I would like to add another fact in support of R. Cort Kirkwood’s article “The New Reality” (American Proscenium, July).
From 1980 to 1986, I served in Military Sealift Command (civilian-crewed support vessels for the U.S. Navy). From January to May 1982, I was enrolled in a class to upgrade to Able-Body Seaman. One of the requirements for passing the course was the bending of a line around a bosun’s chair, reeving the line through an overhead pulley, and then lifting oneself up to the pulley. All the men participating passed the test.
There was one woman in the course. She was pretty, and she was book smart. However, she could not pass the test. The teacher, a licensed master-seaman, gave her three chances to pull herself up. She never got her feet off the ground. We were surprised when he rhetorically asked the rest of the class, “She did a good job, didn’t she?” Then, he passed her.
Now, that girl would become a headache to the bosun of her next ship and all the ships thereafter, because, when it came time to chip paint on the mainmast or to go over the side and paint, he would have to call in another seaman to do the job in her place. She did not have the strength a man has by nature. I know I did not want to serve with her, because she could not carry her load.
I could only figure that the teacher was under the gun to get more women at sea. It was political, but not practical. Mr. Kirkwood aptly labeled the age “The New Reality,” and it is a bizarre one.
—Jerry C. Meng
Imlay City, MI
Cort Kirkwood’s article mentions the “mishap” of Navy Lt. Kara Hultgreen when she tried to land an F-14 on the deck of the carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln in 1999. Subsequent to the crash, her mother, Sally Spears, wrote and published her biography (Call Sign Revlon: The Life and Death of Navy Fighter Pilot Kara Hultgreen). Without realizing it, her mother made the case that the young woman should never have been carrier qualified because of numerous relatively minor mishaps that Lieutenant Hultgreen always blamed on someone else. How did she get qualified? Her mother described in great detail her own political connections within the Clinton administration’s Navy Department and her success in getting her daughter accepted for F-14 training and qualification. In other words, Spears was unintentionally instrumental in her daughter’s death.
—Robert C. Whitten
Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve—Ret.
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