Monday, April 28, 2008

What no one tells you about today's troops in Iraq

I interviewed a local woman today who served in Iraq and now has returned home to be a mother. We actually used to work together years ago in the Ohio Army National Guard so it was good to catch up.

As we were talking about her experience in Iraq, it reminded me of the co-ed living conditions that exist in most military areas of today's battlefield.

During most of my stay in Operation Iraqi Freedom, I lived in a "12-man" tent. There were six women and six men. The 12 of us worked together in the Operations section of our command 8-12 hours per day, and then lived together in the same tent. Each of us had a 6X8 living space (that included our cots) as part of an open area. Not much room at all.

Six men and six women. One big happy Army, right?

Well .. I doubt any of our spouses were pleased with the set up .. make that I know they weren't pleased. Some emailed the commanders to let them know that they didn't like it one bit.

What many don't realize is that today's military is set up to be operationally effective, and if that means men and women living and sleeping side-by-side with bunks a few feet apart, so be it.

To be honest, even as professional soldiers, the idea took time to accept. I wasn't used to having to go to the restroom to change clothes, but with a co-ed arrangement, we all had to be more modest as you can imagine. Still, when it was 130-degrees and you're trying to sleep, everyone just had to suck it up and not be offended by the fellow soldiers of the opposite sex.

At one point, I had a 50-year-old mother of two on one side of me .. and a 23-year-old woman who was newly married and worked for the Victoria secret catalogue living in the bunk on the other side of me.

After a short time, we all adjusted and just accepted it as part of our tour of duty. Certainly, there were bigger tasks ahead than just being uncomfortable with seeing someone's sweaty underwear. Still, the comfort level of our family members back home didn't like it then .. and probably still don't like it today.

I just wonder how many of you would have accepted those living arrangements. Officers living with enlisted, older soldiers next to younger soldiers, and men living with women. We had it all in our tent.

Think you could do it?


anne said...

It would be awkward at first, but yes I think I could do it. When you are insuch extreme conditions, the awkwardness would soon fade, as you said.

Anonymous said...

I would think that just about everything about this situation would be awkward and awful. Seems like it would all be part of the package -- a nightmare package delivered in the middle of the night from a company you did not place an order with.