Friday, January 25, 2013

Military Women in Combat


The United States Military has lifted restrictions for women in combat positions:

USA Today
The new order, signed Thursday by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, will open as many as 237,000 new jobs to women. Women comprise about 14% of the 1.4 million active military personnel.

Military officials who briefed reporters on background said occupations such as infantry and artillery have exacting physical requirements and appropriate standards will be maintained. The officials declined to be named because they are not authorized to speak publicly.

The military has different physical standards based on age and sex for the Army and Marines. In either service, the standards for both sexes would be the same for those trying to get into the infantry and other combat arms specialties.

"The department's goal in rescinding the rule is to ensure that the mission is met with the best qualified and most capable people, regardless of gender," Panetta said.

I struggled with this title for this post because "Military Women Now Permitted in Combat" or "Military Women Finally Allowed in Combat" would mislead the reader into thinking that these women have led sheltered lives up till now. Women have always been in the thick of the battle as medics, pilots, technicians, military policewomen - you name it. And when battle lines change in distant lands, bombs and firefights are their reality, as well as their male counterparts. So it's not accurate to say "Now, Suddenly, Women are in Combat" as if something is new and unusual.

The only "new" feature is that women will now receive combat pay equal to men, and they will be considered for promotions and honors based on their very real combat experience.

Goldie Taylor, MSNBC pundit who served in the military, explained it well on last night's Ed Show:
You know, women have been serving in our armed forces and in
military operations around the world for decades. The fact is we`re doing
the job. We`re helicopter pilots. We`re Marine Corps, you know, military
police officers. We`re military intelligence officers.

We just don`t get formally recognized for it. And we certainly don`t
get paid for it. There`s a differential pay for someone who is formally
recognized as being a part of infantry. That is a boost in pay and
benefits that women don`t have access to. Certainly, if you serve on the
front line, you have greater access to leadership positions. That
opportunity is cut off for women who, again, not formally recognized.

I don`t know how much recognition you need than to look at someone
like Tammy Duckworth who comes home missing her legs, or someone like a
Shoshana Johnson, who was a POW, or someone like a Jessica Lynch, who was shot in the heels of her feet. So I don`t know how much more formal
recognition you need that women are doing the job today.

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SCHULTZ: Women have to volunteer for combat duty and face the same
physical standards that men do. Is that an issue or not an issue at all?

TAYLOR: You know, I went through boot camp back in 1987. My former
husband attempted to go through boot camp that very same year. He did not
graduate from boot camp and was returned home not a Marine. I, on the
other hand, did complete boot camp and did rise to the challenge. I do
believe that the standards for infantry should be high. They should not be

But if a woman can meet the physical and mental challenges of serving
on the front line, then she darn well ought to be able to serve on the
front line, be recognized, be promoted, and be paid for it.

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