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Posted on Jan 3, 2002 Print this Article

DID COL. CORNUM SHAPE DEBATE ON WOMEN IN COMBAT?

The August 20, 2001, edition of US News & World Report featured a compendium of stories about people identified by the magazine as "Heroes." On the cover was Army Col. Rhonda Cornum, a flight surgeon and urologist who is now Commander of an Army medical unit in Tuzla, Bosnia. In 1991, then-Maj. Cornum was in a helicopter shot down inside Iraq during Desert Storm. Five of 8 crew members died in the crash. Cornum was injured but held by the Iraqis for eight days. In 1992, the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces learned, a full year after her capture, that she had been subjected to what were called "sexual indecencies" by an Iraqi soldier. The U.S. News article, which noted that Col. Cornum aspires to flag rank, reported "Cornum’s stalwart conduct [as a prisoner of war] helped reshape the debate on women in the military." The letter below, which was not published, took issue with that claim: Letters Editor U.S. News & World Report 1050 Thomas Jefferson St. NW Washington D.C. 20007 August 16, 2001 To the Editor: I was surprised that your cover story featured Army Col. Rhonda Cornum as a person who helped to shape the debate on women in combat. As I told your reporter Joellen Perry, that might have been the case if then-Maj. Cornum had told the nation in 1991--before Congress voted for women in combat aviation--that she had been subjected to sexual indecencies at the hands of an Iraqi soldier. Instead, Maj. Cornum withheld the disturbing and relevant news until June 8, 1992, when she testified before the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Services, on which I served. The story was also used to promote her book, released a few weeks later. Col. Cornum deserves respect for her service in uniform, but a true hero would not have misled the nation about an issue that might have changed the course of an important congressional debate. Sincerely, Elaine Donnelly President Center for Military Readiness
Posted on Jan 3, 2002 Print this Article