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Presidential Commission Examines Assignment of Women in the Military

August 7, 1992

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Top Navy pilots told a presidential panel that putting women in the cockpit could hurt combat readiness, but two female aviators said they were tired of hearing excuses.

″The point I resent the most is that anyone thinks a woman would show unwillingness to die at the time of combat,″ Lt. Silvia Rivadeneira, a cargo pilot, told the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces.

The commission is examining whether women in the military should be assigned combat roles. A report is due on the president’s desk by Nov. 15.

The hearing Thursday focused on the Navy, which has 58,000 women, or 10 percent of the force.

The Navy recently came under fire after it was learned that aviators groped women in a hotel hallway during the Tailhook Association convention in Las Vegas last year.

Male aviators told the panel that letting women fly in combat squadrons would be disruptive.

Lt. John Claget, an F-18 fighter pilot who flew during the Persian Gulf War, said he didn’t doubt there are women who can fly fighter jets in combat.

But, he said, ″When a guy’s made an obvious mistake he will get a finger in the chest. It’s very personal. He’s warned that if he makes that mistake again he’s gonna die, we’re all gonna die.

″I am not able to give that direct feedback to a woman.″

Submarine and ship officers split over the issue.

Lt. Cmdr. Eric R. Anderson of the Bangor, Wash.-based submarine USS Alaska said there was no reason to exclude women from sub duty.

″After getting over the initial emotional response, which will be hard to get over, the crew would go on,″ Anderson said.

But other officers testified that placing women in such close quarters would cause added psychological stress that may hinder wartime performance.

″It’s already very stressful,″ said Master Chief Steve Kyle, assigned to the San Diego-based sub USS Gurnard. ″Then, to have young guys with their hormones in disarray, you throw another factor in there. That’s a major distraction.″

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