WASHINGTON, DC — The Independent Women’s Forum salutes Air Force 1st Lt. Ryan Berry, along with Cardinal John J. O’Connor, Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R. Md.) and 76 other members of Congress — for getting real about sex.

“The Air Force’s idea that it is perfectly proper and ‘professional’ for one man and one woman to ‘hot-bunk’ alone in a tiny missile silo for up to 48 hours or more, is ridiculous,” said Anita K. Blair, IWF’s president and recent chairman of the Congressional Commission on Military Training and Gender-Related Issues.

“Lt. Ryan Berry is only being realistic,” Blair continued. “Coed missile silo duty is a high-risk assignment for any man, who could easily lose his entire career if his female partner later charged him with sexual harassment.”

Further, Blair says, the Air Force is in no position to turn away officers of the high quality of 1st Lt. Ryan Berry as it suffers from severe personnel shortages. The Air Force itself has cited “major concern” over pilot retention, projecting a deficit of 2,000 pilots by 2002. Large shortfalls in recruiting, reenlistment and retention have forced the Air Force to increase its recruiting goals and spend millions on television advertising, as well as invoke its power to force members to stay even though their terms were up.

“In light of all its serious readiness problems, how can the Air Force threaten to punish Lt. Berry?” Blair asks. She says the Air Force can and should accommodate Lt. Berry’s request. “Surely the Air Force would accommodate a request from a non-smoker, or a Wiccan– why not a faithful Catholic husband?”