, Pres. Bush ordered Operation Desert Shield to begin.

Efforts by the U.N. Security Council for a peaceful resolution with Iraq proved futile. On Jan. 15, the council appealed to Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait - nothing happened - at 12 noon the deadline for peace had passed.

On January 16th Operation Desert Storm began. Key Iraqi military targets such as heavily-fortified command and communications centers, missile launch sites, radar facilities, airports and runways, and Iraqi ground forces were under heavy day-and-night air and ground attacks from that day on.

By Feb. 25 thousands upon thousands of Iraqi soldiers abandoned their stockpiles of equipment, weapons and ammunition and surrendered. On Feb. 27 the Iraqi military was scattered and defeated and Kuwait was liberated!

Mobilization for the Gulf war included an unprecedented proportion of women from the active forces (7%) as well as the Reserve and National Guard (17%). It was the largest female deployment in U.S. history.

Over 40,000 US military women served in key combat-support positions throughout the Persian Gulf Region.

Women in Desert Storm did everything the male troops did except engage in ground combat - they could essentially get fired upon - they just weren't, by existing regulations, theoretically allowed to shoot back!

However here is an excellent quote on the way it really was:

"I was a female paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I want to make you aware of the fact that the females in the 82nd were among the ground troops that pushed into Iraq during the ground war...and we most definitely could shoot back."

Many thanks to Kathy Forstner Cooper

Sixteen women died during the war and two were held prisoner.

coast guard

Coast Guard Boatswain`s Mate 3rd Class Robin Eckel is armed with an M-60 machine gun and 7.62mm ammunition as she maintains her post aboard a port security boat during Operation Desert Shield. Location: SAUDI ARABIA Date Shot: 13 MAY 1992, Camera Operator: PA1 USCG Chuck Kalnbach. Department of Defense Photo

The following is one of the many wonderful notes from women veterans and I've asked Julie for her permission to share it with you. The picture is of her children greeting her upon her return from the Gulf.
julie I was one of the fortunate ones who served with a group of thirty men in my platoon who respected me and bonded in a way beyond gender. We moved thirty seven times in six months, went over three months without a shower, slept on top of the HMMVY and ate MRE's most of the time. The focus of most articles I've read was on the mechanics of women in military service. They seem to forget that we are all human beings. We shared family pictures, letters, talked about favorite things we missed. We learned a lesson that I hope to keep for the rest of my life - that people are what is important. It was understood that I would be there for them as they were there for me. This is why the friendships have been maintained since the Gulf War. I was introduced to a wife or girlfriend as my "war buddy". My children have grown up knowing them as my best friends. As to the mechanics, I qualified expert with most weapons (.38,.45, 9mm, M16, M50, M60, Gernade launcher etc.) I did everything from night guard during the ground war to driving an Abrams tank. They trusted my abilities, but more important was the fact that they trusted me. SGT Julie Tovsen 95B, 79th MP Company

Here is another comment from a Gulf war veteran:
"I am a Desert Shield Veteran. I was a Staff Sergeant in the Marine Corps with Marine Air Control Group One (MACS 1) when we deployed to the Persian Gulf. When the military was first deployed into the Persian Gulf theater, they were not allowed to take the women of their unit. It was said at that point that to take the women in what the Arabian society considered "men's roles" would offend them and that would hurt the war effort. I was the only military intelligence specialist in my unit. I donned my gear, my weapons and a very concealing flak jacket. Ten days after the beginning of the war I was in-country with my fellow Marines. I kept a low profile and did the job I that I had trained with my unit for 3 years to do. I am told that I was one of the first women in-country at that time. This passed without fanfare, without ceremony, and more women came.
Women in combat? There have always been women in combat. Gender does not make a person a hero, no more than the color of their skin or the amount of money in their pocket. It is what lies within a person's heart and character that makes a hero.
I am proud to say I am a veteran. I retired from the military in 1999 with 21+ years of service. Your web page is an inspiration to all woman veterans...."
Becky L Morgan
GySgt USMC (May 1978 - June 1992)
SFC Iowa Army National Guard (June 1992 - Dec 1999)

And yet another wonderful memory from a Marine who was there!
"Dear Capt. Barb I was a Marine in Desert Shield/Storm. I was assigned to MWSS273, out of Beaufort, S.C.. My unit flew out on Christmas Eve, and landed in Jabail, Saudi Arabia on Christmas day. Of 500 in my unit, 17 were women. Myself and 5 other women, are among the 100 Marines that built the larges/longest mobile runway in the history of organized military WORLDWIDE, and we did it twice!
I am now 10 years into a police career, and know a lot of former Marines who give me the credit earned. Still, no one understands that I was THERE! I captured an Iraqi soldier. I had another Marine die in my arms, from Nerve Gas poisoning. Still, most credit only goes to the men, God Bless them too though.
Thank you for this site. I cannot say it didn't bring back some hard memories, but at least, it recognizes that we were there. And we live with hard memories too, and we are proud too, and we would do it all over again...too. On a side note, even though my unit took fire...a lot...we were not afforded the Combat Medal, because woman were not "in combat" so the records show. All 17 of us were bussed South when the IG came AND the unit records were changed to reflect only male Marines. My only hurt, is not to have been awarded the Combat Medal, when it was earned. Thank you so much, again, for this site.
Tracy Abernathy-Walden"

Women Were There!
Over 40,000 were deployed and several thousand more served stateside in essential mission support roles. The service women of the '90s served in the mainstream of the mission goals of Desert Storm and demonstrated that women perform as well as men. With the so-called art of war becoming so much more technological and so much less individual ground combat, the exclusion of women from any position in the military is ludicrous. The old fashioned thinking of military planners and congressional leaders has to catch up with the advent of the 21st century. The artificial parameters placed on women in the military, and in society as well, are as antiquated as the barefoot and pregnant mind set of centuries ago. Oppression by antiquated religious, patriarchal, and misogynous quackos has to be relegated to the garbage dump from whence it came. Opportunities for intelligent capable enthusiastic women should not be denied by policy makers whose thinking is back in the 19th century.

Beyond Desert Storm - women in the military today.
Somalia, Bosnia and More

For more of my personal views on whether or not women should be in combat roles see:
Women in Combat - an opinion and also Final Answer - an opinion

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