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Old 19 May 2005, 16:27
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Civil Affairs Gunners Protect Convoys

Civil Affairs Gunners Protect Convoys

Civil Affairs Gunners Protect Convoys
Three women soldiers, serving as turret gunners for their civil affairs unit, find that
their presence generates a positive reaction from the local Iraqi population.

By U.S. Army Spc. Jennifer Fitts
100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 17, 2005 — Three humvees cruise slowly down a city street, the turret gunners scanning the surrounding area for threats. Disinterested neighborhood residents merely glance at them, until one of the gunners abruptly shouts and gestures. Immediately heads snap around and jaws drop when they hear the sound of female voices and notice the feminine features of the soldiers behind the machine guns.

"(The female turret gunners) turn a lot of heads, civilian and military. They get a positive reaction from the civilian populace," U.S. Army Capt. Timothy H. Wright







With an increased operations tempo, female soldiers are stepping up to take on some of the roles traditionally filled by males such as providing unit and convoy security.

Some units, including military police, are using an increasing number of females for patrols outside the wire. Despite this, there’s often only one female gunner in a particular convoy or patrol at a given time.

What makes the New York-based U.S. Army Reserve unit, A Company, 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion different is that it doesn’t have just one female turret gunner, but three. In fact, all of the turret gunners for this particular 10-person civil affairs team are females.

“They point, they look, they’re very surprised to see females,” said U.S. Army Spc. Amanda N. Godlewski, a chemical observation specialist assigned to the civil affairs unit, recounting the reaction many Iraqis have to seeing a female in the turret.

“They (the Iraqis) used to get really confused,” said Spc. Robyn L. Murray, a civil affairs specialist from Niagara Falls, N.Y.. “I was the first. I volunteered on the second day we were here.”

The civil affairs team that Murray was assigned to needed a gunner who knew how to use a squad automatic weapon. Murray said she jumped at the opportunity to “man” the machine gun in the turret.

Soon after volunteering to take the gunner’s position, Godlewski, from Syracuse, N.Y., said she enjoyed being up on top of the humvee, shrugging off the thought of feeling exposed.

Fellow gunner Spc. Lilly R. Withers, the unit’s mechanic, agreed with Murray and Godllewski. "I wouldn’t do anything else,” she said.

Withers said the reactions from other U.S. soldiers occasionally mirrors the initial confusion of the locals. She said most of the other troops she’s encountered are receptive to the idea of female gunners and have voiced their support to her.

“I do get a few questions,” Withers said. “The infantry thought it was strange they (the unit) chose to put us on the guns.”

The womens’ presence in the turrets has had a positive effect during their civil affairs missions.

“They turn a lot of heads, civilian and military,” said their team chief, Capt. Timothy H. Wright, of Jamestown, N.Y. “They get a positive reaction from the civilian populace.”

Withers said Iraqi women have been very friendly toward her and by judging from their reactions and gestures she feels they are supportive of female soldiers. She said after the women figure out she’s not a man “then, they want to come talk to me, see my eyes and hair,” said the Cortland, N.Y. native.

The reactions the female gunners get from the public can be very helpful in stressful situations since they get a lot of attention said Wright.

“They get the point across and people listen to their voices,” he said.

Wright’s 10-person team is larger than a standard civil affairs team since it consists of two teams combined into one due to the team often being outside the relative safety of the forward operating base. Venturing outside the wire is something the female gunners accept.

“I get kind of scared sometimes,” said Withers, “but I like to be in control to keep my team safe.”

“People call us when they need to go somewhere,” said Wright.

With mission tempo in full swing, going “somewhere” is merely a moment away. This means that Wright’s civil affairs team covers a lot of ground. Patrolling an area that covers nearly 70 square miles, the soldiers are out on a daily basis, sometimes running more than one mission a day.

“We have the largest operating area in the al-Rashid district,” said Wright. “We are helping out in 43 ‘muhullahs’ or towns.”

The civil affairs team stays very busy performing such diverse tasks as identifying and assessing needed projects in their area, helping coordinate U.S. Army work efforts with key Iraqi leaders and collecting data on local attitudes.

Wright said the overall positive reactions resulting from the female gunners’ presence has contributed to the success of their missions.

Although the civil affairs team may get a few sideways looks at times, the unit commander has nothing but praise for his female soldiers.

“I’m proud of them,” said Wright. “They listen well and they react when it’s needed. They’re as motivated and dedicated as any male soldier I’ve ever worked with.”
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Old 19 May 2005, 16:36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Olive Drab
“The infantry thought it was strange they (the unit) chose to put us on the guns.”
HAHAHA No shit....
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Old 19 May 2005, 16:42
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Shouldn't this be in the Why I support Isreal thread?
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Old 19 May 2005, 17:29
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They are simply VERY lucky so far...

I wouldn't want to be around, testing that "Luck"

Another NY CA unit got ambushed just west of BIAP in part for that very same reason... female aboard, manning a gun. The shooter got away clean, and the driver will be limping probably for life.
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Old 23 May 2005, 20:33
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Though amusing, this is still a large improvement from the posture CA had early on.

Canvas top hummers were the norm, with or without the covers, and there was no one riding "shotgun". The earliest CA casualty I remember hearing about was from a grenade dropped from an overpass. The grenade took the arm of a CA officer who was a surgeon in civilian life.

They then went to at least having someone in the back of the ragtop with a SAW. The thing is still only pointed out the rear of the vehicle, and can't provide adequate cover.

Then someone got smart and allowed a little enginuity on the part of the motor pool folks. They started welding sheet metal and fabbing their own turrets and armor for the ragtop hum-vees.

At least this unit has hard shell hummers and real turrets.

As for the skills of the gunners and their ability to put accurate fire on target, I guess that remains to be seen.

But if I caught my gunners jaw-jacking with the locals instead of scanning their sectors, I'd bitch slap them. No pun intended...okay, maybe just a little one. But you get the picture. The people outside of the vehicle whose job it is to talk and be charming and entertaining is one thing. When you are up in the hole, your focus is and should be scanning for threats. Regardless of that garbage about CA having the job of putting a friendly face on the Army. The person (gender immaterial) who is on the gun is NOT a friendly face, they are the Face of Death for anyone who would try to attack the ground element.
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Old 23 May 2005, 22:30
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My little sister is CA, just got activated for her turn. Can't say I'm thrilled about it, but she'll do her duty.

Anyone has any real info on the CA gig in Iraq, I'd love a PM. From what I'm hear it's vastly different than what they were doing in the Stan. Understandable.
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Old 24 May 2005, 06:57
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Viking
My little sister is CA, just got activated for her turn. Can't say I'm thrilled about it, but she'll do her duty.

Anyone has any real info on the CA gig in Iraq, I'd love a PM. From what I'm hear it's vastly different than what they were doing in the Stan. Understandable.
pm sent
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Old 24 May 2005, 10:13
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Originally Posted by TPD1280
... When you are up in the hole, your focus is and should be scanning for threats. Regardless of that garbage about CA having the job of putting a friendly face on the Army. The person (gender immaterial) who is on the gun is NOT a friendly face, they are the Face of Death for anyone who would try to attack the ground element.
AMEN to that. Sure, CA believes that they are the good guys doing the good things for the big bad Army. They're the kinder, gentler side. Problem is, this perception is based in a large number of crack pipes. Working infrastructure issues, or putting Goober to work is great, but that doesn't mean you have to be butt buddies with him, and smiling, waving, and blowing kisses while manning the gun means you're not doing your job, and are letting down your team, increasing their chances of getting hurt.

Well said, TPD...
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Old 24 May 2005, 12:17
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Originally Posted by TPD1280
As for the skills of the gunners and their ability to put accurate fire on target, I guess that remains to be seen.
Proven on at least one occasion.

One of my fellow CA colleagues was in the turret of the middle vehicle of a convoy. They were ambushed from the right with small-arms fire. The .50cal in the front vehicle malfunctioned. There was a similar problem with the .50cal in the rear vehicle. She layed the only suppressive fire with her SAW. End result: no US casualties, some enemy KIA.
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Old 24 May 2005, 12:20
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There is a strange dichotomy to the job of a civil affairs soldier in Iraq: One day we would convoy at a high rate of speed from point A to point B, pushing aside any vehicle who did not get out of the way. The next day we would greet the driver of that vehicle who walked in to our CMOC to file a claim against the coalition forces for their damaged mobile. JAG paid. Everyone was happy. Cheap insurance for soldiers' security. :)

IMHO, when I was in the turret I did not smile and wave at the cute little kids on the sides of the road. Never compromise the hard target "appearance". You never knew who was watching and observing your movement from a rooftop.
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Old 24 May 2005, 12:50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Viking
My little sister is CA, just got activated for her turn. Can't say I'm thrilled about it, but she'll do her duty.

Anyone has any real info on the CA gig in Iraq, I'd love a PM. From what I'm hear it's vastly different than what they were doing in the Stan. Understandable.

And if anyone who is CA would mind PMing someone thinking of enlisting into this MOS as to what it's REALLY like, I'd be most grateful
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Old 25 May 2005, 05:23
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Quote:
Proven on at least one occasion.
Glad to hear it.

Quote:
when I was in the turret I did not smile and wave at the cute little kids on the sides of the road. Never compromise the hard target "appearance". You never knew who was watching and observing your movement from a rooftop.
Glad to hear that too. Trust me, the bad guys know what is the biggest threat to them, and it is that gun and the soldier manning it. The gunner can count on being the first target of any type of small arms engagement. See them before they see you. Probably not going to happen, but if you are that aware, you will be in a much better position that someone who is petting the little Geevme's (Meestah, geev me...).
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Old 25 May 2005, 05:28
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The only time I got strange looks while manning the gun was going in/out of the gates of our own camps. The looks on the faces of the kid checking ID cards,..."DUDE, you have an E-7 as a gunner?" I loved riding in the hole.
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