27 February 2010 Women in combat units
The question is largely resolved. Women fill positions in today’s military that place them into combat situations. Truck drivers, medical specialists, communications specialists, armorers, electronics technicians, and other enlisted troops may find their selves suddenly in the middle of an ambush, a protracted fire-fight, or in the target zone for mortar and artillery strikes. At such time the question becomes academic.
Female officers already serve as staff and command officers for units that wind up actively assuming combat roles. Aviation units already have female pilots, navigators, weapons systems officers, flight surgeons, flight nurses, and others fill duty roles that subject them to risk of combat daily.
It is the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and of the Dept of Defense that women are now vital in carrying out the missions assigned to the U.S. military. All branches of service are dependent upon females to round out the TOE’s. As we have operated with an all volunteer military since the 1970’s, it is unlikely that the U.S. will resort to conscription in order to complete filling manpower needs. There are no indications that the DOD is in favor of resuming the use of conscription or that a period of national service for all citizens at age 18 will be implemented. The brief history we can refer to since the mid 1970s tells us that even though we are engaged in two foreign wars the number of volunteers entering the armed forces still remain too few to carry out assigned missions without female volunteers stepping up to serve.
There are arguments about the physical ability of women to handle the necessities of combat under full pack and armament weight. By implementing height and weight requirements for females along with regulations that require reaching specified fitness levels for male and female troops, those arguments can be essentially disregarded. We know that women medics have performed rescues of wounded soldiers under fire just as well as have men. They’ve essentially proven that they can do the job as well as men. At least, some women can do the job as well as some men. Not all men will be able to perform rescues under fire.
Housing for female troops has been resolved in nearly all cases. They serve aboard ships, just as they serve in foreign and domestic bases. Arrangements for separate sanitary facilities or time-restricted facilities handle most needs. Of particular interest will be the potential assignment of women aboard submarines. I personally don’t see how that will be resolved given the nature of the submarines now in our fleet. But it is possible that the current generation of sailors will find accommodations adequate to allow females to serve submerged.
The question of bravery has already been resolved as has the question of ability to fulfill combat roles that require use of weapons. Women are able to serve as well as men. Not all women will ever be able to meet the most restrictive physical requirements for some duty assignments. Neither can all men or even most men. The choice to request such extreme duty assignments such as SEAL team duty, Marksman/sniper training, and even flight and submarine duty are unlikely to appeal to many women. But if they can qualify, they deserve the chance.
Sex will always be problematic. Humans exist in two genders, sex is enjoyable, and people will find times and places to get together in non-combat and in combat units. The danger of sexual assault, rape, and coerced sex needs to be addressed at all command levels and dealt with honestly, immediately, and in such manner as to discourage any harassment, coercion, or rape. Every woman in our armed forces needs to have ready access to morning after meds. In fact, those should be issued to every female serving in uniform and replaced annually or at need, no questions asked. The theocrats and theocons who object to the use of such medication are not required to use them but have no legal or moral right to prevent anyone else exercising such an option. In many instances, the need for such medication begins with the religious fundamentalists in uniform who object to women and believe that women exist to serve men as breeding stock. They believe, so they say, in strict interpretation of their religious sacred text. Yet they happily accept money for potentially or actually violating a primary tenet of their religion. We’d be far better off with fewer of them in uniform.
To be absolutely fair, no female should be allowed to become pregnant intentionally so as to avoid or end a duty assignment or deployment. Such pregnancies should result in discharge. Since planned deployments are announced far ahead of shipping out, it should be easy and fair to determine which pregnancies are so intended.
Further, there have been and will always be instances of members of our armed forces selling sexual services. Such proven action should result in discharge and such penalty should apply to both genders.
There has always been the objection to women’s service based upon the risk of rape and other torture if captured. Such risk is real and all women deployed to combat zones need to be aware of it. However, the reality of interrogation in some regions of the world places men at equal risk of rape along with other torture. There is no way to prevent such occurrences. War is a brutal and ugly business.
That solves another of the nation’s weighty problems. Now, pizza for dinner.