America is called the land of equal opportunity and within the military; the fight for women having the same job opportunities as men has been a non-stop debate for decades. Some say women should be allowed to fight in combat with the infantry units and Special Forces units in a wartime environment. A number of arguments have been traditionally given against women in combat that range from women lacking the physical capacity needed in combat, psychological issues that may arise within the unit and soldiers, and the matter of a female soldier getting pregnant in the battlefield and how detrimental that can be. As many arguments there are against women in combat, there are many that agree they should be able to fight side by side with men. Such reasons include that women should have the same equal opportunity as the opposite gender, women should not be judged by size and appearance, but by their abilities and training capabilities, and the fact that female soldiers are already fighting in combat, just not with infantry soldiers.
Pros – Women should serve in combat units
Equal opportunity in the military is one of the biggest points the people of America will argue that women are not receiving. The opportunity to take on jobs that enhance men’s careers and give them a head start and boost in the military. Those jobs that are being considered are combat related jobs. According to Fawn Vrazo’s article women “Should she fight” women have more to offer the military other than secretarial positions. Many think that women belong along side men on the battlefield. Vrazo uses the example of Capt. Linda Bray who commanded MP units against the Panama Defense Forces. We have many examples of women fighting in war. One of the most extraordinary is that of Molly Pitcher in the revolutionary war and how she took over the cannon that her husband was using before he died. The military is very important and vital to the progression of female rights.
“Men are stronger and women are weaker” are often the stereotypes in the military regarding physical strength and training between genders, however is not accurate. Bill O’ Reilly from O’Reilly’s Radio Show quoted that “Women don’t belong in combat, because men are stronger.” Although only fifteen percent of females occupy the United States Military, some of those women are stronger physically than males. And for the women who are not stronger or do not have the strength to survive in combat can train for it. When males enlist in the military, majority of them are not physically fit or are barely fit enough to pass the tests. How men get stronger is simple: weight train. Our military, fixated on “men are stronger,” disqualifies for direct-ground combat roles. An
acceptable idea for ground combat roles would be for female recruits to qualify under the same physical standards for combat the men must meet. If our military thinks not enough women would qualify to justify including females, it could give female recruits extra physical training, including weight training – just as schools give lagging students extra tutoring. Those passing a single physical standard should be classified combat capable and trained to fight wherever men do.
In today’s war against terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no defined frontline, every one in those countries have the same risk of injury and death whether you are male or female. Females in dangerous areas cannot serve on missions with “direct combat” units, but they can go into battle with units that are considered “support combat units”. In 1994, the defense department established a ground combat exclusion policy which states: “Service members are eligible to be assigned to all positions for which they are qualified, except that women shall be excluded from assignment to units below the brigade level whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground. The policy goes on to define “direct combat” as “engaging an enemy on the ground with individual or crew served weapons, while being exposed to hostile fire and to a high probability of direct physical contact with hostile force’s personnel. (Broadwell)
In another article with the South Carolina Military News, Retired Air Force General Lester L. Lyles who chaired the commission for diversity in the military stated: “If you look at today’s battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan it’s not like it was in the Cold War, when we had a defined battlefield. Women serve and they lead military security, military police units, air defense units, intelligence units – all of which have to be right there with combat veterans in order to do the job appropriately.” (Daniel) Women are capable fighting with men in “direct combat” units, they already show competence by leading soldiers in quasi direct combat units. In today’s war, deploying overseas to a combat zone earns a soldier whether male or female the same opportunity to fight for her or his country, but is also included in the same risk to being injured or being killed in action.
Cons – Women should serve in combat units
Obvious reasons why America would not encourage women to fight with the infantry are simply and generally because they are not naturally strong as men and do not have the same physical capabilities as men. Female soldiers are, on average, shorter and smaller than men, with 45-50% less support upper body strength and 25-30% less aerobic capacity, this is essential for endurance. Most females’ skeletal system is less dense and more prone to broken bones, for example: when women go into training, they would have to do the same duty as men such as wall climbing and going under barbed wires while wearing heavy equipment. The reasons why women are not capable to perform at a higher level than men are because generally females are petite and unstable. In general, an average sized woman may struggle two or three times more than a man at dragging an average sized male weighing around 180 pound soldier who is also wearing a 55 pounds worth of equipment. Imagine if he were more than 180 pounds, women would not be able to drag a soldier to safety, which would gravely endanger wounded soldiers.
Psychological issues within the unit and soldiers can arise if women were to fight side by side with male soldiers. There is a probable chance that some male soldiers have stated that they could not trust a woman to perform her duties in an environment where trusting their fellow soldier would mean life or death. Another issue that would most likely happen is romantic or sexual relationships forming on the battlefield. The possibility of having situations to where women will use sexual advances in order to benefit her can also happen. Fraternization, a prohibited relationship between man andwoman that are different ranks which can cause one soldier to receive non-judicial punishment is also another conflict to which the unit may have to deal with.
The inevitable and detrimental factor a unit will experience will be when a soldier gets pregnant on the battlefield, it will bring all sorts of unnecessary problems. Women in the military may cause an inconvenience by which the “units” moral and cohesion will be disrupted. Also, it can affect the units’ readiness prior to its deployment due to weakness in the allotted assigned strength. Another mishap can happen if the female solider got pregnant during a mission; it can compromise the mission, which could lead to more casualties and injuries.
My stance on women serving in combat units
Serving in the United States Army for seven years and serving with a “direct combat” unit and with a “support combat” unit gave me a great insight for this topic. In “direct combat” units, I have served with some of the toughest, bravest, and smartest male soldiers that I thought had ever lived and at the same time I served with some of the weakest, dumbest, and cowardly soldiers who I thought had ever lived. When I was assigned to my “support combat” unit, it was surprising to see that some of the female leaders I met seemed very equal with the infantry soldiers as far as physical training, bravery, conduct as a leader, and a thirst for combat. Some female soldiers I encountered were useless in the Army; they were weak, whiny, selfish, and lazy. In the Army, there are men and women who just occupy space and are worthless and then there are those who truly deserve their position that they earned and deserve to climb the ranks in different leadership roles. I oppose of the combat exclusion of 1994 and truly believe that women, not all women, but only those who earn the right deserve to fight in combat with men.
In order to join the Special Forces Group in the Army, a soldier has to pass different physically grueling courses and has to be selected. Just as the Special Forces has a selection process, there should also be a selection process for individual women who absolutely have no problem fighting in direct combat. The process should consist of an interview process, a physical fitness test, and a survival process to challenge the soldier’s heart, courage, and mental strength. Ultimately, when those women pass the selection, they should be the only female soldiers that are able to enhance their careers through combat leadership roles and combat promotions.
The time will be soon for women to join the forces of Infantry and Special Operations. The military in itself is headed toward a more liberal direction. Homosexuals fought and fought for their rights and finally earned their place in the military without any discrimination. Women recently got approved to aboard and fight on combat submarine ships in the Navy and will soon be able to see action, fighting side by side with men, knocking down doors, and capturing terrorists.
The battle for women to have the chance to fight alongside with the opposite sex on the battlefield has been an ongoing struggle. More and more jobs and opportunities for women have been opening up since the last decade, all except for combat roles in direct combat units. Listed above, both pros and cons to why women should serve in combat units have creditable arguments.
The right to serve in whichever position a soldier is qualified for should be the norm for both males and females. Soldiers should have an equal opportunity to enhance one’s career in the military, which should be fair and square for both genders regardless. With the help of congress and the leaders of our nation, they should allow women to fight in combat with men if they are qualified to. And just as male soldiers need to qualify for positions by their skills and abilities, the same fairness should also be given to women. Women in the Army that yearn for combat but are not provided the opportunity are relentless and fight with units who are considered “support combat” alongside with combat units.
As there are numerous amounts of supporters for women’s rights in the military, there are those people who just think women cannot handle the role being in the infantry. Being in the infantry, a soldier has to be physically fit and able to carry heavy pounds of equipment while marching, people think women cannot take on this challenge. As there are the physical aspects of combat, there are also the psychological matters that infantry units will have to deal with such as romantic relationships that can disrupt a unit or trust problems that men can have against women. Another problem why people are against women joining the combat forces are the unavoidable problems of pregnancy which can destroy unit morale and cohesion. Whether America thinks women can handle the physical and psychological factors of being a “grunt”, the only way females will be allowed to fight is if congress and our nations leaders say yes.
Daniel, Lisa. “Panel recommends U.S. rescind policy on women in combat.” S.C. Military News. 2011. Web. 4 Jun 2011. Broadwell, Paula. “Women at War.” The New York Times. 2009. Web. 4 Jun 2011 Vrazo, Fawn “Should she fight?” Kight-Ridder Newspapers 21 Jan. 1990. Print.