Goond—for “Gunther,” Oberleutnant zur See Gunther Hols, First Officer on board the “Smoking Salmon”—leaned up against the railing of the gun platform aft of U-818’s bridge, enjoying the warm breeze in his face and smoking a rare cigarette. It was a beautiful day.
The watch on the bridge had their jackets open to air out whatever they wore next to their skins. Two men of the crew were re-painting the boat’s maeling on the sides of the conning tower, the Smoking Salmon itself, shown curved into a relaxed arc—as if sitting in an arm-chair—and smoking a pipe whose rising smoke was meant to indicate the plume of oily black plume a tanker sent up as it sank.
They’d sunk one off the Cape this cruise, but otherwise the pickings had been slim. They’d missed the latest Allied convoy from Freetown but Headquarters wanted them in place for the next one, so here they were, idling along, burning fuel if not at a very great rate and catching up on boat maintenance. They could afford it. U-818 was an IX-C/40, one of the longer-range boats, and they’d successfully refueled from U-459 south of St. Helena, and taken on torpedoes.
The concept of the female warrior has long been fascinating in fiction. Lately, it’s become trendy for authors and directors to make a point of including a Strong Female Character™ in their work sometimes regardless of need. But how realistic are these characters compared to the real thing?
I get asked this question a lot. I’ve spent my entire adult life serving my country in uniform, like my mother did for twenty-four years before me. My military and combat experiences have given me a certain perspective on what it’s like to be a woman in the military, but it’s just that: my perspective. I was talking to a friend of mine and another truly badass military chick, and she said that she gets asked a lot of the same questions, which got me thinking that it might be fun to put together a bit of an FAQ regarding Strong Female Characters™ in the military.
First, let me introduce you to Lieutenant Colonel Jennifer Whetstone. Lieutenant Colonel Whetstone is a USAF pilot and Regional Affairs Strategist for Latin America. Like me, she flies the mighty UH-1N Twin Huey in the Washington DC area. She earned her wings in 2003 and has over 1800 hours in the UH-1N and C-12 aircraft.
So, without further ado, I give you a few of the most Frequently Asked Questions of Military Servicewomen as Relates to Science Fiction and Fantasy (FAQOMSARTSFF, because you know we military chicks like to abbreviate stuff).