Can it be done right?
Can this latest move by the Department of Defense to increase the representation and advancement of women in the military take place without sacrificing combat readiness?
A new directive will open thousands of front-line positions to women, some maybe as soon as this year. It’s being greeted with valiant applause by women saying they’ve been in combat many times. The directive will make it official on the pay scale and allow further room for advancement.
Women have been in combat since day one. We have not received recognition for that military service. The reason…women are attached to combat brigades or to a team. It’s not the same as being part of a team; we need that in order to get recognition on a higher level. If they’re killed, they’re in harm’s way already. U.S. Navy Gulf War veteran Yvonne McJetters of Charlotte, NC.
McJetters is alluding to the fact that over 800 women have been wounded and over 130 killed during ten years of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
She is a Veteran Peer Support Specialist, an ordained minister and a strong advocate for female veterans, while operating a nonprofit called Yvonne’s Place. “They left as nurturers; they’re coming home as warriors,” she says. ” They should be given the opportunity to prove themselves.”
In the Army and Marine Corps, women attached to units have searched Iraqi females for weapons, participated in patrols with foot soldiers, convoy escort missions coming under fire and female engagement teams. The Air Force has had females flying over combat zones for a long time, now.
Vietnam veteran Antonio Bojito of Puerto Rico participated in intense combat on the front lines. He supports the decision for women to be involved in combat roles:
There are many women experiences during past wars. Since the Civil War, they have demonstrated they are capable to perform the role of soldiers. Women have served hand-to-hand with men. During the Vietnam War, many women served as nurses. Even though they did not participate directly in combat, they participated during the overruns of some perimeters by the enemy.
What Are The Physical Requirements For Ground Combat?
Through the expanding role of women in the military (especially the Army), there has been little effort at establishing physical fitness standards for job performance specialties:
- 1976 — “Job Opportunities for Women in the Military” report recommended that each service develop physical standards for its jobs. Not implemented.
- 1982 — “Women in the Army Policy Review” recommended implementing a test that would match physical demands to jobs. The study found that many women lacked the physical strength to perform the required work. Not implemented.
- 1992 — A Presidential Commission investigates job assignment policies to women in the Armed Forces and votes to adopt physical standards for job specialties. Not implemented.
- 1994 — Congress lifted a statutory exclusion of women from combat vessels. The bill included a provision to establish performance standards for military occupational specialties. Not implemented.
In 1994, nearly 80,000 additional positions opened to women in the military without establishing physical performance standards for job specialties.
In 2011, the Secretary of Defense was ordered to determine if changes in law, policies and regulations were required to admit more women into the Armed Forces.
In February of 2012, the DOD announced it would pursue gender-neutral standards for occupation specialties closed to women due to physical requirements, so as to make the playing field equal to both men and women.
Eight months later, the Marine Corps historically accepts two female volunteers into its infantry officer training. Both women drop out, and the Corps says they are looking into establishing gender-neutral physical standards.
January 23, 2009 my truck was hit by an I.E.D. The leg of one of my Marines was trapped underneath the front seat, as he drifted in and out of consciousness, inside the burning truck. It took me and two other guys to dislodge his foot, and get his 250-lb. frame out of the truck. I always refer back to that moment when thinking about women joining the infantry. Would he be alive today if it were three women trying to pull his lifeless, limp body out of the flaming truck? Combat-experienced Marine Corps veteran and combat artist Robert William Bates of Charlotte, NC.
Since the 2012 DOD announcement of pursuing gender-neutral standards so as to open more positions for women and the failing results of the two female Corps members in the infantry officer training course, it would lead to the conclusion that physical standards will be lowered to increase the job opportunities for female service members.
Marine Corps veteran and combat artist Robert Bates did two tours in Afghanistan as an infantryman. He chronicled the battle field during his second tour and completed a third tour in December, strictly as a combat artist. He says most women are not ready for the battle field:
In 2004, while on a company-sized movement to a forward operating base in southern Afghanistan, we had a handful of female Marines attached to us to search the Afghan women. During the nine-hour foot movement, with full combat load and rucksack, the females had to stop several times to adjust their gear. Some even had to pawn stuff off to us to carry to lighten their load. This made the walk even longer.
Bates says standards will have to be lowered to accommodate some of the females joining the ranks. “The question we have to ask ourselves: How will this strengthen the infantry, America’s ‘Tip of the Spear?'”
Physical Readiness And More
Awilda Torres is a 59-year-old Army veteran of the Vietnam War era. She is Puerto Rican born and comes from a family of strong military service. While married to a service member, she was one of the first female soldiers to have children while on active duty. “My personal opinion is if the women can pass the rigorous training some of the combat jobs require, then they should be allowed.” Yet, she says there are other elements to take into consideration:
They would be a minority among a majority of men in combat posts that are seasoned veterans with as much as three to four deployments under their belts. Here is the danger of women being bullied and mistreated. If women are going to go through combat jobs, it should include psychological training in how to deal with possible conflicts with male comrades. The war in Afghanistan has been a crucial determination point for this decision to open combat jobs to women, however, as much as they have emphasized the role of women in this war, it has been limited to engagement teams that go out to remote locations and interact with Afghan women.
She says women could prove to be a distraction and a hazard since the enemy would more than likely target females.
Then, there’s the issue of battle proven, warrior cohesion says Bates:
The infantry, up until now, has been a position fielded only by men. The culture in the infantry is much different than that of any support job in any branch; it’s a way of life. Infantrymen go for weeks and months on end without access to running water or privacy. They sometimes carry gear a third of their weight for extended periods of time while on patrol.
As it stands, senior military officials say the services are developing new physical standards so as recruits can meet the grueling demands of combat occupations.