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tv   QA Eileen Rivers  CSPAN  March 4, 2019 5:58am-6:59am EST

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>> we are part of our community. it is so nice to share values, but respect for one another, freedom, we share amazing things. we are lucky -- education in the states is amazing. you see for exchange students come here because we are so fortunate and even health care. go usa. >> i would say being american is being a free person, but as far as being an american citizen, i would say taking an active art and trying to better your country and not think of it is a perfect nation. always go on a mission and try to make it even better. >> voices from the road on c-span.
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>> this week on q&a, eileen rivers discusses her book "the end the call." brian: why did you call your book "beyond the call?" ms. rivers: thank you so much for having me. i enjoy being here. i really wanted to emphasize these women, i featured three women, they really went beyond the call as their regular duties to help women in afghanistan, help fight in afghanistan. these women were taking on responsibilities nobody expected them to at the beginning of this war. it was about them going beyond the call of duty to help women
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in afghanistan and further the mission. brian: your dedication to betsy coleman, willa brown, and all the other groundbreaking female s past and present those stories are too rarely told. what is behind that? ms. rivers: there are so many women i would have loved to have gone more in depth in this book on their story. there are so many women who have served in the military since the beginning of the foundations of country. i featured deborah sampson during the revolutionary war. a lot of people don't know about her. betsy coleman and willa brown are also women who never get talked about. they were african-american women who could fly planes and were not given the opportunity. even when caucasian women were allowed to fly, there were so many african-american women who weren't. i didn't get to tell about a lot of their stories.
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there is a chronology at the beginning where i talk about it a little bit, but they really represent the unsung heroes of the military. women certainly were, african-american women, all women were unsung heroes. i wanted to make sure i mention them in a big way. brian: deborah sampson isn't her real name. ms. rivers: deborah sampson, she -- you are onto something. when she enlisted in the military, she enlisted under a male moniker. she disguised herself as a man. she went by the name as robert shurtleff. that was after she tried a couple of different times with other male names and failed. then she disguised herself as robert shurtleff and tested whether she can carry out that disguise by going to visit her mother as a male. she knocked on the door and she thought, if she could full her mom, she is ready to do it. it worked. she enlisted in the army and served in the revolutionary war. for a long time, nobody knew she
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was a woman. there were following her into battle, she was, faster than a lot of men was a better shot than a lot of men. it was only after she was shot and taken to a hospital, she stole medicine and a couple of old rudimentary medical devices. she was going to try to dig the bullet out of her thigh herself to avoid being examined. she knew once she was examined that would be it. she tried to date be bullet out and she ended up passing out. somebody found her in the field and took her back to the hospital. the doctor examined her while she was under and realized she was a woman. reported her back to her command. her command thought, you are so good at this, you can't possibly be a woman. she went back dressed in her uniform. he said i don't believe you. he wanted her to go change into what she would wear as a woman and prove it because she was
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just too good at it. she came back in a dress with her hair done the way she would normally wear it. he said "you actually are a female." normally, that would have meant a court-martial. that was illegal to do. she would have been jailed. her commanding officer said "you have been so brilliant as a soldier, i can't possibly jail you. i will give you an honorable discharge and let you live on -- and let you go on with your life, and that is what he did. brian: president clinton had an impact on you. let's watch this. >> earlier today, i ordered american forces to strike iraq. our missiles sent the following message to saddam hussein. when you abuse your on people, or threaten your neighbors, you must pay a price. brian: 1993. ms. rivers: 1996. brian: i am not doing very well.
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what impact did that have? ms. rivers: that sent me and a lot of other troops on the intrinsic action to kuwait. i went as an arabic linguist. that strike that he was talking about the strike in reality it -- was in retaliation for what iraq was doing in the north. i was one of the intelligence troops that went to kuwait. my job as an arabic linguist was to sit at a desk and what i described at the beginning of the book, sit with headphones on and try to listen to potential terrorist networks, potential enemy forces, and pick up on anything that may be a clue as to what they could be planning. i did that in kuwait along with a few other arabic linguists. we collected information and send it to analysts. that influenced what infantry units may or may not do on the ground. brian: when did you serve in the military, what service?
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ms. rivers: i was in the army from 1995 until 1999. brian: why? that is a big question. my family has a history of military service. my dad was in the army. he served in vietnam. he was a high-ranking noncommissioned officer he served for over 20 years. my brother and sister were in army and navy. my other brother was in the navy. i knew a lot of arabic linguists. i grew up near the fort meade area. nasa is right there and i thought it might be cool to try out linguistics. i went in with the intention of being a journalist in the military or a linguistic. i was push toward linguistics, which was a high priority when i went in. they needed arabic linguists. i took the test, they said i scored high enough to do anything i want to do. i wanted to take the language
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test. the military picked arabic for me. you don't get to pick the language you do. you take the language test and however you score on that is the language they pick for you. i ended up getting arabic. brian: where did you serve during those four years? ms. rivers: i was stationed at fort gordon. i went on several missions. i went on a mission to kuwait. i also spoke spanish. that wasn't something i went into the military with intent of doing. i went to ecuador and honduras on spanish missions. brian: what tripped the idea of doing this book? ms. rivers: i'm an editor at usa today. when i got out of the military, a lot of what i was seeing in terms of coverage was the
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extremes. there was extreme coverage on one side, where we were hearing a lot about soldiers behaving badly. people going into villages and shooting up families, or releasing top-secret documents. the other side of that was the war isn't working. the vast middle of what i knew to be a really hard-working soldiers and airmen, navy ca corps men. people in the marines, was it being showed a lot. i thought why not get people on the ground actually serving to tell us what's happening. it is a war where everybody is a photographer and videographer, you just have to pull your cell phone out and document what you are seeing. i put out a call to action when the gwinnett company owned the military times newspaper. i put out a call to action saying if you are on the ground in afghanistan, in iraq, send me
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photos and videos you are taking. we will publish them on usa today. i got a flood of photos. there was a photo of a woman. as a woman, i was surprised i hadn't thought more about the female presence in iraq and afghanistan. i don't think anybody was thinking about that. it wasn't being covered that much. i immediately called her up and asked what she was doing on the ground in afghanistan. she told me about something called female engagement teams. i hadn't heard of that. i thought what is that all about? she seemed shocked i hadn't heard about that. she said "we are on the ground. it is women helping women. we are helping women in afghanistan, in that sense, we are helping the war effort." i i thought i had to learn more about it. she referred me to other women. i got referrals to even more women. i called up the marine corps, the army headquarters and said "can you put me in contact with any women who have done this
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program? that started the book. i heard more stories, i found three women who could tell their stories incredibly well. that is what i wrote about. brian: you do start with another woman. ms. rivers: yes, i do. i wanted to. that line of women helping women really hit me. i wanted to find a woman on the ground in afghanistan benefiting from this work. brian: is that not her name? ms. rivers: it is not. i didn't want to put her life in any more danger by putting her real name. people familiar with the book will know she has been threatened by the taliban. she works at this women center that has been bombed multiple times. one time when she was actually in the center, thank goodness she survived that, even though she was injured. i did not want to put her name out there and put her in more danger than she has been. brian: she is an afghan? ms. rivers: she is an afghan
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female on the ground in afghanistan still working. she is a feminist, which is counterintuitive for women and in afghanistan. i'm working against the taliban actively for women's rights. that's what she's doing every day. brian: what's the story of her husband? ms. rivers: her husband was killed in front of her and her children. there was a transition period where her husband worked for the old soviet system. at that time, anybody who worked for that system was trying to be pushed out. her and her husband were in kabul, living in a neighborhood that was very affluent, people who worked for the soviet government. they realized they had to run because there were coming in trying to push anybody out. they fled to several different provinces in afghanistan. they ended up landing in a province that her husband had grown up in. they were surrounded by family. they thought they would be safe. the fighters came in again and
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really wanted to target anybody who had worked in the old soviet system. they captured her husband, her and her children, she had 4 children outside of their home. they just stood there in disbelief and watched them behead her husband in front of them. i talked to her about it, she was still emotional about it. it happened several years ago. her youngest at the time was 2. her youngest now is about 15. even still, that many years later, she's very emotional about it. she said one of her biggest regrets is not carrying her children into the house. she doesn't understand why she didn't. of course, she was in shock. that is what happened to her husband. brian: who pays her now?
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ms. rivers: her position is a government run position. she often feels as if the government is not doing quite everything they can to give her what she needs to keep the women's center going. there's this strange dichotomy in afghanistan where they realize the rights of women are important, but not necessarily always doing what they can to push the rights of women forward. it's a government position, the government pays her salary. she still has to get grants to keep the women's center going. she feels like she is simultaneously fighting against government forces that don't want women to move forward, and fighting against the taliban that openly and obviously don't want them to move forward. brian: what does the female engagement team do? how many are in it? ms. rivers: female engagement teams are teams of two to three women attached to combat teams. when they were at their height, they attached to these combat units and went out on missions.
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female engagement teams began as a team lineup. there was this realization that with all male infantry units going into villages treating women the same as men to collect intelligence, they were breaching these cultural barriers. they were going in and frisking men and interrogating men. they assumed they could do the same with women. people in afghanistan, especially these highly muslim villages, were not ok with that. they realized they could not do that. they developed these fema -- female engagement teams so women can go in and do that. that was the first layer. women attached to combat units, frisk afghan women, and collected intelligence. they collected things that have gone missing. the taliban realized male soldiers were not going to search females. they started planting things on women. female engagement team women came in and collected those
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things. that was one layer of the mission. the other layer, which i think is much more important, is the aspect of nationbuilding and the real idea of women helping women. they would help women get microloans, train women who wanted to be police officers to frisk other women so that when the teams left, the women can fill the role. they had this dual and very complicated mission. brian: did you spend time in afghanistan? ms. rivers: i did not. i ran up a big phone bill. women on the ground whose information i used on background. i called to speak to women in the providence who gave me some incredibly good information. brian: you wrote the militaries hypocritical approach to female
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recruits - it's a big lie. it has haunted the institutions for more than a century. ms. rivers: yes that goes back , to deborah samson. she was this woman who wanted to fill this personal desire that she had to be in the military. and she did it. there is a pattern of women being rejected post deborah samson in every major war in america. pullsilitary kind of them in to fill in the blanks when they need. women who were nurses during world war i. the military needed nurses. women who could fill those roles. those roles were contract roles in the beginning. women were not recognized as soldiers even though they did the same work. it took forever for the military to finally say "you have done this work, we will take female nurses in the military."
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the same can be seen with women who could fly. women flying stateside to free up man to fly overseas. those were expected after the missions were done to be taken into the regular military. they actually or not. -- were not. it wasn't until a couple of decades later when they realized they needed women again. they said now since we need you again, you have proven yourself, we will let you be a part of the military, even though we misled you and made you think we would do it before. brian: how were you treated in the military? ms. rivers: i felt some discrimination as a female. i was talking earlier about some of the missions in central and south america. on one of them specifically, there were about three women, maybe about half a dozen to 10 men. we were all sleeping and working tents.same tens
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there was an officer who said he would come up and visit us. it was so hot that a thermometer broke. we were glad this officer was coming. he got there, look at the women, and one of the first things he said was the women should not be on the mission. he had been there for five minutes and suddenly knew the women were not capable. of course, we were the only linguists. if they didn't have us, he didn't have a mission. so we had to stay. there were moments like that. it definitely wasn't as bad or as frequent as women who have had it before. i certainly remember some moments where there was still this throwback idea that women were not as good. one of the women you write about in the book, sergeant gina adams.
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is a video. >> -- here is a video. >> i think the female engagement team, whether it's in afghanistan, anywhere, we have a capability that is key to any mission's success. we might not necessarily go into a place that is culturally sensitive as afghanistan, but we are still able to adjust and help. our communication skills, the relationships we can build, males are more comfortable talking to a female then another -- van anothe than another male. even if it's an open area, their comfortable talking to us. that can make a mission successful. i think it can be successful. brian: how did you find her? give us some background. ms. rivers: she is this simultaneous great success story for female engagement and tragic kevlar ceiling story. she had to get out of the marines. brian: what does that mean? ms. rivers: the kevlar ceiling,
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and the brass ceiling, in the military often women went on these combat missions. she definitely desired to be in combat. she was a marine. she always thought she wanted to be a combat fighter. she fought hard to get on the female engagement team. she became a leader. she was talking about how female engagement teams can be used in other countries where there may be similar tensions and problems for women, perhaps not the same military presence on the ground. she was fighting for female engagement teams to continue when there was a threat of them ending. before any of that happened, she went to afghanistan, served, and came back and couldn't get promoted. part of that was while she was on the ground in afghanistan, she was not around her regular command. part of what you need to get promoted is an evaluation. your command is the one gives
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who gives you it. she wasn't doing a regular job as a helicopter mechanic, was an around command to get an evaluation, she was in this horrible situation where she saw this incredible stuff in combat, got back, got ribbons, rewards, got recognized. when it came to the recognition that would move her up, she did not get it. she and her husband decided to start a family. she took maternity leave. while she was on maternity leave, the packet she submitted for the promotions board got lost. she really did meet with this unfortunate situation where the combat duty served against her and did not allow her to get promoted. she hit the kevlar ceiling and eventually had to leave the marine corps. she really fought hard to keep the mission going. brian: what is the background on her family? ms. rivers: she grew up in hawaii. i don't know that she has a huge history of military service in her family. i think being in the marine corps was important to her.
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her husband was also a marine. she now has three kids. brian: were they in the marine corps at the same time? ms. rivers: they were, they did overlap. i think her husband is still in. brian: major maria rodriguez, who is she? ms. rivers: she was an incredibly hard-core woman who was a marshall. she was stationed in alaska when she got shipped to afghanistan. her story is really interesting. she struggled to really find afghan women to train as police officers. she was an incredibly determined woman who wanted to move up the officer ranks as a female as much as she could come a very -- as she could, very ambitious. in a way, her ambition costs her personal life. when she got to afghanistan, one of her biggest missions was
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finding that afghan women and training them to the police officers. there were six afghan women. it took several weeks. she was going to meetings with the governor. she was not allowed to speak as a woman. they sat her far away from the other men in the room. eventually, she eventually got permission to her commanding officer. she would talk in the meetings by writing notes in these meetings and slip them to her commanding officer to see if he can bring up what she had a question about. finally, she found out the women were. turns out, they were in the same building upstairs and being sequestered away. they were in a building that had one window and blackout bars and curtains. nobody in the outside world knew they were there. they were not being trained or working. part of what she did was give these women who were risking their lives to be there a voice and a job.
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brian: you explain the life of maria rodriguez. her second husband, their children, all that. give us some background. ms. rivers: she was married twice, divorced twice. her second husband had also been in the military. he ended up getting out of the military and being a contractor. she has a child with special needs, a daughter. part of what she kept coming up against was as a military spouse, she was thoroughly expected to sit back and watch her husband ambition. she never really felt like she was expected to start and rise her own ambition. there was a time when her husband was deploying a lot. she said if he was going to be with us and have a family or
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would he keep going? she decided to let him go, because she knew his ambitions were strong. she would want to be able to fulfill her own, so she did. they got divorced. even while she was in afghanistan, he was watching the children. several years later, she started deploying more. he took a step back and said i understand you want your career, even though we are divorced, we will support you. he really became her rock. after she got back from afghanistan, they had an arrangement that worked for them. there were still divorced, but living together. mutually co parenting their kids. he ended up passing away. he was sick, she described the day as one where she had been out with the kids, came home, the house was quiet. that was unusual. the arrangement was he slept in sleptsement, and she
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upstairs. the middle floor was mutual territory. she went down to the basement, and she found his body there. very tragically, he had died. she had to pick up the pieces and nurture her career and move up, alone with two kids. that is where we pick up and get back to the u.s. brian: a couple of sentences about one of her children, her daughter needed special care. she was legally blind, had scoliosis, lung disease, adhd, and moderately developmental disability. how do you juggle all of this? living in a divorced situation, you are in afghanistan, you have a daughter that needs a lot of help. ms. rivers: i think it was chris, her ex-husband, who really had an influential role in helping make it work.
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at the same time, the stresses of motherhood were not lost on her. how could they be? she often had to make the decision. she talks about that. she said "when i had kids, i understood the fact the military would require me to deploy. as a mom, i knew i had to step up and take the responsibility." she said as a commanding officer, she often sent mother's overseas, on temporary duty, into war. when my time came and i was a mom, i wasn't going to shirk that responsibility. she loved the responsibility and her country and serving it that much. she also felt a lot of guilt. there were times when she described herself calling her husband and crying over skype. he would comfort her. -- her ex-husband i should say. she says he always knew the right thing to say.
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i think she struggled as a lot of moms do, with a lot of guilt. how do i balance it all? how to be a mom and nurture her career in a way that is satisfying? throughout her career, she tried to find the middle ground. brian: where is she now? ms. rivers: in florida. out of the military, she is a teacher. she has her own business on the side. brian: is that her real name? ms. rivers: yes. brian: how long did she stay in the military? she was in the military for almost 20 years. she had been in rotc before she had joined the full-service. it was almost 20 years. brian: she was a major. ms. rivers: correct. brian: one of the other women we , she was a adams sergeant. what's the difference in the way women are treated in the service if they are enlisted or an
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officer? ms. rivers: a lot of the struggles are the same. i talked about the kevlar ceiling. it is a metaphor for what happens to enlisted women. the brass ceiling is a metaphor to women who are officers. in terms of moving up, both women certainly hit the ceiling and have a hard time moving up. even when it came to after women were allowed to enter all, -- all combat roles, part of what took and is taking so long to fulfill is they are waiting to fill a lot of high-ranking female officer roles, roles with female officers so they can bring in enlisted women and make sure they have someone to talk to if they run into problems. in terms of moving up, at both levels it is very difficult for , women. brian: another quote from you. military hypocrisy has gone worse as the roles of women has expanded beyond operating arms
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-- rooms and onto battlefields. explain. ms. rivers: i think it has gotten worse in that it has gotten much more dangerous. women are putting their lives on the line much more, or at least were in battlefield roles. that goes back to me talking about women being nurses. for a long time, it was one of the few expected things women can do and get closer to the front line and be accepted as full-fledged members of the military. then it began to pull them in from the nursing roles into actual combat without recognizing they were in these combat roles. that led to a lot of silly restrictive rules. in afghanistan, women were not allowed to drive off of operating bases by themselves. they had to be accompanied by a male soldier. brian: what is a forward operating base? ms. rivers: forward operating
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bases are bases were companies reside while they are in afghanistan. they drive from there into more dangerous combat missions. that's supposed to be a semi-safe area. anything can happen. forward operating bases have definitely been attacked. women cannot drive off of them by themselves without a male. when women did go, because of the rules, they had to be driven back after they were out there for so many days. that put women in more danger. move through afghanistan, you are exposing yourself to i.e.d.'s and attacks. because of these rules, women were put in more danger than men. yet, they had to adhere to the rules and pretend they were not in combat. they were putting themselves in even more danger. brian: what was the difference between the marine attitude toward female engagement teams and the army? and the navy. ms. rivers: that is an
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interesting question you know female engagement teams started in the army. brian: what year was that? ms. rivers: that was around 2004. the idea that women could complete these missions spread to the marine corps. one experience sheena adams shared with me was there was a time felt there were men trying to break her and tester to see if women can hack it. she got to this rural area in afghanistan and there were marines testing her strength to see if she can hang. they took her and her female engagement team on this grueling two-hour march that she said was faster than any market she had ever been on. brian: what is a rough march? ms. rivers: you have your battle gear, probably about 40 pounds. you carry everything you could possibly need on a mission. you also have your weapon with you.
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they had this heavy gear, weapons, and they were carrying it on the road march. she pulled her women aside and said no matter what, don't start crying and keep up. she said i have a feeling they will try to test us. that is exactly what happened. the women kept up step for step. in terms of deploying women, the army and marines, definitely female engagement teams are used in the same way. i'm not sure the attitudes were all that different. there were certainly men on the ground who initially did not want women there, and didn't think they can hack it, and i don't want to say all of them thought that way. there were a lot of men who welcomed women and understood they would help with the mission and get information men could not. for the men on the ground, invariably the attitudes changed , after they worked with the
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women for a couple of days and saw what they were capable of and the information they could gather that the men could not. brian: the last of the women you smoak, whot, joanna is she? ms. rivers: captain joanna smoak was a woman who worked with the woman in afghanistan i was mentioning that i write about off the top of the book. she described herself as her chief of staff. she said whatever jameela needed to complete her mission, that's what i was there to provide. she developed this incredibly close and strong relationship with her. they went on meetings together that they would hold with women to impart information about voting rights, for example. they often registered women to vote who had never voted before in their lives. she helped jameela get a grant to keep the women's center
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funded. the afghan government was not providing her with the money she needed. she said whatever jameela needed as a strong woman, that's what she would provide. that became a part of her mission. where was she from? -- brian: where was she from? how long was she in the service? was she in the marines or army? ms. rivers: she was in the army. she also got married. she got promoted. her back story is interesting for she was married to a man also in the military. she did not want to go to afghanistan. she was supposed to go special operations, something her father had done in vietnam. she very much admired her father and wanted to do the same thing. her husband decided to go to special ops. they had been to iraq together before she deployed to afghanistan. she got caught up in this program called women in the army. it was becoming more obvious
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that female engagement teams were working, they were on the ground in combat, and the pentagon was making moves to say , ok, we are going to start opening combat rules to women. then the lawsuit happened and they opened more combat roles. the military likes to test everything before they do it. the women in the army program was to test how women were going to fare being the only woman in an all-male combat unit in a position of authority. that was what joanna was meant to test. she was put off by it. she said to me, where was the military when i was in iraq? that was a mission i did on the ground, i encountered combat, nobody seemed to care. it feels like too much, but too late. brian: i want to interrupt you
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to show you some video of the secretary of defense during the obama years. this is january 2016. suggested this woman was a little ticked off by what he said. >> as long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before. they will be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars, lead infantry soldiers into combat. they will be able to serve as army rangers and green berets, navy seals, marine corps infantry, air force para-jumpers, and everything else previously opened only two to men. even more important, our military will be able to harness the skills and perspectives talented women have to offer. brian: when did women get into combat? ms. rivers: how far back do you want to go? afghanistan -- brian: he is suggesting now women can get into combat.
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ms. rivers: i was going to make it comment. women can now get in to combat, and as long as they can carry out the mission and do the same men were doing. they have been doing the same thing. women were doing that in desert storm. women were going out into vehicles, getting exposed to ied's, even before iraq and afghanistan. the idea that they had to prove themselves and that they could do the stuff they had been doing all along. it really was offputting to her. ashton carter eventually said the roles will be open to women . in 2017, that's when we see some progress. it was a little bit slow before women were going to be into the infantry unit, they wanted to fill the officer ranks with women.
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if enlisted women ran into issues, they could have some of the goat talk to. it is still a slow process. joanna said part of what we need to do is now get the numbers up. women have proven they can do all these things. now, we're so used to a force that is only about 18% women. we need to sort of get women in those ranks, in those positions, to not only show everyone they can do it, but to change the mindset of men who are still as ashton carter implied in that statement thinking that women cannot qualify to do this. women who graduate from army ranger school also prove they are qualified, they met the same qualifications as the meant to -- the men to graduate, and they did it. 2419 americans have been
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killed in afghanistan as we talk. what do these women think of the afghan war? has it been worth it to lose that many people? how many of those were women? ms. rivers: i will tackle the first part of that question. and that is what do the women think about what we have been doing in afghanistan for the past 17 years? part of the problem, in general, in afghanistan, not just for female engagement teams, yunits them, trickles down to and that is that units are not there long enough to really make it permanent difference. this was reflective in what men said during interviews, and women. it's almost like we're taking two steps forward, but three steps back. the units on the ground finally build trust with the communities and start to train afghan soldiers. as soon as they make progress, they have to leave. the next unit comes in and have
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to start all over again because that unit now needs to be built -- needs to build trust. a lot of afghan communities are not trusting of american soldiers immediately. it is hard to make progress on the ground when units feel like they're not there long enough to do the mission. one of the things joanna said to me was she did not want to leave when her unit was told they had to leave. she said her command did not want to leave. it felt like they were just beginning to make progress, and then they had to leave the country. she said we are now seeing the aftereffects. this idea that the taliban were pushed out of kabul and we want -- out of kabul was not something that was accurate. the taliban is still a very strong force. they have been able to pick up steam because of that really bad tragedy. brian: what is the difference
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between the mujahedin and the taliban? when did they both exist? ms. rivers: the taliban came into power and existence in afghanistan after the mujahedin. the were at one point united states actually helped the mujahedin provide weapons for the group that ended up becoming terrorists networks that we were not anticipating. the mujahedin is one of the jamila hadorces that to flee from. they ended up in the earlier 90's really trying to take control of all of afghanistan. the taliban was trying to wrestle control from the mujahedin. there were several other terrorist factions in afghanistan that we do not report on or know about. it's not just those two.
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there are at least one dozen other terrorist organizations in afghanistan fighting for power. when i interviewed the police chief in the province, i asked him why there were places where they don't send females. i was really trying to get at these females on the police force are trained and they are not sending them everywhere. he said terrorist assets are so strong in the country, nobody talks about you don't send the men there. it is way too dangerous. there are parts of afghanistan and where we don't send anybody. that is also something joanna mentioned. the more our presence is steady and unstable, the more we are giving this opportunity not just with the taliban, but with a lot of other terrorist networks to rise up, continue to fight, and wrestle power from each other. brian: you went to monterey to
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go to school, language school, you learned arabic. do the women that run these female engagement teams have to speak arabic? ms. rivers: they learn a little bit of the language in the country. they actually have translators that come in. usually they hire contractors to translate. when i went to doi, i went with the specific mission to be an intelligence collector. when the female engagement teams are trained, they are trained in rudimentary aspects of language. when they are searching somebody and they want to say "please stand still," or introduce themselves, they can say basic stuff. they have contractors they hire to translate the big stuff. brian: you discussed this in the
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book. you talk about the burkhas. the full body and head covering for the women. has there ever been an occasion bombsthey had suicide under the burkha? you talk about the reluctance of the women to be inspected by americans over there. ms. rivers: have there been times when women have had that underneath? i have heard of men disguising themselves and having things underneath. they were doing that -- this is after the female engagement teams saw this. they were disguising themselves to be inspected. it was that women didn't want to be inspected by men, not that they didn't want to be inspected at all. if a woman approached them, that was fine. if a man approached them, it is against all customs in their tradition. brian: you did this by phone?
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ms. rivers: a lot of it by phone, i met women face to face, but i never went to afghanistan. brian: how did you find them? do you reject ideas and to you -- ideas until you found the four women you wrote about? ms. rivers: i talked to dozens of women. i talked about these women because they were the most open and they were able to tell their stories well. sometimes in journalism, it can be hard to find that sweet spot. a lot of women, i kept the interviews on background. they definitely informed me to feel like i was more authoritative and had a wide-ranging idea of what the experiences were. i found some women through word of mouth. i would talk to one woman and she would say, if you wanted to
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know about this, i should call maria rodriguez, she is somebody who was a marshall and headed up military police in afghanistan. then i would call military headquarters and say i'm looking for maria rodriguez, where is she stationed? do you know where she is now? it was a lot of calling the pr arm of military headquarters, them directing me to a particular military base, calling the pr arm, then finding maria rodriguez or whoever it is i was looking for. a lot of journalism. we have some video that was mentioned in the book. the important thing is to hear them and see them talk. this goes back to 2014. specialist shannon morgan and staff sergeant raynee. let's watch this to get a flavor of the way they talk and you can respond. >> i looked and everybody was gone. i was the only one in the street.
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there were insurgents all around me firing me. -- firing at me. i didn't know what to do. we are trying to find a place to provide cover and visibility, and we ended up going into the building because almost any building you can get up to the roof. ishe was trying to get my attention. in the army, you tap every man back and let them know you are moving. these bastards didn't say nothing to me. they just left me there. iran for my life and i caught up with my firing team. i kicked the squad leader right in the nuts when i got back. ms. rivers: that was from a documentary. i called one woman who directed the documentary and interviewed her. i was trying to get in touch with another woman who wasn't shown in the documentary, but i called the woman who was their commander. she was on the ground in afghanistan when i called her to
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get the story behind how the team started. i called one of their colleagues. the two women you showed, there was another woman who served with them and was among the first women to participate as a member. she was talking about one of the first major skirmishes. it was a humongous battle. it was one of the first major skirmishes that team was involved in, any female engagement team was involved in. brian: i want to make sure that we give the name megan mcglogin and daria sommers directed the documentary. what about your background? where did you grow up? ms. rivers: i grew up in
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maryland. not very far. brian: where did you go to school? ms. rivers: i went to high school in maryland. my dad was in the military. i went to university of maryland college park. i had this strange circular story finishing my degree. i went to the university of maryland for 2.5 years, heard about this linguist thing, but i -- thought i may give it a try. that's when i listed in the military. i took the language test, they assigned me arabic, i did four years. then i had this -- i was at a crossroads where i could go back to maryland and finish that, or try to do something else with linguistics. i decided to take a year and work as a journalist. i knew i had been a linguist and i loved that. i knew i wanted to work in journalism to make sure i still loved that.
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i'm a plan ahead type of person. while in the military, i started writing for the newspaper. i had clips to take to the local newspaper and giving them to them. i took them to a small weekly newspaper, i worked as a journalist, this is before a finished my degree, i won an award for investigative journalism. i did pieces on slum lords, an investigative piece on local government. i was a general assignment reporter where you cover everything. i loved it. i wanted to finish my journalism degree. so i re-enrolled into the university of maryland, was working full-time at the washington post. i started as an editorial aid and then became a copy editor. i was doing the editorial aid while i was writing freelance for every paper that would let me write and finishing my bachelors degree in journalism. after that, the paper set me to
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-- sent me to a fellowship called the maynard program, where i learned to be an editor. i came back and was a copy editor at the post. i was there for a total of eight years before i became an editor at usa today. brian: what is the interactive reporting project you say in the book lead to this book? ms. rivers: that was where i wanted to collect the photos, collect experiences on the ground. brian: can people still see that? ms. rivers: usa today has a tendency to change platforms a lot. we are one of the leaders in innovation when it comes to online journalism. unfortunately, they can't. i have all the photos. we got over 100 from soldiers, airmen, navy corpsmen on the ground. unfortunately, the platform has changed so frequently that they are no longer available online. brian: what do you think of this book? ms. rivers: it was a long haul.
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i started reaching out to one of the women i mentioned. i don't tell her story throughout. liz carlin, the one whose photo i got in the project in 2011. it was a long haul. it was definitely a challenge. it was a very fulfilling challenge. brian: one of the things i thought was useful in the book is the beginning and the chronological account of women. how long did that take to do? where did you go to find all that? ms. rivers: that was one of the quickest things i did. there were several online resources and resources that i called upon to complete that. i wanted to make sure i included something that was thorough and
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that i gave this in-depth account of what contributions women have made, especially when it comes to combat, moving missions forward through the history of this country. that's why i go back and do storytelling with deborah samson to show that women from the beginning have been capable. you fast-forward to ashton carter asking if women are capable. you can see in that chronology that women have been capable all along. that is part of what i wanted to show. brian: did you ever want to go into combat? ms. rivers: no, i didn't. that wasn't something that was a goal and a mission for me. just like it's not a goal and a mission for all men. there were men i served with in military intelligence who loved what they did. i certainly loved that aspect of what i did. i am by nature somebody who likes to research and gather information.
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that's exactly what military intelligence allowed me to do, to research what people were doing and talking about on the ground and gather the information. to be a resource and provider of intelligence for people who do that incredibly important combat mission work, both men and women. brian: you talk about why they want to dress up in fatigues, combat boots, put a rucksack on and have their rifle in their hands and go out and fall l throughhrough -- craw the mud, what is it that is driving them to do that? ms. rivers: i guess you could ask the same question of men. i'm looking for the difference. ms. rivers: i don't know that there is one. there are some people on a very
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human level who want to have their front-line experience and go out there and prove to themselves that they can do that tough mission and get it done. that's what inspires a lot of men to do it. they want to show that they can go out and achieve in very challenging circumstances. a lot of these ambitious women want to do the exact same thing for the exact same reason. brian: who is the woman on the cover of your book? ms. rivers: that is sheena adams. brian: why did you pick that? ms. rivers: that is an incredible photo, thank you to rita, who took the photo. she was a part of an experimental project on the ground where she followed sheena and the other women in that unit. there were trying to figure out whether it was possible to cover a war through social media. she took all of these incredible photos, i include some of them in the book, and blasted them out on social media everywhere they could to see whether that made a difference in coverage, or expanded the coverage to reach more people. first and foremost, it's an
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incredible photo. it is a very strong photo. all of these women represent this idea of beyond the call, going above and beyond the call of duty. part of what sheena adams' story shows us is the catch 22 idea where they do this incredible service and come back and the military didn't quite know what to do with them or how to recognize the service in a way to move them forward. she certainly represents that. brian: we will take another look at the cover. "the book is called "beyond the call three women on the front , lines in afghanistan." the author is our guest, eileen rivers. thank you very much. ms. rivers: thank you for having me, i enjoyed speaking to you.
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♪ >> for free transcripts or to give us your comments on this program, visit us at q& programs are also available as c-span podcasts. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> next sunday on "q and a" amy greenberg on her book "lady first the world of first lady sarah polk." that's q&a next sunday at 8:00 p.m. eastern and pacific time on c-span. >> here is a look at what is live today on the c-span networks. next, your calls and comment on "washington journal."
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c-span2, labor secretary alex acosta is among the speakers at the national association of counties legislative conference. the senate is in to work on the nomination of allison jones to be a judge for the fourth circuit. c-span3, theon pakistani ambassador to the u.s. outlines the priorities for his country. tonight, on the communicators, we are on capitol thumewith senator john and in ohio congressman on the subcommittee to discuss high-speed broadband service, privacy laws, 5g, and net neutrality. spectrumsted in 5g, availability, autonomous


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