11 April 2000


Over the past decade, I've gotten calluses on my lips trying to convince folks across this great land that women won't make it as grunts in ground combat. The minute I start my spiel, I see some people turn off. They're probably thinking, "Why doesn't this old male dinosaur tune into the 21st century and get with reality or crawl back into his retirement cave and shut up. Future wars will be about missiles, satellites and high-technology gadgets. And Jane can push buttons a lot better than Tarzan."

Now help is on the way! A woman, no less, agrees with my old grunt point of view derived from more than 50 years of trudging around battlefields as a sailor, soldier and reporter.

One thing this rough journey underscored is that missiles and high-tech contraptions don't win wars, only well-trained, highly disciplined and granite-hard men do. Somalia and Kosovo have only reinforced that truth.

In "The Kinder, Gentler Military" (Scribner, $25), Stephanie Gutmann -- after spending several years in the trenches doing research and interviewing scores of male and female members of our military -- has concluded that the push to increase the number of females in the military has seriously weakened our armed forces.


Gutmann's reporting is mainly anecdotal, backed by hard research, a lot of shoe leather and sweat. The book is "you are there" -- listening to scores of fine men and women on the aircraft carrier USS Stennis, at the Army training fields of Fort Jackson, S.C., and at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois. These patriots shout that the experiment by the social engineers and the PCers has failed. A woman Marine, Sgt. Charlotte Crouch, says, "Truth be known, that's one of the reasons that I'm getting out. It's all too PC. I came in to be in an organization with a clear mission policy and a focus on individual and unit efficiency. Now, the focus is what you say, how you say it and to whom do you say it. Whatever happened to simply training Marines? And how in the hell did we ever get stuck in this mire?"

Ex-Army Capt. John Hillen says, "It's becoming like Mao's cultural revolution. Everybody knows it's a system built on a thousand little lies, but everybody's waiting for someone that's high ranking who's not a complete moral coward to come and say so."

Navy Lt. John Gadzinski says, "This is a boat (USS Eisenhower) where our job is to put bombs on target, missiles on target." But in reality, the maiden cruise of the giant carrier with a crew that was 10 percent female was all about snowing the public on how well sexual integration worked in the Navy.

Gadzinski told Gutmann the cruise was a con job from beginning to end. He said, for example, that female sailors who worked in data processing were put in the flight deck and the control tower "to make a pretty picture for the VIPs on their walk-throughs."

The high rankers are still hiding the truth from Congress, and Ms. Gutmann takes a shot at their dereliction of duty and five-star hypocrisy like no one has before.

I hear from scores of Army drill sergeants, all sounding off about how training's been weakened and standards lowered because of mixing male and female trainees together. Gutmann captures their despair when she describes Fort Jackson as a kind of a Sesame Street with a lot of teen-age sex.

Gutmann found that many women trainees couldn't toss a grenade the required 115 feet. So the bar was lowered; women only had to "pick up a live grenade and essentially dump it over the wall of a deep concrete enclosure, where it could burst to its little heart's content."

She quotes one drill sergeant, "You're not being a soldier, you're being a mama." The same sergeant says "Abuse is one thing, being tough and demanding is another."

Gutmann's book must be read by all caring Americans and its cogent message must be urgently transmitted to our lawmakers -- who go along to get along to get re-elected -- and in the process put political correctness over the security of our nation and the lives of our frontline fighters.