Women in Combat: A Trailblazing Woman Vet Speaks Out

She flew Black Hawk helicopters in Bosnia, Somalia and Desert Storm. Now she answers opponents of lifting the ban on women in combat and addresses rape in the military

by Annie Groer
christin knighton helicopter photo
Knighton in 1989, while in Aviation Company command at Fort Hood, Texas
Photograph: Courtesy of the U.S. Army

The numbers of sexual harassments, sexual assaults and rapes are indeed staggering. I was involved in the design of the initial sexual assault and prevention training almost 10 years ago. At that time we recognized that a successful awareness program would result in an increased number of incidents being reported. These incidents happen to both men and women, and men are the least likely to report these types of incidents. No service member, not one, man or woman, should ever have to operate in fear of a fellow service member….Now that we have gotten the reporting of these violations right, swift and proper punishment must follow suit. The statistics and metrics that now have to be monitored by the military, the media and the rest of America are the number of perpetrators brought to justice and convicted. Prosecution will be the most effective deterrent to these deplorable crimes. Only then will we see the number of incidents decrease.     

What do you think is the biggest public misconception about women in the military and women in combat?

The biggest misconception is that women in combat will make men in combat vulnerable, that serving beside a woman in combat will somehow make an otherwise strong man weak. It has been my experience that soldiers will treat each other as equals and expect that each will pull their load. Soldiers with equal training and equal qualifications respect and acknowledge what the other soldier has accomplished to earn their rank, status and position.  My first tentmate on my very first field exercise on active duty in the army was a guy named Glover. He was just Glover to me and I was just Knighton to him.  Glover and Knighton, fellow officers, fellow soldiers, that’s all.

Annie Groer is a former Washington Post and PoliticsDaily.com writer and columnist whose work has also appeared in More, the New York Times and Town & Country.

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