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Military Panel Recommends That Women Be Allowed To Serve In Combat Roles

Military Panel Recommends That Women Be Allowed To Serve In Combat Roles

A panel of military experts made a recommendation that’s been a long time coming: they suggested that women be able to serve in combat units, from which they are currently prohibited.  If implemented, this change would be another radical measure to promote equality in the military, along with the recent repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Women currently make up around 14 percent of the armed services, but cannot serve in any unit smaller than a brigade whose primary mission is direct combat on the ground.  This means that women have been relegated to combat support roles, even though some female Marines in Afghanistan have, through special missions which targeted women in remote rural regions, come close to engaging fully in combat roles.

The report says that current restrictions on women in combat prevent women from performing about 10 percent of army and Marine occupational specialties, creating a significant barrier to career advancement.  The panel suggested that the prohibition be erased “to create a level playing field for all qualified service members.”  They added that because of policies like these, “minorities and women still lag behind white men in terms of number of military leadership positions.”

Women have been excluded from combat for a variety of reasons, most of which are fairly inane.  Part of the fear is that public opinion would not tolerate large numbers of female deaths, and others suggest that having women in small combat groups would ruin group cohesion, an argument that was also leveled against gays.  Although stamina and strength are cited as other barriers to full female participation in the armed forces, the panel said in their report that these were proven to be unimportant concerns.  In fact, they said, referencing another study, “women serving in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan have had a positive impact on mission accomplishment.”

One thing is clear: women already contribute hugely to the success of the armed forces, and including them in combat units can only open up opportunities for them.  The concerns about barriers to their advancement because of these limitations is real, and comprises a legitimate source of complaint for women who are prevented from accessing the same opportunities for promotions and advancement as their male peers.  This report is a clear move in the right direction, and the next challenge will be for the Department of Defense to begin implementing their recommendations.

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Photo from the Department of Defense.

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76 comments

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9:56PM PST on Jan 21, 2011

thanx for info

3:21AM PST on Jan 20, 2011

I think No one should be allowed to serve in combat roles, women or men or else...
How is it possible that it is found o.k. to kill people in some context...

3:24PM PST on Jan 19, 2011

About damned time! Now, stop giving them lave-a$$ tests-if they can do the job, let them DO THE JOB.

10:20AM PST on Jan 19, 2011

I firmly believe that women can do anything that men can do if given the chance. I also think that if more women were in positions of military power, there wouldn't even be as many wars as there are now. I must admit, women seem to be much more level-headed.

6:21AM PST on Jan 18, 2011

I do think front-line combat should generally be restricted from women. They are simply not as strong as men, and men naturally will tend to do more to defend a female which could result in doing something strategically stupid. As one reader already commented, a captured female WILL get raped. This can damage the morale of the whole team... Especially if they can hear it, I remember reading about a scientific study where they measured the different effects of sounds on different people, and a woman's cry was particularly painful for a man to hear, especially cries of pain or fear. (A similar thing with women and their babies is well known.)

It's not discrimination, it's a sensible recognition that men and women are different. HOWEVER, PEOPLE are different too, and a woman should not necessarily be excluded from front-line warfare, but assessed on individual merit - and would need to be much mentally tougher than the average female. There are plenty of places for women in war, for example they can make excellent strategists (especially for thinking about causality and long-term strategies). There should be other ways of moving up ranks than fighting at front-line service. Discouragement from such should not mean a lower rank per se.

Lastly... men are typically more geared to fighting (higher testosterone = higher aggression)... women allowed to fight mean women allowed to be drafted... I am DEFINITELY against that!

8:34PM PST on Jan 17, 2011

Women have been allowed in combat in the militaries of other countries for decades, so why not in the USA? This country always brags about how modern and forward thinking we are so it's time to put for it to put its money where it's big mouth is. Besides that, discrimination of any kind be it gender, sexual orientation, racial, religious, etc. is wrong.

3:01PM PST on Jan 17, 2011

"the female of the species is more deadly than the male"

12:36PM PST on Jan 17, 2011

I am a veteran of the USAF (1974-1994). With that being said it is my opinion that all persons who volunteer for the US military should be allowed to serve in any capacity that they are physically, mentally, and emotionally capable of performing. The major factor we must also come to accept is that should there be another draft, and there should be, women should also be eligible for that draft. The only deferment to service should be physical or mental disability which would preclude performing the duties required of members of the military. As a nation I doubt that we are willing to accept these requirements as we are still a truly sexist society. We tend to want to keep our women protected and back home. Until that changes, I doubt that Congress will remove the limitations placed on women in today's military. Congress would, in fact, have to remove that limitation not merely the Defense Department. It is based on federal law not just military policy. Both my daughters have served in the Army, one active duty and one reserves, and they felt very discriminated against because of this limitation. It, by its very nature, creates a policy that divides the military into two classes and the anger that breeds is very apparent in the ranks. If we truly feel that women are equal members of the society then Congress must remove this barrier to full citizenship. BTW, one of my two sons also served in the Army.

8:15AM PST on Jan 17, 2011

All we're really talking about is formalizing the reality our women find themselves in today. Women have been dying in uniform since the beginning of the United States. In the 20th century most of those who died were restricted to support roles, i.e. Nurse Corps, etc. They wound up just as dead.
In any 'fluid war' there are no back line / safe positions. Since that's about all we fight anymore, suggesting that the women are NOT combat troops is ludicrous. Ask Jesse Lynch.
What we, the civilians on the outside looking in, have to reconcile in our minds is KNOWING that any captured female soldier WILL experience rape.
The girls are told this in no uncertain terms during their boot camp training. Unfortunately, they are also told that the military will not, can not legally, do anything to terminate a pregnancy arising from that rape.
That would be government funding of abortion and we all know that's just WRONG!
As with DADT, IF we are going to change the 'rules' to allow this, we need to update the legal policies regarding veterans issues and post combat medical recovery.
Thankfully, in the case of Private Lynch, her doctors in Germany 'broke the rules' and made sure Jesse didn't come home pregnant.
By law, those same doctors and nurses COULD have faced Court Martial and Dishonorable Discharge for their actions.

4:57AM PST on Jan 17, 2011

Thanks for the info.

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