Harvey H. Jackson: Women in combat — From the 1950s, an example of what women can do
Jan 30, 2013 | 2762 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Capt. Linda L. Bray, 29, from Butner, N.C., with the 988th Military Police Company from Fort Benning, Ga., poses in the Army's Quarry Heights base in Panama City, Panama.  Bray led 30 MPs in an attack on Panamanian Defense Forces kennels the night of the American invasion, resulting in intense combat with PDF soldiers and a cache of weapons captured. She is the first woman to lead U.S. troops into battle. Photo: Associated Press/file
Capt. Linda L. Bray, 29, from Butner, N.C., with the 988th Military Police Company from Fort Benning, Ga., poses in the Army's Quarry Heights base in Panama City, Panama. Bray led 30 MPs in an attack on Panamanian Defense Forces kennels the night of the American invasion, resulting in intense combat with PDF soldiers and a cache of weapons captured. She is the first woman to lead U.S. troops into battle. Photo: Associated Press/file
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Far be it for me to avoid a sensitive subject just because it is sensitive, so I won’t.

Women in combat.

My opinion is this: If you are gonna have combat, I see no reason to keep women out, even if Newt Gingrich does. Now that I think of it, the fact that Newt is for or against something is reason enough for me to be against or for it, but I digress.

Let me refer you to my niece Sarah — really a cousin, the daughter of my cousin Benny, but years ago I got tagged as “Uncle Hardy,” and I like it. She is a captain in the U.S. Air Force and has done a tour in Iraq. Before that she was also a competitive cheerleader. Recently, for fun, she and her sister Leanna, a former Mississippi State cheerleader who now is in law enforcement, took part in a “Tough Mudder” competition that was billed as “Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet.”

Looking at the pictures, I can believe it.

Lord help the enemy if those girls were sent into battle.

But long before my nieces convinced me that women could hold their own under combat situations, I witnessed something that made the point about as well as it could be made.

I was in high school, back in the 1950s.

The rumor was going around (as high school rumors do) that a boy I knew was dating two girls at the same time, a violation of the gentlemanly code young men of my class and circumstances were taught to obey — but a violation we guys admired since he was able to accomplish this without one knowing about the other.

For a while.

Then the girls discovered the duplicity and each vowed to their friends that they would get even with the other, and then they would get even with the guy.

Let us pause here a moment to consider the context. In rural counties like mine, children were identified through their families, and the families, which often shared the same name without direct (or acknowledged) blood-kin, would be identified by their accomplishments. So, for example, you might have the “preaching Jacksons” or the “fighting Jacksons” or the … you get the picture.

Well, these two girls came from families best known for confrontations with local law enforcement that left their clans with a record of misdemeanors and a reputation that would automatically put the two into the “bad girl” category.

(Let me hastily add that I knew nothing then, and know nothing now, that would suggest that they, personally, deserved such approbation, but what follows suggests that the assessment might have been accurate.)

It was at PE that the reckoning came. We were all herded into the gym — I don’t recall why, maybe it was raining— but as anyone will tell you, large numbers of teenagers milling around in a confined space is never a good idea.

Then we heard the shout, a high shrill, banshee-like cry that chilled my blood. Out of a group of girls on one side of the basketball court the crier came, heaping verbal abuse on the object of her wrath.

That object immediately emerged from another group and began giving as good as she got.

I looked around for the boy who was the subject of this shouting match, but he was nowhere to be seen. (Someone told me later that he retreated into the boy’s locker room, which, considering what he had done to cause what followed, was the first wise move he had made in the matter.)

Now, I had been around fights before, and in my experience, when there is a lot of talking and yelling, there really is not much actual fighting. The combatants get it out of their systems and cooler heads intervene and prevail.

But in this case, precedent did not matter.

Screaming shrill, profanity-filled epithets at the top of their lungs, the two came to the center of what was now a circle of spectators and went at it.

Punches were thrown, there was hair-pulling, scratching and wrestling. Down they went in a cloud of crinoline petticoats (remember, the ’50s). Up they came for air and the fight continued.

No one intervened.

Not even the coaches who were present. They had been college linemen. They had broken up fights before. But they held back. So did guys like myself. We just stood there, transfixed and not a little bit frightened.

It came to an end when the combatants wore out and other girls, their supporters, stepped in to call it a draw.

And from that day to this I have considered what an army of fighters such as those could accomplish.

Now, thanks to the Pentagon’s latest ruling, we may soon find out.

Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. Email: hjackson@jsu.edu.
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