tv Women Warriors CSPAN December 24, 2013 11:00pm-12:41am EST
discountedle for the price of $12.95 with shipping. that is c-span.org/first ladies. >> if you are a middle or high school student, we want to know what the most important congress issued should address next year. 100,000 dollars in total prizes read the deadline is january 20. >> next, women veterans of the iraq and afghanistan wars share experiences. they talk about their personal decisions for entering the military. some dangers being countered in war zones, how they use skills during a deployment, and their
transition from military to civilian life. this was hosted by the near public library as part of a sneering veteran history series. it is one hour 40 minutes. >> i'd like to thank everyone for coming out today. this is the third and final panel discussion we of posted here. havee honored to incredible individuals to share their stories on the stage.
seems toussion celebrate the complete story. veterans tell their own stories, civilians another veterans can learn from them and begin to engage in more meaningful dialogue's. you will seem, more information about our project.oral history the oral history itself is an opportunity for anyone to share their story in exactly the way they want to share it. i am looking forward to listening to more interviews with veterans for this project.
i see many familiar faces in the audience for people who have been interviewed for this project or have interviewed others. i would like to thank the women veterans and families that work for hosting this event with us and providing incredible resources and programs for women veterans. could you stand up for a moment? she's back there. ok. i encourage you all after today's discussion to talk to her and ask her about the resources she has for veterans around the city. she's raising to work with. -- she's amazing to work with. i went to introduce you to our moderator this afternoon. we worked to make sure the panel was collaborative. asking all of the veterans on our panel what questions they want us to ask and what they would like us to stay away from. which questions have you been asked quite often and which you have wanted to be asked but
rarely ever are. maggie is an independent filmmaker and a cultural anthropologist based in new york city and her move recent -- or most recent film talks about direct movements in iraq and it won the center for documentary award and was broadcast in the pbs series, "independent lens" in 2008. most recently, she co-edited sensible politics, the visual culture of nongovernmental lack of is him published by zone books in 2012 and we are honored to have her moderate panel so now i would like to invite her to give a few opening remarks. thank you.
>> i would like to start by thinking alex kelly in the new york public library for inviting me to moderate today. it's a real honor to be on the same stage with people who have served in the post-9/11 conflict in iraq and afghanistan. my connection to this issue is as a filmmaker. we made a film that we started working on in 2005 and finished in 2008 about a group of army women who served in the sunni triangle and were sent out with all-male infantry units to help deal with some of the problems arising when they were going into homes and in countering iraq he women and children, civilians. -- iraqi women and children. we saw this as important historical lack or is in an ongoing action of the transformation to a fuller
gender integration. at this time when we were making the film, very little information was available about what was going on in terms of what the women were doing. the stories at the women told us were primary sources of information about the new way that women were being used in iraq and the defector combat integration taking place. since then, a new generation of women in combat veterans have emerged. they have come home from the conflict and this generation including the women on the panel today have organized and are changing the narrative and the policies that affect military women and women veterans. they are raising critical issues that the military needs to
address including sexual harassment and rape. they express themselves and their writing, memoirs, poetry, artwork and are visible in radio, television, and film. with that, i would like to get started and have the opportunity to have them tell more of their stories. i will introduce each panelist briefly and we will start with the questions. nicole goodwin, down at the end, and listed in the u.s. army in 2001. she served as a supply specialist and was deployed to iraq in july 2003 for five and a half months. when she returned to the bronx she was one of the first homeless veterans and was featured in the documentary, when i came home, as well as many news programs. she lives in new york city where
she is raising her daughter and writing poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. she graduated with a ba in english and creative writing, anthropology. teresa grew up in white plains, new york, serving as a marine corps communications officer from 2002-2006 deploying wants to iraq and is writing a memoir about the deployment relationship and its aftermath. i read her writing at the kennedy center and washington, d.c. she lives and works in new york city. rebecca -- did i say that right? an explosive ordnance disposal technician serving on act of duty from 2004 2 2008. and in the army reserves from 2008-2 thousand 10 deployed to afghanistan in 2006-2007
currently working towards a masters degree in international affairs with a concentration in media and culture. recently transitioning from the u.s. army as a cap than having served seven years in active duty currently working as a board event manager in a marketing division at the new york stock exchange euro next. she deployed to iraq in 2007 as a company executive officer with the first to gauge combat team. there she managed logistics and operations for her unit to conduct intelligence operations across southern iraq. she deployed to kandahar is a unit intelligence officer for the 217 air calverley -- calgary squadron. these are the panelists.
i'd like to talk about your reasons for joining. can you talk about why you chose to enlist? >> ok, thank you. the reason why i chose to enlist was that it was a dire situation in my home. i come from a very impoverished dysfunctional family and there were not many options open for me to elevate myself. at that time, i was very young, 19 going on 20, and it seemed like my options had run out. living in the south bronx and the living this impoverished life, wanting more, wanting an education and these things motivated me to search for a way
out as soon as possible. that's why i enlisted. >> i had a bit of an economic motivation for joining. i did it to pay for college. i did rotc in undergrad and i would not have been able to a for school otherwise. i went to m.i.t.. >> i'm from the south. every single male in my family has been in the military. i grew up in a very religious environment where women was supposed to stay home barefoot and pregnant and that was not my thing. i decided i wanted to pursue military service. it was interesting. long story short, i had open heart surgery so it took me almost two used to get a medical waiver and i ended up going into
explosive ordinance disposal, basically the bomb squad. i did that relatively challenging job. economics played a big role in it. we're in the middle of a war but i want a college degree and i don't want to have any debt. there was still a patriotism factor as well, what i would refer to from the deep south in my family heritage. >> i think we all share the common idea of the camaraderie and that it was a chance to travel and meet a lot of new people, be taken out of my comfort zone. i joined the rotc my sophomore year of college and paid for my school. when i was a sophomore in
college, 2001, post 9/11 that happened and i got a letter from the rotc department who said we would pay for school but this is an opportunity for you to serve after college. i thought it would be a great opportunity for me to be apart of something bigger than me especially after 9/11. i was searching for a way to give back and rotc was that. it was a great experience all together being on active duty. i got everything i wanted and then some. >> to talk about how others reacted to your decision to join up? >> unit on my campus was ready at it. it's a small school, a small organization on campus. i was in a sorority and a lot of my sisters were just shocked when i said i wanted to join
rotc. i am five foot thing and it really surprised them. we had drills, had to wear the uniform and at that time it was the olive green uniform. they referred to me as the pickle. it was a joke. i was not being made fun of. it was a term of endearment. it almost raised awareness that anyone could join the rotc if i could do it and i'm only five foot. i will not say i led that alone but we had a pretty good turnout next year people wanting to become a part of the program. at first it was just like, really? they could imagine me becoming a part of that organization. when i said i was in a sorority or a cheerleader in high school,
people in the army were surprised by that when they saw me more in uniform. it was an interesting dynamic. >> you shocked them both ways. i want to have each of you talk a bit about what your m.o.s. was, how you made the decision to choose it, and what skills you learned in the process to get down to some of the brass tacks. could you start? >> i wanted to be a duty and be special forces but that was not an option. i picked what i thought was the next best thing and i went dod eod i was in the bomb squad. i always ask people if they have seen "the hurt locker," and that was me except it was not all that realistic but it gives people a vantage point to start from. we mostly did ied missions, respond to them when people
found them or after they went off. ied's are basically roadside bombs. i did a lot of work with explosives and then i did a lot of work when we were in afghanistan because i was the only female in the unit i was assigned and attached to, i did a lot of biometric data collection being a woman and having the skill set i have. you are a woman and you can disarm bombs. we will bring you and you will also mingle with the local women population that all of our men can deal with. i got cross trained in a lot of the different skill sets outside of my actual job description. one of the things -- i do miss a blowing stuff up. it's awesome and fun. i miss the challenges, everyday something different. you never knew what you're going
to get yourself into. i relayed it honestly to be a policeman or a firefighter because there's a lot of downtime followed by a lot of -- we've got to go. get your stuff and let's hit the road. one of the ironies about being in afghanistan and in the bomb squad is doing my actual job was not the most restful. driving through the mountains was the most stressful. driving a 20 ton vehicle on mountain pass with a 600 foot drop to your right-hand side. please, just get me there. i can deal with whatever i need to when i get there but i have to get there first. there were a lot of interesting contradictions and ironies associated with my position but about a.m. 2004-2008, there were about 50 women in the whole
field in the army. very infrequently did you ever see another woman who was in eod so that made me an anomaly. sometimes just doing a woman in the military can be an anomaly in and of itself but it's even more isolating in a sense which is challenging. i really enjoyed my job and i kind of miss it sometimes. it would be nice to make something go boom every once in a while. >> you were in a team of how many? cliques teams of three to four. you were assigned to different locations. most of the time he would send a whole unit over but our unit, a lot of people think about companies being a couple hundred people or so. ours was 20 people. we were very small, very handsome in.
everybody knew at everyone but we were centrally located and we would disburse so you were only with two or three people that you specifically have deployed with from your unit at any given time. it is a very different set up than what we consider to be outside of the mainstream military and we did things a little bit differently. it was a unique set up at the time. and >> can you give us a sense? you would be told there might be something you need to go check out in this place and your group of three or four would be assigned that task? >> you never go out by yourself. you always have to have an escort. i work with task force paladin, a counter ied task force. we had an intelligence officer and post blast analysis that would go out and collect biometric data from the actual blast site itself and then we had our team who would deal with actual ordinance or ied's that
were not exploded. we would kind of sit around and wait. they were always outside doing this and all the time. we would get a call. we think we've found something. we need you to respond. you have to have an escort and a lot of times, combat engineers and military police were already out on mission and they would have to come back and get us in our two vehicles and escort us out to the site where we were in order for us to take care of what we needed to take care of. >> you were an intelligence officer. >> we worked with task force
paladin. i was not directly assigned with them but we did work with them. when i was in iraq, it was security force missions were the brigade and we ran convoys through the entire country starting in the south. baghdad, back down. if there was a threat along any of the routes, they would assess those threats through what task force paladin was able to preside. indirectly, we probably supported one another. >> can you talk about your training and what you did in iraq? >> that was my first appointment. i studied psychology in college. when i wanted to become an officer i was told that you should have a business degree and i used psychology every single day regardless of my specialty.
first and foremost, i wanted to be an officer because i wanted to be a leader and intelligence happened to be the branch i chose going in. i liked intelligence because basically as a new officer, second lieutenant, i was responsible for a platoon, aerial assets. i was responsible for a 24 person platoon that operated these unmanned drones for the unit. >> which part? >> this was seven iraq. -- southern iraq. i was with a manned helicopter unit. i went in with some experience from that understanding more of the aerial respect they are and
what needed to be looked at in terms of intelligence but we were in southern afghanistan during the same thing except now i'm dealing with pilots putting themselves at risk going out several times a day and flying helicopters themselves. these were small aircraft with two pilots, no passengers, single-engine aircraft. they were built in the 1970's and in terms of technology, it did not really improve from what was used in vietnam. it was an interesting dynamic between iraq and afghanistan and what my mission was all within the intelligence cycle. >> and afghanistan, where there
are people flying at the helicopters during the reconnaissance? >> we had apaches and kyowas that went out. the difference between the two, the ability to target where as the other is the smaller craft going out not so much in an often several-- offensive role, but they're looking for information, taking pictures, literally hanging their arms out. they were frequently targeted because they are small aircraft. they do not fly fast like an apache or an air hawk. it was up to my group to assess the damage to the aircraft and understand where they were being targeted and at what level. it was to identify the capabilities of the enemy so
that we were protecting the ground troops. there were times when our pilots would go out every time they were directly supporting someone on the ground and often times they were shot at because they were supposed to disrupt those. click sets interesting. can you talk about your role? >> i was a communications officer in the marine corps. you don't get to pick. they picked for you. i saw that i had a technical degree from undergrad and they made mickey and indications officer. i worked with radio, satellite, wired telephone. i was deployed for seven months in 2004 and one of the reasons i became an officer also was the leadership asset -- aspect.
growing up with three younger brothers and having been a camp counselor was the best preparation for that ever except for in iraq with machine guns. the main role was to be on a base which did get mortared and lay cable underground. this was before the marine corps had a lot of multi-channeled communication between different bases. within our own base, we had to make sure all of the telephone, cable, and the fiber-optic was the difference. my marines were really hard- working. they would go out there and dig trenches to lay cable underground. we would get the entire company,
200 marines, to help us out. they took out all of the old iraqi telephone wires and replaced it with 30 kilometers of cable all total through the base. then we would get a mortar and the cable would you cut and then the repair marines would have to go repair it. it's being in charge of the whole cycle but i work with a lot of fantastic people. >> that's great. nicole? >> my story is a story of misdirection. i wanted to be a journalist, actually. the recruiter told me that i could not make the cut. i did not get the proper schooling to enlist as -- to get the journalism slot. i was like, what do you guys have to offer. he mentioned a few other mos's, and then he mentioned supply,
and i was like, well, i have retail experience. i have office experience. supply and garrison versus supply during a deployment is really two different atmospheres, different tribes of stressors, whereas when i was and garrison in germany, it was a lot more fun. i felt like -- i felt very interconnected because i was doing supplies and i was in an ordinance company. i was in an ordinance unit, rather, and my company was the largest of the unit.
i could order a pen. i could order a machine gun. i could order m 60s. i mean, these things were on the books and on paper. it is very interesting, the accounting for these incredibly massive and powerful weapons, and at the same time, i need a royal -- a roll of toilet paper, some tissue. it's ironic. at the same time, you have unit supply. you work with alphas. alphas also work with the warehouse. juliet was medical supply officers. it was a small world amongst the logistics family. we all kind of knew each other and knew how to get to each other, versus in different aspects of the military, the job can be a little more secular and separated. so this was more like, professionally, a bit more of a happy family.
there were strange aspects of it, but then, when you take that to deployment, it's a different situation, because the budget itself would fluctuate. there were times when we did not have the supplies to give the soldiers in a life or death situation. we ran out of flak vests to assign to different soldiers, and we had to scrutinize and rotate and come up with innovative ideas, how to protect whom, who was going on what mission, where can we borrow what we need? it was dire situation sometimes. it was very out -- very unspoken
in my section, but i could constantly see that way on each other's brains. if we run out of gas masks, what are we going to do if there is a biochemical attack. that conversation puts you in a strange dichotomy in relation to the rest of your unit, in relation to other supply officers and your position in the hierarchy of the military. it is an aspect i have not been very open about because people think well, it is only logistics, but the quartermaster s and logistics, supplying the military, these are things that are life or death situations and
something you cannot really teach in training. it kind of just happens along the way. i think seeing that aspect, that hierarchy, those echelons, that latter go up and down, really made me the person and the writer i am today. >> you spoke like you are at the center of the circle in the sense that people have to come to you. >> very much we're at the center of the circle, and again, this was never really spoken about. i think a lot of people, even the media, when it concerns itself with war and sensationalism, there were times when my job was pretty mundane. i was just sitting in the office
and no one was there. 9-5 and no one has picked up a lock today, and then two of my friends in a section would say we have to get to camp anaconda. we have to get to the fight alley. a lot of our job is literally pushing pencils, but at the same time, supply is an essential part of operations, and we were kind of an son because we were not the ones through the door first. it is an aspect that is never really played up. >> i also wanted to have you talk some more about your experiences in iraq, particularly, tell us about maybe one of the more memorable stories where you felt that your
skills and the things you were trained to do really paid off, that you made a difference. it sounds like you had that awareness every day that you are doing your job. at times it might have seemed out of sight, but you were not. you were an underpinning of how the operation was going to be supplied. can you talk about that? >> sure. i was in the first battle for falluja in april, 2000 four. a lot of people remember the second battle when we actually took the city. in the first one, the marines went in for a few days and then pulled back to try to let the iraqis do their own thing. we had just gotten there about a month before and it was really
crucial that we made sure that everybody had conductivity and could talk to each other. sometimes, we would call each other electron warriors, kind of jokingly, because we would be talking on the radio or trying to connect a satellite, and i do remember when a succession of different medication systems broke and we had to find different ways to talk to the base about 50 miles away. we were trying to translate between one thing, how we would dial on the satellite phone and then get to talk to a different base so that our higher commanders could be able to talk to each other and know what was going on. so, between that and forcing cable undergrounds of the people could have electronics flowing instead of having -- and actually be able to communicate via e-mail and with images. sending images for drones was a big thing because we need a lot of and with for that. we need to be able to shoot,
move, communicate. so, some would be shooting, some would be moving units back and forth and we would be helping people communicate. >> at what point would you say the infrastructure got up, the communication infrastructure? was after 2004 or right after that time? >> for our particular job, my particular unit, it was still come veritably early in the -- comparatively early in the war. i the time -- by the time we left in september and on into the winter, the infrastructure was far up on that base. in general, throughout a rack, we had satellite communications
and -- throughout a rack, we had satellite medications and things like that. >> rebecca? >> my story is extremely graphic. so, be forewarned. again, we would respond to scenarios that sometimes included suicide bombers. if someone blew themselves up, we would go pick up the pieces. in doing things like that, you tend to develop somewhat of a -- we could call it a warped sense of humor. you find ways to make things less intense. having a morbid sense of humor was a way that a lot of me and my guys and the people i worked with kind of work. we got a call one day and there had been a suicide bomber who had blown himself up in one of the main cities and it was the first suicide bombing that i had
been called out on, so i did not really know what to expect. ordnance is one thing. blown up people are another. i am with a lot of infantry guys , and one hands me a stick of gum and he is like here, chew on this, it actually has -- it actually helps with the smell because these bodies have a distinct sense of smell. and my team leader was not a frantic person. we did not get along, so i was not relying on him -- was not a friendly person. we did not get along, so i was not relying on him for device. i do not watch horror movies because i have seen what that stuff looks like in reality. basically, when someone blows himself up, usually all that is left is part of their head and part of their legs.
i was searching for secondary devices. hey, here are humongous boulders. could you please go check these boulders to make sure there are no secondary devices? i was like sure, whatever. i am walking over these very unstable walks, -- huge rocks, and i slept because i was carrying like 40 pounds of gear and -- slipped because i was carrying like 40 pounds of gear and a weapon. and i slip and put my hand in this pile of do, and i was like, what is this? and it was the guys face. and it was like, yeah um, here is a piece. let's take this back for analysis. these are the kinds of things i dealt with on somewhat of a daily basis. it's kind of like playing a
videogame. i'm not going to live. it was kind of third person, i am kind of outside my body now, watching this stuff happen, and i am not sure how i am going to deal with it, so i'm not. i am going to put that in the back of my file cabinet and deal with that when i get home. so, those were some of the stuff -- and that was my first experience with those types of situations. there were guys who had seen those things multiple times and had dealt with way worse stuff than that particular situation, and things got even more intense after that. there were three months when it hit the fan for a while and we were up to our eyeballs in missions and absolute craziness.
talking about these kinds of things and what we did, i am sure we will get to this in a little bit, but i want to touch on it quickly, it's like, what do people really want to know? when you are out there in the audience thinking about, what am i going to ask a veteran or what should i say, sometimes i'm like, this is an stuff that i talked about a lot. i am perfectly comfortable telling some of these tories -- stories and you can see on the receiving end, of the response are the recoil of i don't know what to say to this story. it's interesting when you talk, what are you proud of in your service, what made you this person, those are the kinds of things that of made me kind of who im and given me some of the perspectives i have. i come back and we see things and we do things and people get uptight about stuff and it's like, nobody died, chill out. it's not that serious.
you know, slow your roll, bring your -- bring it down and not show. let's relax and figure out what we need to get done. those situations that are gruesome and intense take some time to process and get through once i had some time to process. that they are still critical in crafting a perspective about life in general. >> i can imagine. do you want to jump in? >> and i was in afghanistan, it was the beginning of the surge for the u.s. we went into southern afghanistan, and at that time there were multiple ground units . we are looking of 400 soldiers, 200 soldiers per so many square miles, and not every battalion
belong to the same overall brigade. there was a lot of fragmented communication going on, different standard operating procedures, so was really difficult to operate when you are not all train together. we were supporting multiple ground forces who are having difficulty communicating. some of the different communication architecture was in place but they had not train together in these states. we hit the ground running and had been looking at intelligence for the year leading up to this, and i was stressed with my soldiers for being able to support multiple units on the ground and try to direct or at least make recommendations to my
commander on where he would direct aircraft and who to support. i just felt this immense pressure to be right. intelligence is supposed to drive operations. that is what we were aiming toward. it is not what always happens. it is one of those things where you are dammed if you do and dammed if you don't. if you are predicting future enemy operations, my commander would want to counter that. the enemy may not actually be successful. that's good news. becca be frustrating. -- that could be frustrating. but i think a moment in afghanistan where -- we were there in the winter of 2010, and the vegetation is very bare during the winter in the south. the enemy was relatively quiet. there we got into the spring of 2010, the budget station starts to come back -- the vegetation starts to come back. this is an area where growing
poppy was really important to the local economy. it also helped to give the foreign fighters cover and concealment to be able to move freely through southern afghanistan. so, i went out on a flight with the commander of one of the units to be able to see what they saw and how much they could actually detect. we flew through there and it was incredible. there were areas where these were five feet high. when the enemy has the advantage , the friendly forces have a disadvantage in that they get there and there are these five foot high grade rose they have to navigate over -- grape rows
they have to navigate over that the enemies have to navigate through. we got into the fall were the vegetation started to die out and we realize through almost a full year there that the enemy had these underground tunnels and that there were huge cash lights. some was with medical supplies. some was with weapons, ammunition, and we realized that there were multiple firing positions -- what we thought were multiple firing positions were just the enemy navigating underground. we said this is what we think is going to happen at this location because last spring we saw this and now we're realizing they are navigating from one position to the next underground.
it was one enemy fighter. the ground units started to trust us through this nearly year-long relationship we established, so they started exploiting the underground sites and pulling a lot of ammunition out of -- potentially pulling it out of enemy hands. we started to see success there, and it was really nice to feel like the work we had been doing, that it taken so long, was actually paying off. every time we had either an aircraft that was shot at or hit or -- you sit in an operations center and the soldiers would day in and day out look at reporting. they would look at significant activity is a cayman. to them, it was just statistics, -- as it came in, and, to them, it was just a test experience this unit ran into ied's and lost five people.
-- to them, it was just statistics. this unit ran into ied's and lost five people. that's devastating to a small unit. when we were in the center sitting behind computers it felt more like a videogame than reality. we started to ask, are we sending these people into harm's way? did we miss something? polling ammunition out of enemy hands was really -- polling ammunition on of enemy hands was a really rewarding moment for us. it was a way for our analyst to engage and support the guys and gals that were going outside the wire every day. it also helped to build the confidence in what we were doing. we felt that relationship was really important so that intelligence would actually
drive operations. >> interesting. can we now turn to talk a little bit about the skills you learned and how you transitioned into civilian life? nicole, can you talk a bit about what you fell you gained from your experience and how your transition went? >> my story is a very strange arc. i always considered a continuous, build upon and read transforming myself. i don't want to say i didn't learn any skills. i reinforced to im as a person being out in iraq. again, my job position in the psychological connections to my job position, i got to see many aspects of iraqi people and my
fellow soldiers in the military. the tricks that played on my mind was very difficult, even now, to explain to many people. i think one of the things that helped me cope and filter out and decipher, constantly modify my perception about my relationship to my deployment was that i am an avid reader. i am an avid writer. and the skill of doing my job. the routine of that, helped keep me sane in that situation. it was very difficult for me because, again, being the supply, i got to stay behind a great deal, but at the same time, the fact that there were so many people in my unit
constantly task out to different portions of the military, like, we supported tankers and infantrymen, and i had many friends that were medics. they were constantly sent out on missions, and then we had iraqis come in and they had jobs on our post, while we were stationed there, so they ran the laundromats and built the cafe. it was estranged economy because on one hand -- dichotomy because on one hand you see the situation as this is the enemy and we are here to liberate. but on the other hand, you see the position of there are people here who are not the enemy who are of this collective and this ethnicity that look like me, being an african american woman,
so there was a social aspect there. they are risking their lives to feed their families, to feed their children, and share this experience with me in a way that you come to the states, and wherever they were stationed from, they cannot explain that to their civilian counterparts, whether it be their families, their spouses or their children. i think that played a huge psychological -- placed a huge psychological burgeon upon me for many years. how do you explain -- burden upon me for many years. how do you explain this experience to people that do not want to hear all the bad? they want to hear you file for your country, your home, your safe, -- they want to hear you fought for your country, you are
home, you are safe, you are alive. i was when he three and a rack. i had a birth a. -- i turned 23 in iraq. i had a birthday. i had to celebrate my birthday in a situation that was constantly reminding me of my own mortality. i had my daughter in march of 2003 and redeployed to germany in april of 2003. i met up with my unit in iraq in july of 2003. i did not see my daughter until nine months later. the kind of personal separation and personal experience, that really placed a huge psychological word in upon me because it is such a remote experience -- burden upon me because it is such a remote experience. coming back home, i really
wanted to start where i thought i had left off. i had a lot of college friends around me and they would never -- they wanted me to talk about my experience in the military and i pretty much was like no, let's just pick up where we left off. for many years, that's how i dealt with it. these are my experiences. i kept them in a box, and this was the person i wanted to be again. transforming from that and realizing that life had gone on, and you are a mother now and not the young girl that went away -- even though i was much older than a lot of the enlistees i knew. i came in at 20 and got out and turned 24. there were so many dynamics of change that happened in that short span of time. it took me so many years to digest it and to deal with this concept of ptsd and depression and anxiety, and all of these labels for mental illness when
it really is about a person having a dynamic experience that is very convoluted and cannot be explained as good or bad, living with ambiguity, and realizing that there is so much that is -- america is really isolated, culturally, to this concept of war, more than any other country in the world, in my experience. going back into school, going into a routine and reestablishing my connections to my older self, who i was and my interest, and combining that with my experiences, and the confusion of it all, and is building upon that as a person, that is where the transition, the positivity of the transition really began, but that took 10 years. it took 10 years, and i was a
lot of downward slope -- it was a lot of downward slope between those two years and the acceptance of help from the harlem vet center where i still receive treatment. building a support system, and realizing that -- where a lot of my anger came from, and a lot of these concepts of misunderstanding, and realizing that there are going to be people who want to listen but they are not going to want to hear everything, and that's ok too, but being willing to tell it anyway. so future generations like my daughter won't just read a paragraph about iraq and think that is the whole story. so, i think now it is going on about 11 years since my enlistment. it has really been a journey. and realizing that there is nothing about that experience,
not labeling a good or bad, but saying this is my perspective and this is a part of me, and i am not necessarily proud of my position in the war, but i am proud of the person that has come out of my perspective from that experience. >> as you say, you have learned to live with that. teresa, can you talk a little bit more about your leadership skills and your transition? >> and i joined rotc i was a quiet kid. i stayed quiet pretty much until i had to lead large groups of people. i got plunked down into deployment. i deployed after being in my
unit for about four weeks. the first day i showed up, my commander was like great, welcome aboard, don't unpack, you're leaving soon. i got over there and they had shuffled officers because they were short staffs. i did not even know i would be leading marines until i stuck my boots in the sand. what i learned over there was how to talk to anybody, because i grew up kind of nerdy and i was kind of quiet. i was talking about a lot of math and physical stuff, communicating architectures and things like that, but i was leading people. and everything from the 18-year- old whose already married with a pregnant wife to my 35-year-old senior enlisted who would give you advice on what we are supposed to do next and i would be like, great, thanks, and then go tell the rest of the platoon, this is what we are doing now, being able to gather information, listen, talk
to all of your troop's and everyone around you, and then be able to tell everybody what to do and execute afterward was something i learned during that compressed appointment, because -- deployment, because when you are doing all the training, yeah, it is kind of real, but nobody is actually firing at you. and there is not the actual pressure of troops on the ground depending on the communications architecture you are putting together. that was a huge thing that i learned over there, and to be comfortable and walk into a room and realize that everybody in there is in fact human, and you are going to have to be able to work together and talk with each other. the deployment, i served in the california marines for two more years. then i got out and went to graduate school. i was in a phd program, which i
have since finished. being around people after the marine corps who were for year younger than me ash for years younger than me and write out of college and going to more school afterwards, it was difficult for me the last -- two years. i had to be a teaching assistant for a class. it turns out undergrads do not salute. [laughter] >> i could have told you that. >> who knew? that was really hard. i would want to reach across the desk and show a kid, but then i realized, that would get me arrested. in the marine corps, you could do a lot. i never did that. [laughter] it took a couple of years to dial down the pressure, and the pressure on myself to shoot, because there is this -- on myself too. it is all about brute force through the night, digging a trench, laying that cable, doing whatever you have to do.
the projectsl with and everything, i was waiting for somebody, tell me what to do, and that is not the point of doing scientific research. the point is to find out what science has to tell you. that was hard. it was hard at first to make friends. bit, illy, bit by started making friends in my program. i actually only happened after i came forward a little bit with my story and started confiding in my classmates of the things that had happened on deployment and the experiences i have had. what it was like to be on that base and finding people i could really trust. one of my best friends in the grant program was an army officer who was getting a masters in physics to go back and teach at west point. active duty.in we became friends. from there, we developed a good cadre of people to hang out with. from there, that helps a lot. the writing has helped, but
i gather we will talk about the writing stuff in a future question. rebecca? >> learning how to blow stuff up doesn't really translate. what i gained most from it was perspective, adjustment. i grew up pretty sheltered. i've always been a bit of an over achiever. i think what i've learned most is how to chill out. even that is kind of hard. thist err to grad school semester, and i am taking for graduate-level courses. here now, i'm up at -- to in papers due monday and tuesday. >> good luck. >> as you were saying, there is kind of -- when i got back, i've always felt like i've been an outlier. in and ofng a woman itself is really hard, but a woman in an environment where
you don't see other women never, and then i got dealt it pretty bad hand are as it goes, our commander and first sergeant were not nice people -- i had a pretty crappy experience with my unit and some of the things i don't with from the men i worked with. one of the things that i learned -- it was a hard lesson -- i can take care of myself. i don't need anybody. that was definitely one part of it. on the flip side of that, part of that is i learned out -- i found out i do need people. actually coming to the realization that i have to be willing to accept help sometimes , that it really isn't always just about me, and yes, i can do my hardest to get through things on my own and i don't need any assistance, but you -- but when it came down to it, i really did need assistance. i needed help. unemployed and bouncing
from couch to couch for quite some time, and it was really tough to look at my best friend and the like, hey, dude, can i live with you for six months? he is like, here, have a couple hundred dollars. you need to go back to the gym. you need to work out. he's like, i'm buying you a gym membership. go to the gym. being able to say, to look at people and say, thank you, without having to say anything else or having to feel like i had to apologize for where i was .t i still a lot of times feel like i am an outlier. i didn't have a very good experience. a lot of times, i do not relate well to veterans. a lot of times, i'm very wary of veterans. i was burned badly by the people that i worked with. i'm very sensitive to people who tell me they are veterans. , i actd of like, ok
tough. there is kind of that play and that dynamic. i moved up here for a job about two and half years ago. i love new york city. i want to stay. i found roller derby. roller derby, for me, has kind of been a little bit of a place, but at the same time, i'm a roller derby referee. i'm still on the fringe in a manner of speaking. i have had to learn how to navigate that fringe in a sense. , doings been interesting it completely, 100% on your own, and having to navigate that, and then figuring out, i cannot do this all on my own. it is about finding a path. it is a journey. every day, you kind of reinventing yourself sometimes, where you have been and where
you are now and where you want to go. >> rebecca, i wanted just to specifically ask you, because when you came back you joined the class action suit against rumsfeld, and for those of you who don't know, it was a class action suit against the defense secretary gates and the pentagon for not taking note of the thatl harassment charges women had been sexually harassed. 17 former and current members of d,e military suit -- sue claiming that this not paying attention by the pentagon had led to violence against -- violence being tolerated. the suit was dismissed. in the spring of this year, you testified in front of the senate armed services committee, and you discussed your experience of
being raked in afghanistan and your feelings about the military criminal justice system. i wanted to just ask you about your decision, the steps to go forward, to come forward, to go public, and to testify about your experience. can you talk about this decision , and then your decision to become an advocate for changes in the military justice system? like i said, my experience is not the experience of all women. i got dealt a bad hand in a manner of speaking. just because i had a bad experience in the military doesn't necessarily mean that everyone else had one. sometimes i feel like in the talk about -- around this issue of sexual violence in the military, a lot of it gets stereotyped. are dynamics in the
military and make this an issue that is challenging to deal with , but that does not mean that everyone acts this way. there are good people in the military. there are good men. there are good women. that being said, the bad apples in the military have a lot of leeway to get away with the crack they get away with because of the way it is set up. i think that dynamic is difficult when you are trying to talk about, how do we fix it, how do we adjust it, is it gendered, is it non-gendered? i was raped by a guy and worked with. i initiallyy -- stood side and not to say anything. i wanted to get on with my life. now the military has two types of reporting. did a restrictive report, which makes you a statistic. nothing happens.
after that, again, i got out of the litter -- the military, and i didn't want to discuss it or talk about it. i was approached by this legal team who come in the end, the whole idea was challenging the doctrine where you cannot sue the military for anything. it doesn't matter what. that was the premise, eventually trying to challenge this legal doctrine, under the premise that most of the time when you are suing the military, they usually -- they usually come back with the idea that, no, you cannot sue us because this is something that relates to military service or it is a function of the military environment, or in the case of when it started, the guy sued the military because they gave him lsd without asking permission. they are like, no, we gave you a listing in order to experiment as a part of what would happen if you are actually given this in a combat environment.
it serves a military function. that is what we were challenging, that rape serves no function whatsoever. the military says they have this zero tolerance policy. as was mentioned, it has been thrown out. biggest irks is the adge basically called it hazard of service. rape is a hazard of service. that is written in the legal documents that were handed down by the judge. again, the whole idea is -- when i first decided to speak about this, it happened unexpectedly. i signed on to this lawsuit as one of many participants and then got thrust into the media spotlight kind of last-minute. they called me on a friday and said can you come film with tbs and i was like no, probably not, why? and they were like, though we had somebody drop out. and i was like, i have to take kids -- take care of kids.
they put me on a flight, did the [no audio] [no audio] interview, put me on a flight and gloomy home. the interview aired tuesday morning and then they dropped the lawsuit about an hour after the segment aired, which then kind of pushed me into a whirlwind of stuff. i ended up working for an organization here in the city that deals specifically with the issue of sexual violence in the military and trying to adjust policy. it has been interesting because it has been about three years since i started speaking publicly about the issue, and there has been a major uptick in media coverage of awareness around this issue of men speaking out about their experiences as well. a lot of you probably heard if you heard about these types of things the children will brand introduced a proposal -- jill
hillebrand introduced a proposal to take sexual assaults out of the chain of command. i support this because an infantry commander is not a lawyer and he is probably dealing with the accused and the accuser, and you cannot be objective in those situations. again, without going into too much detail, there definitely needs to be something that gets done, and the only way you can change the military is literally through an act of congress. so, these types of things have been in the works for a while. people ask about the combat exclusion policy. doesn't that just mean more women are going to get raped? no, it does not. women are just as capable of doing the things men do, and the standards need to be said. i honestly believe the leadership you have is where the line is going to be drawn.
good leadership, this kind of stuff doesn't happen. bad leadership, anything goes. and you have to hold people accountable for their choices. i know there is some leadership that chooses to sweep this under the ride and pretend it doesn't happen. but again, my perspectives are, i still have very strong feelings about the military. i believe it was a good thing for me. there is a lot of cognitive dissonance there. i can do the veterans day parade. there is an overwhelming sense of pride -- i cannot do the veterans day parade. there is an overwhelming sense of pride and then this. and i cannot reconcile that. maybe i will get over that one day. i believe those who choose the military should have the best experience possible.
there is a lot the military can offer, your views on war aside. people choose for different reasons. but whatever your reason, you should be able to serve with that -- serve with honor and come out of the other person on the other end. and if there is violence, those people should be rightly dealt with. we have some work to do, but social change takes time and we are doing it. i think we are getting there. >> can i piggyback on a lot of what she said? like you, i was raped in iraq. for seven years, i suppressed it. i never reported it to my unit. my unit did not have my back on many issues, so i knew the minute -- if i decided to even say hey, i was raped. this concept of nonviolent rape
does not exist in people's minds. it is an oxymoron, so that dynamic, i was like, look, i am in it. i have to get out. i have to make choices and sacrifices. i constructed my brain to think, well, it was just sex that i didn't like. for many years, several years, you know, i just harbored this resentment and all these emotions and all this pain, and i even got into a relationship that spiraled freely downward, and for many years the depression got worse, where it would go from three days of like, hey, i am just laying in bed for no reason to six months of geez, what did i do for six months? and this overwhelming cloud of sadness the blocked everything, and i can't recall six months of
my life. it went from six months to a year and a year to another year, and it got to the point where in 2010, my depression got so bad my apartment was a mess, and i literally -- my daughter was taken away by acs. she was removed from my home for six months. it literally was so bad for me that suicide was a huge option. and then, instead of that, you know, the resiliency of people is amazing, and my resiliency to say no, you know, i am not a bad person because these things happened to me. to start digging into ask for help, and for help to actually be there -- i think one of the biggest issues with military
sexual violence in the military, especially when i came back, is that there was no help. everybody was like ok, you have ptsd, but mst wasn't even considered back then. it took seven years for the program i went to in new jersey for women who suffered mst, and there were just be women who suffered from mst and were not just part of the population of ptsd to come about. seven years. just for the dialogue to happen, it was almost a decade. and for these issues to take precedent in the eyes of the media is still a fight, because women are constantly associated with rape in the media, with sexual assault in the media, and then when you are in the military it's like, well, it's a man's world, you had better suck
it up. just the dialing -- dialogue of saying rape is wrong. and rape does not just happen to women. there were many male soldiers who experienced sexual assault and sexual violence who have not come out at all because of the dynamic of well, you are a man, this doesn't happen to men. so the misogyny and the stereotypes in getting rid of these things and gender in grape is still -- gendering rape is still a dialogue that needs to happen. i have read articles about women who came out and said i was raped in my unit, and every single woman in that article experienced some type of blame and shame. this is not to say every woman in the military is going to get raped. absolutely not. it is just saying that this culture has been placed in a
hidden light, and it is unfair not mean, we would tolerate this in the civilian world. why is it in the military covered up and protected? that is a dynamic i never understood, and it does not translate. for pioneers like you to sit there and say hey, i am going to talk about this. it is uncomfortable, and i totally understand, when you're just a normal person and you get thrust into this situation you never asked for, that is the hardest thing to do. that in itself is bravery. these are just things that i challenge people, civilians and veterans alike, and people still in the military, to contemplate. >> i think by talking about these things and doing efficacy
them,cacy work around you are going to change. i wanted to ask rhiannon about your transition, and then i want to talk about your creative works and how your writing has helped you deal with some of these things. >> transition is very near and dear to my heart right now. i have only been out a year, last october. my husband is an army that. -- army vet. raise your hand. he is right there in the fourth row. we met in the military and decided to get out and wanted to pursue business school. he was accepted to columbia business school. i had a great experience in the
army. i loved being a leader. i loved the people the most. there were a lot of skills that i acquired, and i loved it. but tom and i had goals together of a family and wanting to be co-located as a family together. we had gone through the deployment after we first started dating. he was stationed in germany and then deployed to iraq for a year. three months later, i moved to fort campbell, kentucky, and the move to afghanistan. so we knew that was at least 18 months apart. we came back from deployment. we had leaders who really worked with the organization to get us co-located, and we spent time together back at fort campbell. once tom got accepted to school,
i decided to get out as well. so here i am in new york. i was from a small town in kentucky. the transition really require something. these ladies understand it. but i think it is really something that we tell the story of our transitions so the people who are not in new york city where veterans do want to speak and people want to listen -- and the rest of the country, i think veterans are isolated area at -- isolated. if veterans are not self identifying as veterans, and for various reasons, some don't, if they hear stories that are similar to theirs, i think they become more comfortable speaking out.
i think veterans are incredibly resilient just by virtue -- i am not sure if it's by virtue of the type of people who want to serve and feel called to serve or the experiences they have in the military that shape and mold them into the people they are. but i have learned that we are great at overcoming adversity. we are really good at working with people that are not too much like ourselves because of the dynamic of bringing people from all different walks of life together, and focusing on accomplishing a mission. you have problem solvers. you have people who are really good at, under pressure, being able to make very difficult decisions using discretion. it is an incredible set of skills that veterans acquire through service and then they come into civilian life and feel
alone, and i think the rest of society never gets to benefit from that. to be honest, you're paying our salary. i think it's important, i mean, these are skills that you pay for. i have been focused in transition on trying to sit and do some analysis of what skills do i have, who am i today because of the military? being able to speak to that and then being able to just find veterans who, you feel like you have a common language. you can use acronyms and understand what they mean. and it feels good to tap into that comfort zone, but at the
same time, it would be a disservice to our service if we did not reach out and challenge ourselves to get to know someone who is not of that. i think that is how we start to bridge the gap between the services and the civilian population. through my time since deciding to join rotc until now, people have been very supportive, whether it was friends, people at home who may be disagree with or have been nothing but respectful of me and the time that i served. i think it is important that we talk about that and that we are able to feel welcomed when we come back or when we get out. it is a totally different lifestyle. i am learning that now. i will finish year with one small piece. somebody asked me, what is the biggest thing you have learned
since transitioning, and this was more of a professionals capacity. it was the idea that i could wear earrings to work and let my hair down. i felt comfortable in a job interview if my hair was pulled back and there were no wispy hairs flying. about eight months over -- on the job, my boss said she had noticed that i had transition to over the last year. she said i noticed you are wearing more colors. your hair is down. you're curling it now. she had no idea why. that was just a tiny piece of my transition that really shed some light on it. she was like oh, that is pretty cool.
>> are we ready to wrap up? we are going to have q&a. canhoping teresa and nicole integrate some of their writing work that they are doing. we want to make sure that you knew that people are doing andresting projects proffering their experiences and also to work in creative ways. >> i will bite the first bullet. thank you all for joining us. this sunny and bright saturday afternoon, you could be doing something else, but thank you for coming here and listening to our women warriors. i'm the founder of women veterans. we do a couple of different things, but one of the things we have been doing more this fall is actually connecting with to the vast amount of
services that are out here. a city's mayor's office has a lot of services to provide. a lot of other nonprofits out there want to help women, but they are having a difficult time finding these female veterans because, as rebecca said, she didn't really affiliate with the veteran community because of other reasons. not everyone wants to be engaged in the veterans community. one of the things we realized is there is a high statistic among female veterans who are unemployed, who are homeless, who are single parents, and they are having the toughest time with this whole transition process. transcends all age groups. if you look at outrageous -- these statistics,
it is much higher than their male peers. this is once -- one reason why we started our nonprofit. leeann has had phenomenal time in the military. it really helped her transition into the civilian world. it is of her success, she wants to share that with all the veterans, female veterans so they would come out and learn about these amazing services. my question for the panel is, all of you have had different experiences, and we can see that -- it is not that different from your male peers, right? if you listen to a lot of folks, i'm sure there are tons of guys who talk about heads and picking up body parts and digging trenches. for me, i want to understand a little more, how would you go about reaching out to those female veterans who don't want
to talk about their experience? you have done a fantastic job of being here and opening up and sharing your stories with everybody. >> actually, i can talk a little bit -- i am pretty reticent when talking about my experience. it took me a few years to open up to people who were even my friends, let alone other veterans, and one of the scariest experiences i had was less than a year ago in february of walking into the veterans writing workshop at nyu, which is a free nonprofit organization. it was my very first day. i didn't know what to expect. i didn't know if we were going to share our own stories or writing, but i had the feeling that all the veterans were going to judge me for what i had done or not done in the military. i think an attitude of acceptance is really important for any organization that is leaching out, and the folks female,oth male and
everybody was really cool, and if you want to talk, that was cool, and if you didn't feel like it, that was fine. if you didn't want to share your writing that they, you didn't have to. and ihappened, i did, will shaking as i read it, but it worked out ok. that whole process of in -- has been really therapeutic. experience was that i had a relationship with the guy who was the affairs officer in my unit, which was a because he was married. my relationship was consensual. writing about it has helped a lot. that attitude of acceptance has been really great. >> how do i answer? me and teresa were in the same workshop. thate another woman vet, was amazing.
then you keep it all inside. me, i think one of the that reallyvations encouraged me to tackle this beast of what it is and redefining this idea of being a i accepted myt theriences, and i accepted uniqueness and the similarities of my experiences to other veterans and the questions that arose from that -- i accepted those too. you have to have this ability of self acceptance. that comes with time. what i encouraged to a lot of civilians who are like, how can just considerns,
this idea that they are always around you, even if you do not know it. the encouraging thought of, give it time, is universal. you are going through this hard situation. i don't necessarily know what it is, but give it time. things change. changes.arance the way you look at the situation changes. your perspective changes. you grow. there is a lot of growth and suffering. people don't realize that. you have to give it time. a lot of veterans i don't think are encouraged to give it time. a lot of people are like, i need to know what happened to you now. i am interested now. it is an immediate situation. transitions sometimes are gradual. sometimes, just being there and
not saying anything means so much more to a person than just saying, ok, i want to hear your story. tell me your story. it's like, right now, i don't want to speak about it. everything in life, you have to have strong roots in order to something, to blossom into something resilient. give it time. we are always around. and thenout there, somebody is going to eventually respond. to say just one thing has to the whole veterans- civilians divide. i had this conversation the other night with a girl who was a therapist and works with substance abuse issues. i only think veterans can help veterans. i was like, you are wrong. [laughter] very adamant about the statement every like, we all come woman in this room has
experienced something that i know nothing about, and i have experienced something that you know nothing about, but that doesn't mean we cannot relate to each other as human beings. some of the best feedback and the best help i got was from interestedho were enough in trying to help me make transitions, trying to help me be successful, and it is like trying to tell if there is, unless you have been rate, you cannot work with rate victims. that doesn't hold any psychotherapeutic setting. yes, it is helpful when people are like, we want to try to understand military culture. we want to try to empathize. not aecause you're veteran doesn't mean you cannot help veterans. it doesn't mean you cannot be friends with veterans. it doesn't mean you can lend some guidance if they need some assistance. the whole concept of veterans are the only ones who can help disagree.- i 125% yes, there are ways that i'm going to relate to women appear a little differently than those
who haven't been in the military, but that doesn't mean that i'm not going to gain something from the other relationships, from other communities. i always throw that out there with people. yes, there is definitely something unique about having military service in your background, but it doesn't mean we are our own little island to be left adrift forever and to beer be acknowledged or to -- >> reintegrated? >> it takes some time. sometimes civilians can get a little bit like, we don't know what we are doing. we don't know what we're doing either. we will figure it out together. we are all on the same playing field where everybody's trying to find a way to meet, to find that happy medium to reintegrate into communities. the people that i meet, the people here today, the people that care -- you showed up because you have some interest, you somewhat care about hearing
what we have to say. >> that's a good starting point. >> embrace that. those of us who have been through this, understand, there may be some awkward questions and maybe some hurt feelings. you will be like, did i say something wrong? what did i just do? ,here is still that interaction and without that, there is going to be some awkwardness and fumbling. that is where it starts. sorry, but this building closes at 6:00. i wish that we had another hour to be able to have this conversation. this was truly an honor for us to have you all here. i would like you to make some closing comments if you have them. can i just yield my time to the person with his hand up? very briefly. >> [indiscernible]
>> my last job in the military was as a commander. -- we wereers focused from the top-down, from the top of the division on how we address this issue. it is happening throughout the military. it is happening across the country for veterans. unfortunately, the numbers are increasing. the way that we try to address -- tried to address that ben is through what we are saying now, people talking, people talking who have had issues and have overcome those, so that other soldiers or people realize that they are not alone.
i think that is a huge start. it also has to be something that is embraced by the chain of command. that dialogue is something that becomes more common. sector, any population, if you talk about people who have issues, not as them, but as all of us, because we have all had our own set of issues, some have been more support than others, and i think the more it is discussed to feel that way or think about suicide or taking your own life, people who talk about that, i think it makes it more, you will have more people who are potentially thinking about committing suicide to come forward and seek out help. also, having the conversation that help is actually there and showing where resources are so when they come forward there listen to. >> it is so common. everybody is carrying a weapon all the time. it is so easy to think about. it