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One officer steps down, second suspended over 'pretty' soldiers email

Nov. 22, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
A diverse force in Steel Dragon
Cpl. Kristine Tejeda is shown during a deployment to Iraq in 2011. A colonel is concerned that this photo and any others that show 'pretty' female soldiers would detract from women being taken seriously in their roles. (Pvt. Andrew Slovensky/Army)
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Two colonels involved in a controversy over showing “pretty” female soldiers in Army communications no longer have their jobs, the Army confirmed Nov. 22.

Col. Lynette Arnhart stepped down from her position heading the Army’s study on the integration of women into combat arms, and Col. Christian Kubik, who was the Training and Doctrine Command public affairs officer, was suspended.

The staffing changes come after both colonels became embroiled in a controversy over an email Arnhart sent to Kubik saying that “pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead” and “ugly women are perceived as competent.”

“In order to protect the integrity of the ongoing work on gender integration in the Army, Col. Lynette Arnhart agreed to step down as the gender integration study director,” Army spokesman George Wright said in a statement to Army Times on Nov. 22. “Gen. [Robert] Cone, Commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, accepted this change in study leadership. Concurrently, TRADOC suspended Kubik from his position as the Public Affairs Officer pending the outcome of an investigation.”

Arnhart faced harsh criticism from soldiers and the media after she sent the email. In a story first reported by Politico, Arnhart, deputy director and senior military analyst at Training and Doctrine Command’s Analysis Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., sent the email to Kubik advising against using “pretty women” for its communications efforts.

“It might behoove us to select more average-looking women,” the email said, according to Politico.

To illustrate her point, Arnhart cited a photo used with an article by Cone in Army magazine. Cone, the TRADOC commanding general, wrote about Soldier 2020, the Army’s effort to open all Army jobs to women.

Arnhart said the point of the article might be missed because a photo of a “pretty” female soldier was used with the article.

“For example, the attached article shows a pretty woman, wearing make-up while on deployed duty. Such photos undermine the rest of the message (and may even make people ask if breaking a nail is considered hazardous duty),” Arnhart wrote, according to Politico.

The “pretty” woman pictured in the article Arnhart referenced is then-Cpl. Kristine Tejeda, who was deployed to Iraq when the photo was taken in 2011.

Tejeda admitted to wearing light eye makeup in the photo but no lipstick. Tejeda, who is now in the National Guard in Texas, told Army Times via Facebook that while the colonel might consider her “too pretty” to seem competent, “she doesn’t know my work ethic or what I have accomplished.”

“I am a very competent soldier,” Tejeda said. “Just because a female soldier is pretty doesn’t mean she’s incompetent. Whether a soldier is ugly or pretty or whatever, it definitely shouldn’t matter,” Tejeda said.

Kubik forwarded Arnhart’s email to other spokespeople at TRADOC. According to Politico, the forwarded message included a comment from Kubik asking the public affairs officials to avoid using photos that “glamorize” women and instead “use ‘real’ photos that are typical, not exceptional.”

One Facebook commenter who responded to the story on the Army Times website said people should stop worrying about looks and focus on their job instead.

“This is exactly the culture that needs to change in the military if we’re going to get ahead of the sexual assault and harassment problems that we’re facing,” said Facebook commenter Corrie Blackshear.

When the story first broke, TRADOC refused to discuss the controversy, but Kubik released a statement to Army Times.

“The intent of the message was to help ensure that images depict professional female soldiers as they are, and to ensure they are recognized based on their hard-earned achievements as members of the profession of arms,” Kubik said.

He said the Arnhart email was an “internal discussion” and that it did not reflect Army policy.

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