Military Story

We all live in a unisex submarine

The Navy may soon allow women to serve on submarines, and it’s really got me thinking.

In 2004, I spent three months as an embedded reporter in Iraq and Kuwait with the 109th Field Artillery of the Pennsylvania National Guard. The 109th FA did not have any women, but some of the units we shared facilities with did.

Had you asked me before I went to the Middle East whether women should be allowed to serve in combat zones, I would first have pondered whether women have the physical abilities necessary, and decided some do and some don’t, just like men. I would have wondered whether romantic tension would ensue, and concluded we would simply have to demand that professional soldiers act professionally. I would have questioned whether the addition of females would hurt small-unit cohesion, the emotional bond military squads must have to take such terrible risks for each other, and decided probably not.

But those weren’t the problems I saw caused by females serving in Iraq and Kuwait. The problem was the shower trailers and the bathroom trailers, an issue politicians and generals likely don’t think much about.

In Kuwait, I was at Camp Arifjan, an enormous U.S. military installation with a pool, two gyms, Burger King, Pizza Hut and many other amenities.

The place was huge and was divided into multiple tent areas. Our area had two shower trailers and two latrine trailers. The men, approximately 95 percent of the soldiers at Arifjan, got one bathroom trailer and one shower trailer in our area, and the women got the others.

The men were infuriated by it.

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