A West Point graduate and the highest ranking female in the battalion, Major Kate Pendry Guttormsen can clearly articulate the "grey zone" in which Team Lioness operated and the distinction between what they were trained for and what they were called upon to do.
"I don't think my experiences were any different than my male counterparts. I think some of my coping mechanisms were different. For example, I'm sure I cried more than my male counterparts--behind closed doors."
--Major Kate Guttormsen
What have you been doing since filming ended in August 2007?
I'm still serving in the Army. I moved to Hawaii in June 2008 to serve on the public affairs staff of the Special Operations Command-Pacific.
How do you think your experiences in combat as a woman differ from those of men?
I don't think my experiences were any different than my male counterparts. I think some of my coping mechanisms were different. For example, I'm sure I cried more than my male counterparts--behind closed doors.
What was/is your day-to-day role during active duty?
Currently serving as a public affairs staff officer.
What most surprised you about your time in Iraq?
When I was in Iraq (2003-2004), I was most surprised by the mixed reception we received by the Iraqi people. In the town of Ramadi, there were just as many people who seemed to like us as those who didn't. Made it very challenging to develop quality/trusting relationships with all of the people we came across.
What about your experience would you like to communicate to the American public?
My experience was long ago. I'm no longer current. However, I'd encourage the American public to remember that we are over there and encourage them to continue to support our troops today as much as they did in the early years of the war.
How has your service affected your family?
Our family is closer. We value the simpler things in life when we are distanced from one another for extended periods of time. Add on the emotions and stress of serving in conflict and it seems to only intensify my desire to come home and have dinner at the kitchen table with the people I love.
What would your advice be to an 18-year-old woman entering the military?
Have fun, travel and do those things in the military that challenge you. There will come a time when your priorities will change. Take advantage of having a young body and mind to work hard and play hard while you can.
If you could change one thing about the military, what would it be?
Maternity/paternity leave and/or sabbatical. Right now the Army grants a new mom 42 days of convalescent leave. The father gets no paternity leave. I think both parents should be offered leave when they have a child and I think the Army should consider sabbaticals. I've had many female friends get out of the Army simply because it was impossible to balance work life and family life. If a sabbatical was offered, it would allow women to take the necessary time to take care of a young child and then return to the service.
What is it like being a female in command?
Challenging. But, command is challenging for every officer regardless of gender. In order to be successful, the higher-level chain of command has to be supportive. I had a superb all-male chain of command that didn't discriminate. This empowered me to be as successful as I wanted to be.
Major Kate Guttormsen's Diary Excerpts
Company Commander, 1st Engineer Battalion, 1st BCT, 1st ID
April 2, 2004
Rehearsals all day going down Michigan to Manhattan for the service tomorrow. Hopefully no problems but we'll see. Today in the news some U.S. contractors were killed. I heard they were hung from a bridge but I haven't seen it on TV. Then we saw huge protests against us in Baghdad and Fallujah. Good God so many don't want us here, I wonder what will happen if we left. It's going to be a long five more months. I just hope if something happens to me or anyone else, it is quick and painless but God help the bastards who try to pick a fight with me or anyone that I am traveling with.
April 3, 2004
Today we went Manhattan via Nova and Michigan. We had an IED strike near checkpoint 298. First vehicle was windshield damaged and big berm on the right. The first reaction and the first two front vehicles drove through. The Colonel was traveling with us, and everyone stopped and charged the berm. All focused the wrong way. We think the triggerman was on the other side of the road. However we did get two detainees today and electrical supplies found in the boat. We'll see what becomes of all this. It was very frustrating today, very chaotic. The dismounts didn't do what they were trained to do. I had to reposition vehicles, guns and crews throughout the duration of it. Very, very frustrating experience for me.
April 7, 2004
Well, all hell broke loose in Ramadi yesterday. It began when a dismounted patrol from 2/4 Marines was attacked near the soccer stadium. It rapidly progressed throughout the day. Over 30 Marines were wounded or killed. We were on standby by REDCON-1 and they never asked for help. Cold Steel, however, sent a platoon out to help, having the tracks out rolling around helps a great deal. Then today the same sh**. The battalion spun up Charlie Company and the track's QRF from 1-16 and all of our vehicles. However no help was necessary. Don't understand why the Marines weren't asking for us more often. But the country is pure chaos right now. Not sure what tomorrow's gonna bring. I have three Lioness teams staged with Cold Steel tonight at the Snake Pit. Right now the mosque raids were cancelled but I have suspicious feelings tomorrow's going to be really ugly. A huge cordon and search is scheduled tomorrow in all the neighborhoods.
April 8, 2004
Currently 20 hundreds hours and we're all sitting at REDCON-3. Bedded down early. Equipment QRF and PSD on stand-by. An imminent attack on the Government Center they say. We'll see.
April 10, 2004
Equipment QRF, maintenance QRF, engineer platoon QRF REDCON-1 all day. The Marines were successful--Operation Bughunt. But still can't casualty evac worth a damn so Cold Steel policed up the battlefield very well. Up until 2:45, until now, very tired, will write more later.
April 15, 2004
We're REDCON-4 for all kinds of things but we actually went out and filled in every fighting position. Dozers, SEEs (small excavating equipment), and my PSD. We worked with John and the Bushmasters and then Coyotes. John's company got attacked at objective Sheriff; he lost one soldier and had six wounded today. The enemy was dug in really well. He killed three and had 11 detainees.
We closed in a bunch of holes and then we leveled all the buildings at the intersection. It was only a couple of kilometers from where my group was attacked en route to Camp Anaconda a couple of weeks earlier.
We got in around 02:00 about 14, 16-hour mission. Everybody was very tired last night and it was very hot with all the gear and I didn't drink enough water and had headaches, dehydration.
June 2, 2004
Yesterday was a good day. Today a bad one. Quick rundown.
Yesterday I was in my room working on the Lieutenant's OER around 11:45 when the battalion called on the radio and said to get to the X-ray and bring two Lionesses that like to talk ASAP. So I grabbed Staff Sgt. Ruthig and Spc. Morgan and we hurried up there. We ended up eating lunch with the Second Infantry Division commander, the Second Infantry Division assistant deputy commander for maneuver, and the Second Infantry Division G-3. That was it, no aides, no one else. We had lunch and we chatted for about an hour and a half. Awesome. It was nice to see my ladies as the center of the universe for a little while. At any rate, we talked the Lioness and its significance, instant fortress, and many, many other things. Very relaxing, very informal, very last minute. But we enjoyed it; it was nice. Morgan's squirrel shooting story was funny and had everyone rolling. At one point the General looked at us and said he would have sworn that he would have never have this conversation with us, changing the Army forever, he said.
September 5, 2004
Today flew by. Property turnover, all the gun cups were turned over. Had some more push out tonight and we went to the 1-5 Field Artillery rehearsal for a cache for Lionesses. Sgt. Ruthig will go in the a.m. as the subject matter expert to train the incoming unit. All else is fine; my feet are especially tired right now. I have to finish my survey tomorrow and have legal take a look at it. And oh yea, the Colonel did a Manhattan run today. No issues. Decon is completely done as the PSD. What a great feeling but I am very tired.