‘Women at War’

USAREUR deputy surgeon general speaks at clinic

How do you go to the bathroom when you’re on a 20-hour mission outside the wire and pulling over means exposing your whole team to enemy fire? How do you get treatment for a urinary tract infection when the clinician comes to your forward operating base only twice a week? How do you ensure you’re on the right type of birth control for the austere environment you are heading toward, or is it possible to not have a period at all while you’re deployed?

These are the questions Col. Anne Naclerio, U.S. Army Europe deputy surgeon general, set out to answer when she lent her expertise on a book titled “Women at War.” She wrote the chapter on the issues above and helped edit the collection of chapters with Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, and visited the Wiesbaden Army Health Clinic Aug. 27, a day after Women’s Equality Day and less than a week after the first two women made history by earning their Ranger tabs.

Naclerio served on a women’s health assessment team in Afghanistan in 2011 and as a female Soldier, faced many of the issues herself. She went looking for facts and solutions to the issues identified as the chair of the Army’s Women Health Task Force from 2011-2014. While many areas, like body armor that fits a woman’s form, have gotten the needed attention they deserve, she said, the book also addresses other areas that remain more taboo, like sexuality in a war zone and same-sex relationships.
Some of her findings were surprising.

In the same era that planes can fly unmanned, female Soldiers working in transportation companies would wear diapers and drink as little as possible to avoid having to go to the bathroom, increasing their risk for UTIs. Twenty-five percent of women wouldn’t get care for distracting symptoms because they didn’t want to miss out on the mission. Female urinary diversionary devices, or FUDDs, and self-diagnosis tests, respectively, were the answers to these issues.

“We just want to get the word out,” she said. “We have an obligation to prepare women to be successful in all environments.”
The task forced worked on adding this valuable information to basic training, school houses and leader training. FUDDs are now a required item to pack for Ranger school and videos on how to use and care for them are available on Youtube.
She found that commanders almost universally wanted to know the answers to questions that female Soldiers in their formations would ask and not know to ask.

“They want to know how to take care of all Soldiers in their ranks. It’s not that we’re doing something special for females,” she said of the research. “We’re just trying to take care of all Soldiers equally. After World War I and Vietnam, we didn’t cut men’s feet off to prevent trench foot; we taught them foot care and ensured they had dry socks and boots.”

The book also includes chapters on mothers who deploy, reproductive concerns, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, intimate partner violence and issues women face when returning home and after they leave the military, such as differences faced in the Veterans’ Administration.