Call of Duty: Women in Combat

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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?

Harassment a thing of the past?
Warning of possible harassment is accepting and turning a blind eye to hate.

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.

Torture is not reserved for third world countries
Abu Ghraib: Torture is not reserved for third world countries

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.

If we shield a burning flame from the threat of harsh wind without giving it a chance, we will eventually suffocate it within our best intentions

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.

7 thoughts on “Call of Duty: Women in Combat

  1. You bring up some good points in this post, but I do take issue with the idea of a Court Marshall as a deterrent to pregnancy. While sexual assaults against women in the military remain staggeringly high (1/3), the majority of these go unreported or not acted on. I feel as though punishing pregnancy with a potential loss of career, fine, or jail time only perpetuates this misogynistic culture.

    Furthermore, if women are punished for getting pregnant, should men not also be punished if they get someone pregnant while on duty? After all, the stress of the impending child could influence their actions, decisions, and emotional being as well.


    1. I didn’t know about the level of sexual assault, this is news to me, could you supplement further information because I never encountered anything that addressed sexual assault (not surprisingly). You do bring up a good point but about the perpetuation, but I’m not sure exactly would be a better alternative. If you say that you are ready or willing to be ready for combat through various contracts and enlistment, only to break it, the punishment is a legal proceeding that likely in a high stakes environment like the military, will result in jail or a court martial, regardless of how you incurred the proceeding.
      I do strongly agree with your second comment, a man should be equally proceeded if he contributes to a pregnancy as I tried to express through my last sentence in the pregnancy paragraph but didn’t go into detail. Equality of opportunity should be met with equality in standards in this situation.


      1. I found some good links about sexual assault in the armed forces:


        The second article has some statistical links as well.

        I definitely understand that military service is a high stakes environment; however, I worry about the potential for abuse. Rape is already swept under the rug within the armed forces. What happens when a women becomes pregnant from this rape? Now she is subject to Court Marshall (and military law/judgement). As previously mentioned, the whole system has too much of a patriarchal/misogynistic slant to expect a fair result.

        I was also saying that a man would have to be subject to Court Marshall if he gets any woman pregnant during active duty–not just those they are serving with. That would be the only fair way to go about implementing this system.

        I do appreciate your post. It goes to show just how complicated this issue will be moving forward.


        1. Oh my God. That second link was eyeopening to say the least, I had no idea. Thank you for showing me them, they are very important to the conversation and issue at hand.

          When I first talked about pregnancy, I was strictly speaking about pregnancy through consensual sex. The fact of the matter is I didn’t know about the high level of sexual assault occurring and unfortunately didn’t consider it in my original post. Realizing the issue that it is, I understand now your concern and I agree with you, I do not think that pregnancy through rape should be approached with court proceedings or other consequences. Quite the contrary, the woman should be helped. But even then as you and the article mentioned, many rapes go unreported, so really, will we add insult to injury by implementing such rules to women who accept the pregnancy without blowing the whistle?
          I also now understand what you mean by including men. I have to say this is an increasingly more complicated issue than I first imagined.


          1. For sure. As I said before, I think your article is great because it brings up these points. While it won’t be an easy road, we have to start somewhere.


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