Published on Tuesday, March 15, 2005 by the Scripps Howard News Service
Show's Not So 'Purrfect' for Female Forces In Iraq
by Pamela Martineau and Steve Wiegand
Sharon Kibiloski is in Baghdad, and she's fighting mad.
The target of the U.S. Air Force captain's ire is the U.S. Army - and what Kibiloski views as the Army's misguided efforts to raise troop morale by sending a scantily clad female troupe called "The Purrfect Angelz" on a two-week tour of military installations in Kuwait and Iraq.
A lavender flier advertising the troupe's Baghdad show portrays a quartet of women wearing faux military uniforms that consist of headgear, halter tops and hot pants. According to its Web site, the Angelz' act consists of singing, provocative dancing and acrobatics.
"The show only appeals to men, and in my mind has the potential to increase sexual advances toward female soldiers afterward," Kibiloski said in e-mails and reiterated in a telephone interview. "To me, if the military really cared about sexual harassment, they would not sponsor such a show."
Kibiloski, who is serving as a public affairs officer in Baghdad's International Zone, stressed she was speaking not in her official role, but as an outraged woman.
Dozens of women interviewed for a series of stories in the Sacramento Bee this month said they had been sexually harassed by male comrades-in-arms while in the Iraq combat theater, and many said the military hierarchy had dragged its feet in addressing the problem.
Women constitute more than 15 percent of the country's active duty military, Reserve and National Guard units, and it's estimated that more than 100,000 have served in the combat zone since the United States invaded Iraq two years ago - by far a record wartime deployment of women.
Critics of the Pentagon's response to problems raised by a two-gender fighting force characterized "The Purrfect Angelz" tour as yet another troubling example.
"It's another failure to recognize how many women are in the military now," said Lory Manning, a retired Navy captain who said she went through her share of USO shows starring the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders 20 years ago.
"They're trying to appeal to the 18-to-25-year-old males, forgetting that there are a lot of women there," said Manning, who is director of the Women's Research and Education Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank on women's issues. "I don't think it's good for women in the military to have to put up with this kind of thing."
Kibiloski said she and other women, and some men, stationed in Baghdad objected so strenuously that the Angelz show was moved from its planned location at the U.S. Embassy annex in the city's International Zone to a nearby military airfield.
"Many men and women alike have asked why a show like this would be sponsored by the military," she said. "None of my military superiors were pushing for this show to come here ... I think they felt like it was too late to do anything about it and that it must have been cleared by someone."
But just how the Angelz came to Iraq was unclear. The troupe is based in Los Angeles. Calls to its offices were not returned.
The flier circulated in Iraq, which bears seals for the Iraq Multi-National Corps and the U.S. Army MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) Unit, lists an e-mail address for Halliburton, the dominant civilian contractor in Iraq.
Jennifer Dellinger, a spokeswoman for a Halliburton subsidiary known as KBR, said the event was organized and sponsored by the Army, and that Halliburton built the stage for the show and provided meals to the entertainers.
A representative of Armed Forces Entertainment, the unit that supplies acts and shows to all branches of the military, said the unit had nothing to do with booking the Angelz.
"We have a database of all our people, and I don't find them anywhere in it," said Air Force Master Sgt. John Martin. "The only thing we had that even remotely resembled that was "The Pinup Girls," and that was back in February of '04."
© 2005 Scripps Howard News Service