Tuesday, March 16, 2004

American soldiers in Iraq have been asked to make constant adjustments. Add the issues of living quarters, harassment by Iraqi men and desire for equal treatment, and female soldiers here have found challenges all their own.

Case in point: When the 389th Engineers Battalion from Dubuque set up tents in the sweltering Iraqi heat last summer, males and females shared tents based in part on their jobs.

They did so after most attempts at privacy were abandoned when the battalion slept in an open-bay warehouse in Kuwait and then outdoors when they arrived at Baghdad International Airport last summer. The one nod to privacy was a camp shower put up behind ponchos.

But they soon were segregated into separate tents, over the objections of some women who felt they would miss out on critical camp information. Other women, however, did not want to live with the men.

``Our lieutenant fought to keep us with the guys, but they made the females move out,'' and to smaller quarters, said Spc. Rachel L. Wenzl, 22, a medic from Clinton, Iowa. ``We were happy, there was nothing going on and it was working fine.''

Sgt. Holly E. Follmer, 26, of Topeka, Kan., didn't like the change either. ``The problem I had with being segregated was the females get the shaft, smaller tents and out of the communications loop'' she said, adding that her fears about the information flows weren't borne out.

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