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Fort Brag.

Attention Bill Nye, Science Guy -- galactic update! Scientists have discovered that there is a North-South axis in the galaxy, but they are reluctant to say which end is up. Me, too. They have also discovered a monster fountain of antimatter erupting outward from the core of the Milky Way. The find, which came to them one morning at a Denny's Grand Slam breakfast, has made them alter their neat image of a disk-shaped galaxy to one of a fried egg with steam shooting out of the yolk. In laymen's terms, it's become harder to keep your sunny side up.

I can see why. Saying he wants to devote himself full time to getting Christians elected to public office, that blue-eyed uber-Christian egghead, Ralph Reed, has left his job as head of the Christian Coalition. As if up to this point he's been spending his time just trying to perfect a tuna casserole for the church potluck, now he says he's going to get busy, and I for one am nervous.

Nervous, too, especially after I read the findings of Anna Simmons, an assistant professor of anthropology at UCLA. She is the author of a new book, The Company They Keep: Life Inside U.S. Army Special Forces. In a column in The New York Times, she summarized some of the things she discovered during the year and a half she observed elite twelve-man A-teams in the Marines.

The title of her column was, "In War Let Men Be Men." My java had not yet bridged some early synapses, so I mistakenly expected irony. It was early; I was groggy.

According to Professor Simmons, the post-Cold War era might seem like a perfect time for women to be in combat units. She says, and apparently believes, that we are not engaged in any conflicts in the world, and that peacekeeping is our main mission. Nonetheless, she claims that women in combat actually endanger our troops. Why? Because G.I. Janes inhibit male bonding. It is this bonding, she says, that enables men to survive the stress of working closely under difficult conditions of cramped space, long hours, hardship, and extreme danger.

At this point, the java's jumping and the content is high, so I'm tracking her argument. As she leads up to revealing the secret sources of male bonding, I'm expecting her to say something like, "counting pushups with each other," or, "shouting encouraging things to each other," but no, she concludes that the way to build trust lies in bragging about sexual conquests!

What's up with that?

Simmons says simply that G.I. Gals make the G.I. Guys self-conscious about claiming to be all that they can be. The presence of women makes men clam up about their reputed prowess or hup to the task of backing up their boasting. That interferes with the bonding process and thus destroys critical unit cohesiveness and combat readiness.

Admittedly, I was not having a Phi Beta Cappuccino, but I thought I missed something in Professor Simmons's column. I looked back. Did she say her degree was in Anthro-apology?

Ask yourself, if men had not exaggerated their sexual conquests, would we have lost the Civil, the Big, the Great, and the War to End All? Was that what happened in Vietnam?

I'm no Margaret Mead (although one Halloween, I did wear sensible shoes, a wraparound sarong over my regular clothes, bangs, and a big walking stick), but from what I've seen in Aberdeen and other military trials, I'd have to conclude that it's time to get men out of the military. In war, let women be men; in peace, let men be women.
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Title Annotation:anthropologist Anna Simmons claims women soldiers endanger military morale
Author:Clinton, Kate
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Column
Date:Jun 1, 1997
Words:610
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