United States Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced he plans to lift the 1994 official Pentagon ban on women in combat, including roles in artillery, armor, infantry and other similar combat roles.
In fact, the decision was based on the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The reality is that women have already served in combat situations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, so overturning the Pentagon restriction is not only logical, but is also a good decision.
Arguments against this action have surfaced already, ranging from the strength and mental capability of women to even sexist arguments regarding women’s ability to adapt to the conditions with which soldiers must contend on a daily basis. These are baseless accusations.
The Family Research Council immediately weighed in by releasing a statement by General Jerry Boykin, a retired three-star general, who criticized the idea of assigning women to Special Forces units, saying, “living conditions are primal in many situations with no privacy for personal hygiene or normal functions.”
Unfortunately, many people still cling to the idea that women are dainty and fragile, and cannot stand up to the standards of a man. This is not the case. The fact of the matter is: If a woman earns a spot on a Special Forces unit or any other unit over a man, then she should get that position hands down, because that is how the process works for men. Only the best of the best should be admitted to such units, regardless of gender.
As far as the strength argument goes, it is true the male body possesses more muscle mass and is designed to be stronger, but it is certainly not always the case. And physical strength is not the only deciding factor in who makes a good soldier.
Similarly, women have proven they can handle the conditions of combat situations, and it is absolutely ridiculous to assert that women could not deal with the mental fatigue and stress. In addition, there are a multitude of health hazards for both genders in the military, and if both genders are willing to accept the risks, then there should be no question.
Women currently have fewer opportunities for career advancements in the military simply because combat positions are a crucial component to those advancements. Many women have served in infantry roles already, but have simply been cycled out regularly in order to abide by the combat restriction.
Others have been thrown into combat situations, such as “Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar, an Air National Guard helicopter pilot, who was shot down, returned fire, and was wounded on the ground in Afghanistan,” according to the New York Times. The Department of Defense did not officially recognize her actions as combat experience, and thus did not grant her opportunities to seek combat leadership.
Women have served all over the world, not only in our military, but in our allies’ as well. According to a map created by Max Fisher of the Washington Post, allies such as France, Germany, Canada, Australia and Israel allow women to serve in combat positions.
Women have just as much potential to become great soldiers as men, and it is high time they receive the same opportunities and recognition for their actions in the military.
As Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated in a letter to Panetta, “the time has come to rescind the direct combat exclusion rule for women and to eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service.”