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Women in Combat?

Women In Combat (Flickr Photo by Fort Wainwright Public Affairs Office)

This week the Pentagon took up the topic of women serving in combat areas performing many functions traditionally filled by men. The armed services will have till January of 2016 to assess the situation and decide what functions women will or will not perform on the battlefield.

Combat roles have changed over the years as the foot soldier of WWII, Korea and Vietnam are giving way to a new high tech fighting force. The headline grabbing Special Forces, Navy SEALS and Delta Force are some of the opportunities that might open up to women in the next few years. Or, the decision might be made to keep these very physically elite groups men only.

The Pros and Cons of Women in the Military

One question that always rears it’s ugly head when this topic arises is the physical demands of a combat soldier. You have a helmet, rifle and ammunition, bulletproof flack jacket, boots, and a utility belt with water, all weighing in at about 30-40 pounds. In most quarters, strength and stamina would be the two major considerations for both safety and efficiency in combat roles for women.

You don’t have to go much further than the Olympic Games to witness the strength and endurance of women in running, weight lifting, gymnastics and other sports that require many hours of strength building and hard work. It’s not a total slam-dunk that women can’t serve effectively in combat roles. The main question is — where could they be used most efficiently?

Another bone of contention would be the numbers of women lost in combat. We as a society are conditioned to men being killed in battle. We honor their service and grieve along with their families. American’s would surely have a hard time with flag draped coffins containing our mothers and daughters being unloaded from war zone transports. Women’s lib might want to revise their manuals.

Some Final Thoughts

The main question I would have is why now? We are winding down our military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and it will be awhile before Congress or the President put boots on any foreign soil. So why women — and why now? In my opinion, it would take another 9/11, or worse, before Congress would approve any major military actions in the near future.

A woman in combat has been a discussion of soldiers since the first war was ever fought. What about living quarters? Medical issues? Fraternization? Pregnancy? It’s natural for soldiers in combat to watch each other’s backs. Would this thinking be more prevalent when women are member of the unit? Would soldiers be over protective?

We did have women on our base when I was serving in Vietnam in the mid 1960’s. There were Red Cross volunteers and office personnel that did typing and filing work but no combat of any kind.

I do believe there is a definite place for women in the military. And I’m not just talking about menial jobs. They have every right to the benefits of serving in the military as well. Education, home ownership from the G.I. Bill should be available to everyone. I also feel that lowering the bar on requirements to serve in the military to accommodate women would be a bad idea. What’s the motto of the US Army? “If you’re good enough to get in.” It will be interesting to see what the powers that be decide on women in the military.

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