Polemics & Exchanges

On Women in Combat

I would like to add another fact in support of R. Cort Kirkwood’s article “The New Reality” (American Proscenium, July).

From 1980 to 1986, I served in Military Sealift Command (civilian-crewed support vessels for the U.S. Navy).  From January to May 1982, I was enrolled in a class to upgrade to Able-Body Seaman.  One of the requirements for passing the course was the bending of a line around a bosun’s chair, reeving the line through an overhead pulley, and then lifting oneself up to the pulley.  All the men participating passed the test.

There was one woman in the course.  She was pretty, and she was book smart.  However, she could not pass the test.  The teacher, a licensed master-seaman, gave her three chances to pull herself up.  She never got her feet off the ground.  We were surprised when he rhetorically asked the rest of the class, “She did a good job, didn’t she?”  Then, he passed her.

Now, that girl would become a headache to the bosun of her next ship and all the ships thereafter, because, when it came time to chip paint on the mainmast or to go over the side and paint, he would have to call in another seaman to do the job in her place.  She did not have the strength a man has by nature.  I know I did not want to serve...

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