Exodus of Female Recruits Signals Trouble for Military
Defense: Armed forces, increasingly dependent on women, find them leaving at rates much higher than men.
WASHINGTON -- Sylvia Azriel joined the Army
this fall with the kind of
Before two months of basic training were up, however, the Pensacola, Fla., woman was out the door, acknowledging that she couldn't adjust to military life. "It was totally not what I expected," she said.
With recruiting in a deep slump, the Pentagon is pinning
more and more of its hopes on young women like Azriel--without whom,
top officials often
Yet year after year, women leave the services at higher
rates than men,
The exodus is particularly unsettling for the Army:
A full 47% of its
The comparable attrition rate for Army men is 28%. Across all the services, 38% of women are out the door within three years, compared with about 33% for men.
These numbers raise uncomfortable questions about whether women are failing to find the kind of personal support or job opportunities they had hoped for in the military.
That conclusion would be a bitter disappointment for
Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Pleasanton), a member of
the House Armed
The problem has major financial ramifications. The
Army, for example, pays about $35,000 to get each new soldier through
recruitment and the first stages of training; this month, after the
worst recruiting year in two
With these issues in mind, the Army this year began
what is apparently the first focused study on the attrition of women,
and officials expect that
Commanding officers are far more flexible now about departures than they were during the draft era.
Sometimes, rather than have unhappy or maladjusted troops causing problems in the unit, they will approve discharges for psychological or medical reasons.
Soldiers are allowed to leave voluntarily because of
And if they can't get out any other way, many recruits
are willing to take
Within the Army, the departure rate is considerably
higher for white
An internal Army analysis notes that white women enter
the force with some of the highest test scores and skills. "High
aptitude may contribute to attrition, as these soldiers see greater
In addition, some experts suggest that black women are more likely to have had friends or relatives who have been in the service, and generally have an easier time adjusting to its stresses because they know what to expect.
In separate interviews with a Times reporter, some
Azriel said she was drawn to the Army by TV advertisements. But she found the rigors of Army life not to her liking and became unmotivated and depressed. Finally, her superiors had her "chaptered" out, which means she was forced to leave. She plans to return to her job as a contract paralegal.
Seaman Tatinyana Pinkney joined the Navy two years ago, passing up three college scholarship offers because she yearned to travel far from her home in Pine Ville, S.C. But after two sea tours, she decided she'd made a mistake.
Pinkney, 20, has decided she wants to return to civilian
life and move
Janice H. Laurence, a psychologist who assisted with
research for the
Problems arising from military travel and dual-career households put women under special pressures, Laurence said. The Pentagon may have to come up with some creative personnel policies to "deal with the family issues," she said.
Some conservative observers have come to different
"It's quite possible they're just wasting a lot
of money," said Anita
The services, for their part, have in the last two
years been stepping up
The Army's training and doctrine command, which oversees early training efforts, has begun half a dozen programs to improve the conditioning, skills and motivation of soldiers who are falling behind.
When asked about attrition among women, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki said the Army is "always concerned about our attrition numbers, and they're never low enough."
Yet he signaled that the service would be willing to
go only so far to
"There is a quality factor here, and we have assured
ourselves that the
Army Attrition Rates Year by year, women are leaving
the U.S. military services at higher rates than men. Integrating women
into the military has been one of the services' biggest challenges of
the decade, and today's military cannot function without them, officials
say. Gone during first term
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