NEWSFLASH: Pentagon Lifts Ban on Women in Combat

480px-Leon_Panetta_official_portraitAt long last, American military women may now officially serve in direct combat. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is lifting a ban which previously barred women from serving in armed combat jobs, opening up hundreds of thousands of front-line jobs to women. This decision overrides a 1994 Pentagon ruling that prohibited women from filling positions in the infantry and artillery.

Military women have fought the exclusionary policy for years. In November, three women veterans filed a lawsuit with the ACLU in an attempt to end the regulation, which argued that the ban was based on stereotypes of women, ignored modern military and battlefield conditions and denied women a central element of American citizenship. Said Air Guard Major Mary Jennings Hegar, an Army veteran behind the lawsuit and a Purple Heart recipient,

The ability to serve in combat has very little to do with gender or any other generalization. It has everything to do with heart, character, ability, determination and dedication. This policy is an injustice to the women who have come before us and who continue to put their lives on the line for their country.

Panetta’s decision comes not a moment too soon. This antiquated ban restricted women from obtaining career-improving jobs regardless of their qualifications and capabilities, not to mention the fact that even though women were, until today, technically restricted from direct combat positions, more than 20,000 American women have seen combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last year, more than 800 servicewomen were wounded and more than 130 killed in the two wars. That these women were not considered to be serving on equal footing with their men counterparts is wrong, and we are glad to see this gender-based exclusion come to an end.

Though this decision is a positive development, it will take time to implement and it remains unclear to what degree Congress will review the decision. As of now, the decision is receiving support from both sides: Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), remarked that the decision “reflects the increasing role that female service members play in securing our country.’’ Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, agrees:

[The decision] is a historic step for recognizing the role women have, and will continue to play, in the defense of our nation. In recent wars that lacked any true front lines, thousands of women already spent their days in combat situations serving side-by-side with their fellow male service members.

Photo of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta from Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

Comments

  1. Thinking Liberal says:

    “The ability to serve in combat has very little to do with gender or any other generalization.”

    If this is the case, then why are women still held to lower fitness standards than men when it comes to entry requirements and basic training? I don’t believe that women should be excluded from front line service, but at the same time, they should be held to the same physical standards as men, given that physical strength and ability are fairly important requirements for the job. That being said, if this ends up being the case, capable women should have every right and responsibility to serve on the front lines alongside their fellow male service members.

    Thanks for your viewpoint,
    T. L.

    • I agree T.L. Just because many women may not pass the physical requirements necessary for combat roles, it should not be prohibited for the whole. There are likely a number of men who could not meet these requirements either.

    • I have always heard that women may not be able to generate as much strength in the short run as men, but they have greater endurance. Practically this would mean that:
      -First is determined what male bodies can do & what female bodies can do
      -Then what is useful in the army
      -Then tests are designed
      -Then the best people are chosen for the jobs

    • T.L.- That is because women have to prove themselves capable and motivated. They must take the initiative and out run as well as out shoot the boys. Sadly even with the ban lifted women will still have to go out of their way to prove their worth in combat roles.

      • Thinking Liberal says:

        Marine,

        Prove themselves? Outrun and outshoot the boys?

        I believe my exact words were,

        “…they [women] should be held to the same physical standards as men, given that physical strength and ability are fairly important requirements for the job.”

        How in any way does this suggest that servicewomen have to be any better than servicemen? On the contrary, I said that fitness requirements should be identical between genders, or rather, that gender shouldn’t play a role in determining who serves on the front lines.

        Also, women will not, as you put it, “have to go out of their way” to prove their worth in combat roles. Again, those women who meet the physical requirements irrespective of gender have already proven themselves as competent and capable.

        Finally, I believe it would be respectful to call them (male soldiers) ‘men’ rather than ‘boys’ as you have done.

        As always, thanks for your viewpoint,
        T. L.

        @Sarah Saiano
        Yes, I agree that it is unnecessary and harmful for the US to be at war constantly. However, I fail to see the link between war and the mass shootings within the country, beyond the fact that they are both tragic and result in death. Could you further explain?

  2. This is something to rejoice about? Really? How about keeping men and women out of other countries’ conflicts? How about getting them a decent education so they don’t have to join the army to feed their families?

    • Thinking Liberal says:

      Gina,

      War itself is not something to rejoice about, and certainly not something to be proud of, but this article, at least to my understanding of it, is celebrating the idea that women will be given equal opportunities to serve on the front lines. My own opinions of war notwithstanding, this is a milestone of equality in terms of responsibility.

      After all, if women want the same rights as men, it is only fair that women in the military, like their fellow male soldiers, should have the responsibility to serve on the front lines in times of war.

      As always, thanks for your viewpoint,
      T.L.

    • EXACTLY!! If women in combat offended men’s delicate sensibilities, maybe we shouldn’t be killing people at all! There is a better way.

  3. Good move! Hopefully now they will remove the sexist Draft policies! Now I hope we all believe we will never have a mandatory draft but if they do women should be part of it too!

  4. Stephen Sharper says:

    Do you think women will be included in conscription?

  5. It saddens and sickens me that women would want to be in the military in any way, shape or form. The females of this world are the only hope we have of removing psychotic, powerful and rich men whose only purpose is to kill. Illegal wars, so many innocent lives lost. Now the women want to excitingly and willingly participate in murder. It makes them no different than mass murderers justifying their genocide in the guise of Patriotism. Sick!

  6. I do not celebrate this news. Women, we can do better.

    • Sarah Saiano says:

      Sherry, Emma and Gina,
      I share your negative reactions to this news. On the surface, yes, it looks like equality being achieved. The point I’d like to raise, however, is that women should always question who benefits from changes in policy such as this. Do women benefit from this? Perhaps. Those women who choose to be in the military will be able to achieve status more equally. But, I would like to have us look at the status of women in general worldwide and question the effect wholesale warfare is has on that status. Here in the U.S. our social policies, the social fabric of our society, the “social safety net,” as it is often referred to, is in shreds as a result of military spending, the proportion of our resources spent on war and killing. There is no money left to provide healthcare and fruitful jobs-training and low-cost housing to women. As a result women and children are homeless at record rates in the U.S. Women in other countries where war has ravaged entire systems of life often end up in refugee camps struggling for some degree of empowerment, or as part of the traffic in women (and children) that is rampant at present. While we celebrate this policy-change and its effect on some women, we really need to also remind ourselves of the larger question: is it a positive thing for a country such as ours to be CONTINUALLY at war? It is not. It drives violence in our general society – which, certainly, we can see evident in the string of mass murders that have occurred in the past few months. It must be questioned, and questioned with serious skepticism.
      Sarah

  7. I COULD NEVER UNDERSTAND WHY MOST MEN AND EVEN SOME WOMEN THINK THAT BEING FEMALE IS A MENTAL AND PHYSICAL DISABILITY. DUE TO MY LACK OF EDUCATION ,I HAVE DONE HARD PHYSICAL LABOR SINCE THE AGE OF FIFTEEN. I AM NOT BRAGGING, BUT I AM ONE OF THE STRONGEST PEOPLE I KNOW. I MAY NOT BE EDUCATED, BUT I’M FAR FROM BEING STUPID. IT’S ABOUT TIME THAT WE ARE TREATED AS EQUALS IN EVERY ASPECT, NOT JUST IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR. IF AN EMPLOYER CAN BE FINED OR SUED FOR DISCRIMINATION, HOW HAS THE MILITARY GOTTEN AWAY WITH IT FOR SO LONG ? ALL I COULD SAY IS THAT IT IS ABOUT TIME !!!! LEE ASCH

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