The commander of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division spoke Tuesday to approximately 170 of his unit’s female soldiers about what they can expect before and during their deployment to Iraq this fall.
While women aren’t assigned to combat branches such as infantry, they do serve in the intelligence, military police, medical and other units that help form combat teams and deploy to combat zones.
Col. Peter Jones addressed the lunchtime crowd during a special forum designed specifically to discuss the various issues that female soldiers face. The forum took place in the Fort Benning Conference Center.
Fresh off a pre-deployment trip to Iraq, Jones spoke excitedly about the vastly improved living conditions there and the new mission of the 3rd Brigade.
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“I think the quality of life is going to be better,” Jones said, “because a lot of the bases that we’re going to have been already firmly established for a number of years and a lot of them were built for a brigade — you know, 4,000-8,000. And all of a sudden because we are drawing down and shifting forces, we may only have 2,000-3,000 there. So, you’ll have the capacity where we can provide privacy and it also serves as a stress reducer, too.”
Quality of life seemed to be an important topic for those who attended Tuesday’s forum. One female soldier asked the colonel whether she’d be able to live with her husband, who will likely be stationed with her in Iraq. Jones answered that he thinks she and her husband will be allowed to live in the same small housing unit as long as they are on a major forward operating base.
Technology in Iraq
Another soldier asked Jones about communication and technology on base. Jones told her that in the best cases, Internet access would be available to soldiers in their individual rooms. He added that most bases do have banks of phones and Internet portals in designated areas.
“It’s amazing the connectivity that’s out there,” Jones said.
The colonel made a point to tell the audience that their Iraqi counterparts have changed significantly, both in demeanor and discipline, since the last time the brigade interacted with them.
“They were all business,” he said. “They knew what they had to do, what they were going to do. The days of guys walking around check points with half blue jeans, half T-shirts — gone. They are a professional organization, in uniform, taking pride in what they’re doing.”