July 23, 1996 in Nation/World

Women Gis Walking The Front Lines In Bosnia Female Forces Are Highly Visible Component Of American Forces

Terrence Petty Associated Press
 

Her blond head poking out of the Humvee’s machine gun turret, Army gunner Lisa Adams assessed the caliber of the two men with whom she patrols former front lines in northeast Bosnia.

“Andy, he’s only 5 percent sexist. He’s pretty good,” said Adams, nodding toward driver Ryan Anderson.

“Now him, he’s about 99.9 percent sexist,” the 23-year-old Adams said with a laugh. She cast a glance down at Edward Hoyle, a crusty staff sergeant who heads the three-soldier military police team.

Hoyle just smiled.

Making up some 1,500 of the 16,000 American troops deployed in the international Bosnian peacekeeping operation, the GI women have a highly visible presence.

Whichever base you visit, you’re apt to see a ponytail sticking out the back of a Kevlar helmet and hear a high voice taking orders or giving them.

When you walk into a coed tent at Camp Kime, the headquarters of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, where Adams is based, the women soldiers’ bunks are obvious. They have roses in vases. Copies of “Cosmopolitan” lie around instead of “Playboy.”

Most tents have television sets and video recorders, and there are pronounced differences between what males and females prefer to watch.

“They watch pornos; we don’t,” said Adams, a private first class who prefers comedies.

Women GIs mainly hold support and administrative jobs inside bases scattered across Bosnia because they are not permitted to be in pure combat units, such as the infantry.

But women can get around that by being in military police and military intelligence units, which put them right on Bosnia’s former front lines.

The MPs operate checkpoints that keep an eye out for illegal movement of guns and troops by Bosnia’s three factions. Soldiers in intelligence snoop around to keep tabs on the local populace.

A female counterintelligence officer, who said she cannot be identified because of her work, described how she grooms contacts with the locals to discover whether any terrorist groups are plotting against American soldiers.

“When I go out and notice a guy flirting with me, this is an open door. I pump him for information. If I realize he doesn’t know anything, I drop him,” she said.

Male GIs generally accept their female counterparts as their equals, said 26-year-old Sgt. Amy Lines, who is with military intelligence and comes from Minneapolis, Minn.

However, Lines said there have been several complaints of female subordinates being sexually harassed by male superiors. In one recent case, she said, a male sergeant was “removed from his leadership position and taken away from women. Basically, his career is over.”

There are women-only tents for females bothered by the thought of living with a bunch of guys. But many of the women like coed tents because they think they boost the cohesion of their units.

Two women and seven men live in Lines’ tent. Dividers separate the sexes. Still, said Lines, “I have no modesty left.”

Adams chose a women-only tent. After spending 12 hours a day inside a cramped Humvee with two males, she says she needs female company.

There seems to be no friction among Adams, from Calumet, Mich., Anderson, a 22-year-old specialist from Dallas, Texas, and Hoyle, a 32-year-old from Cove, Ark.

Adams can meet her male colleagues obscenity for obscenity. She is able to lift a heavy Mark 19 grenade launcher onto the Humvee’s turret without anyone’s help.

“She doesn’t want anyone to be able to say they can’t depend on her. She wants to be a tomboy,” Hoyle said.

To which Adams replied from her machine gun turret: “So what am I supposed to be - Barbie in a Humvee?”


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