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Women in combat: For better, for worse?

By | February 05, 2013 | Opinion

By Jacob Rayburn, contributing writer to The Collegian

The discussion of expanding the role of women in the military, specifically in combat roles, is not a discussion about patriotism. It is not about bravery.

Women have died in Iraq and Afghanistan and other conflicts while serving the United States with courage under fire.

That should not be forgotten during this new discussion.

While I support the idea of women serving their country any way they can, I have a concern that I think should be considered before people rush to declare how great an opportunity this is for women in the military.

The Pentagon’s order could open as many as 230,000 positions (according to a Feb. 3 USA Today article by Jim Michaels) previously closed to women across all the services.

There have been many commentators on TV who are adamant that women cannot be counted on to drag a large wounded man out of danger when they are outweighed by as much as 100 pounds.

That is the easy and misleading physical argument and one I will not make.

Every publication I’ve read on this subject with quotes from military or Pentagon personnel is steadfast that there will be no double standard with regards to passing physical tests during training.

I am certain that women will volunteer to take on the challenge.

However, consider these numbers: 13 percent of the Army is female and only 7 percent of Marines.

Those are small numbers to begin with even before you eliminate another percentage that wouldn’t be able to pass the tests.

The result is a very small number of women who would physically qualify to be in the newly opened units.  Here is where unit cohesion, something I considered overplayed in the debate of homosexuals serving openly in the military, is actually a concern for women.

In the situation where a small number of women qualify to serve in combat roles with infantry and Marines, would that unit function as well if it were an all-male unit?

I think there is disappointing evidence that it would not work.

A 2011 Department of Defense report estimated that there were more than 19,000 military rapes or sexual assaults in 2010.  Only 3,158 were reported and only 529 went to trial.

Most of these cases did not occur in combat areas, but that was before a possible influx of women into combat positions.

However, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said in an Associated Press article on Jan. 24 that treating men and women differently has been a factor in the rise in sexual assault cases. Dempsey suggested equality on the battlefield could lead to equality in the barracks.

We can hope that is true, but hope isn’t enough.

For a country at war the answer to the basic question of whether the military is a more effective fighting force with more women in combat roles is only maybe.

Maybe isn’t good enough.



The Flip Side

By Liana Whitehead, opinion editor

For almost 20 years, American military women have been trained for battles that the government would not allow them to fight.

Today, as the Pentagon announces its lift of the “combat ban,” many female soldiers are expressing thankfulness for the chance at equality.

Although almost 200 U.S. women were killed in war since Sept. 11, the government has prohibited them from working in infantry, armor and field artillery — the combat roles.

Women who have lost limbs and suffered mental and emotional consequences because of war argue that yes, they deserve to carry out the same roles as men.

Frequently quoted military females such as Minnesota-based pilot Tammy Duckworth and National Guard Sgt. Cassie Mecuk

feel that a soldier is a soldier — and the best of the best should fill these

positions at the front lines.

Some arguments made on the other side include the physical strength factor, the detriment to the familial fabric of America and the possibility of conflict within a
woman-man camaraderie.

Despite the amount of criticism and debate surrounding the topic, female military members are fighting to reduce these stigmas.

The quick answer to this proposal was an obvious “no” as veterans, mothers, military men and others are staunchly against the movement.

Those who support the anticipated lift debate that  the  negative factors are not as important as a woman’s equality and right to fight at the front lines.

It is simple in the eyes of supporters — if a woman wants to do this, Constitutionally speaking, she should be allowed.

Some have used the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community as a recent example, as such groups can now openly serve in the military.

A female contributer for the

Marquette University Law School

faculty blog made the correlation between a woman’s duty in the field and their “duties” in the home:

“Apparently only men can handle a ‘prolonged’ operation that is physically draining and where living conditions are ‘abysmal and base.’ Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin has apparently forgotten that most women routinely — and more than once — handle the physically draining prolonged operation of being pregnant and bearing children.”

In other words, women are more than capable.

Their inspiration? The brave acts of females such as Lt. Kelly Flinn, the first B-52 bomber pilot, and “Molly Pitcher” (often attributed Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley), who allegedly took her husband’s place at his cannon after he suffered heat exhaustion at the 1778 Battle of Monmouth.

Today’s military women, in order to leave their mark in history, look to those who fought despite what the rest of the world believed.

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4 Responses to Women in combat: For better, for worse?

  1. Josh4234 says:

    A counterpoint to Jacob is that there doesn’t need to be a ban on women in those roles, when it would be perfectly reasonable for proper authorities to change a unit that has cohesion problems. There’s no need to get rid of the units that may work instead of just fixing the ones that don’t.

  2. William S. says:

    Equality leads to battlefield graves. This is what equal rights for women has bestowed upon our mothers, sisters and daughters in a world that caters to the five percent. In this case it is five percent of women who are capable of pulling an equal load on par with a majority of men (yes, a minority of men are wimps). Take notice before raising that glass to cheer women in combat roles, for it means equality in being drafted into combat, and if my history is correct, weaker men drafted in WW II weren’t given a combat pass. This is just another dagger rammed into the heart of the (fading) nuclear family.

  3. Liana Whitehead says:

    William,

    I agree with your comment. I took the other side’s argument, but if you read carefully, I only stated facts. I do believe it is a step in the wrong direction.

    • William S. says:

      I hear you. I just think it’s tragic that 5% of capable G.I Janes can hijack the remaining 95% of females into being drafted to fight a major war.

      I forgot to comment on Jacob’s article so I’ll do it now: Jacob, women have different physical fitness standards in the military. For example, a female in the Marines gets 21 minutes to complete a 3 mile run to score 100, a male in the marines gets 18 minutes. Females haven’t had the same requirements for a long time now.

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