Two Govs Seek Inquiry Into Women in Military

 

Two of the country's most powerful Democratic female governors - and commanders-in-chief of their states' National Guard units - have called on the Pentagon to investigate the extent of sexual abuse of women in combat by fellow soldiers

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano also separately ordered their states' adjutants general to examine the treatment and condition of military women deployed from their states.

In an April 25 letter , the governors urged U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to take "proactive and overt steps to ferret-out and end sexual abuse within our armed services" and address the mental and rehabilitative health needs of female veterans.

The governors said their concerns were prompted by a March 18 Sunday cover story, "The Women's War" in The New York Times Magazine that reported on rapes and sexual assaults some women who served in Iraq endured and the struggle for them to reclaim their pre-war lives. (After the story ran, one woman's account was later discounted after The New York Times confirmed she had never been deployed to Iraq.)

The governors asked their adjutants general, who command each state's Air and Army National Guard units, to report their findings to Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, head of the National Guard Bureau , the federal agency that oversees Guard activities.

More than 160,000 female soldiers have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the governors' letter. While Napolitano chairs the National Governors Association and Sebelius chairs the Democratic Governors Association, the letter was not sent on behalf of either organization.

The Pentagon's repeated call-ups of nearly 430,000 part-time soldiers in the National Guard to fight the war on terrorism since 2001 has raised manpower and equipment concerns by governors, who direct National Guard soldiers unless they're called to federal duty. States rely on guardsmen to help at home during natural disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes, and other public emergencies.

 
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