In Nov. 2004, five women were attached to a Marine Corps unit in Ramadi, Iraq and were considered the first to be on equal footing as men in combat. In Feb. 2012, the Pentagon lifted a ban that allowed women to slide into 14,500 military positions in tanks, infantry, and commando units that had previously been out of their reach.
On Jan. 18 Leon Panetta lifted the ban preventing women from serving in combat positions such as infantry, armor, artillery, and combat units below the brigade level. What this new bill does is allow for upward mobility in military ranks by women where originally there had been none.
Lifting the bad paralleled a lot of the sentiments that led President Obama to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, allowing gay soldiers to serve openly in the military. Both bills, while coming into legislation at the end of a war overlooked the fact that they have been serving in combat for years. Medics, military postal workers, military intelligence troops, and supply personnel were all positions that brought women close to the conflict.
Women have been an integral part of humanitarian aid and worked in combat as military police and medics. Plenty of women have been an integral part of warfare, and now they have the ability to take combat jobs that may be more physically draining but pay better.
Former arguments to the contrary have been that women would upset unit cohesion or be a distraction to the men they are fighting with, bringing down the overall quality of the troops, and slow the unit down. There is apparently a natural chivalry that most men in the military have been conditioned into, meaning that they are more likely to try and protect their female unit mate if they are under fire than a normal male counterpart. Units will only come back to the base every 22 days with only an hour to shower and get refreshments.
Lonnie Richards, a Marine and junior at the university offered some insight. “My initial reaction was frustration because it’s become a debate of either or and not a debate of the middle ground. The feminist side sees it as a civil right issue as if sexism is the only reason they’re not allowed. The other side is chauvinistic men who [believe] all women are too weak to do this job.”
The military and advocates of the bill expect to see women in combat by May 15th. Richards had to go through three months of boot camp, two weeks of intensive school of infantry, and then Military occupation school which could be anywhere from two weeks to a year depending on the job they were assigned. Both sides express an understanding that they need to keep the standards of the military.
Shane Kirk, a junior and Treasurer of the Student Veterans of America, states “I served on board fast attack nuclear submarines, where women were not allowed to serve at all. A few years ago the Navy began a prototype program allowing female officers to serve on board certain types of submarines, but not the fast attack type that I was on. Women were not authorized to enlist or serve in the submarine force due to the sanitary and living restrictions placed on service members when living in shared tight quarters.”
Integration of women into higher ranks in the military is not a new concept; it has been a slow and gradual change over the past ten years.