In the weeks following the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s decision to lift a near 20 year ban prohibiting women from serving in combat, a wide gap has formed between those for and against this this equal opportunity measure. While many arguments have been brought up and counter argued from both positions, I’d like to highlight some of the prominent ones that continue to reoccur in the discussion.
The main points of contention stem from both logistical and biological factors. First, there’s the matter of tradition. These infantry units and special operations commandos like Navy Seals, have historically consisted of men alone, and this testosterone filled culture is at risk by including women into the mix. Many have warned of harassment and resentment to result, but is that any woman’s fault or a result of a twisted sense of tradition? Have we all but forgotten that for many military promotions and honors combat is necessary, and restricting such opportunities is sexist?
In today’s age of our volunteer military, we should encourage and applaud any person who volunteers and trains to participate in any level of service. If the dedication, qualifications and commitment are there, by all means morale should follow with an effective team of the most qualified, regardless of gender. If harassment and resentment occur, it’s a result of bitterness and hate echoing back to the Civil Rights Movement. Loyalty should stem from the steadfast commitment of our country’s well being and safety, not to age-old unchallenged customs.
Of the biological arguments, some people wonder if pregnancy will be an issue. A pregnant servicewoman could hamper the deployability of her troop as a direct result of her inability to serve. Under-staffing her team could lead to decreased unit morale and cohesion. But, a simple solution could be to enact a law to court martial if a pregnancy occurs. This could and would be a huge deterrent as a court martial could result in a jail sentence, loss and even repayment of military bonuses, loss of medical insurance (a lifetime benefit otherwise), federal felony conviction, and being labeled as a second class citizen unable to vote, possess firearms, hold government jobs and more. In effect, a court martial would ruin your life and can be held over any service woman or man who contributes to a pregnancy.
One point I personally had not considered was the possibility for abuse by the enemy. While torture is not uncommon for prisoners of war, the risk is significantly higher for women in misogynistic societies. I’m sorry to say though, that there are sadistic people everywhere and our country is not immune. We are guilty of war crimes as well; one old but no less important example is the egregious treatment of prisoners committed at Abu Ghraib. It should be noted though, no soldier on the front-lines considered the risks without also justifying the rewards of their success. America is a free country and it is so because of our brave servicemen and servicewomen, and women should be equally as free as men to serve if they so wish to.
As for what seems to be the most vocal argument against inducting women into combat, physical ability seems to be the most misunderstood. As it stands, the concern is a woman’s physical ability to lift and carry a full grown man. While this is a genuine concern, let’s all be realistic and understand not every woman is going to make the cut. There are standards set for a reason just like anything else in the world, to weed out only those capable. But, if an applicant is qualified for a position, one’s gender is arbitrary.
Now, being that I am from a military family I can shed some personal light on the situation. Not only is my dad a retired Lt. Col. from the Army after 20 years of service, but I have one uncle retired from the army as well, another who’s active duty in the Air Force, and a grandpa who served in Vietnam as a Marine. Needless to say, the sense of duty, honor and fellowship are ingrained into my person. I know firsthand the horrors that can occur due to wartime efforts. I know of the heartbreak and seen the damage of left behind for broken families to pick up. However, I have also seen the pride of the heroes who return home. I have felt their worldly respect for others and shared their ever strong love for our country we call home. To deny a capable soldier the ultimate honor in serving our country in the most courageous and honorable way is a disservice to them and our country.