Fighting on two fronts

By By Cara Dye

By Cara Dye

Women in the military have two enemies: the other side and sexism, said Dan McCool, director of the American West Center.

Women need to overcome the usual challenges of wartime and also the attitude that they should not be there, he said.

Examples of what women have to deal with include being punished more harshly for the same offenses men commit and being asked to entertain visiting officers in social situations.

Four women who served in the military during four different wars told their stories at the March 8 “Women at War” forum sponsored by the center in the Union.

Eula Kimber served in the Navy during World War II as a yeoman on North Island, San Diego; Lt. Col. (Ret) Yvonne Rasmussen flew air evacuation missions in Southeast Asia in the Vietnam War; Melodie Kent served as a combat telecommunication center operator during Bright Star in Cairo and throughout Desert Storm; Maj. Janice Gourley, a professor of aerospace studies at the U, serves in military intelligence and has been stationed in Germany, Desert Storm, Korea, Hill Air Force Base and Iraq.

All four women discussed their experiences during the panel organized and recorded by the American West Center.

In boot camp, Kimber saw women quickly dishonorably discharged for sneaking out at night. Men may not have been so harshly disciplined, she said.

Rasmussen said that even as an officer, she was put in some unwanted sexual situations.

Women were expected to entertain visiting officers at social functions. She often locked herself in her quarters to avoid attending them, she said.

Still, her time in Vietnam was the best experience of her 43-year nursing career, Rasmussen said.

“Women earned the respect of the soldiers they worked with,” Kent said of Desert Storm. Women were pushed harder to prove themselves as worthy soldiers, she said.

Kent’s time in basic training coincided with the enforcement of affirmative action that said women had to be there. Unfortunately, many men did not like it, she said.

For example, her barrack’s water was shut-off for a week because a woman refused to do one more push-up.

Gourley said that most of those barriers seem to be broken now.

“I think we’ve come along way,” she said.

Kimber and Gourley agreed that following one’s own heart is the most important thing when considering military service.

Tyler Hart, a third-year law student, said it was interesting to hear how they “evolved in certain respects and stayed the same in certain respects.”

The public doesn’t talk about sexism in the military, said Jason Hardy, a senior in anthropology who works at the center.

“I’m really glad that the dialogue has begun,” he said.

The “Women At War” panel was held in conjunction with the American West Center’s “Saving the Legacy: An Oral History Project of Utah’s Veterans.”