Opinion: Women allowed in open combat a step towards the future
BY NAPUA KALANI –
In the history of the U.S. Armed Forces, women were not allowed to serve in front line military duties. According to USA Today, in 1994, a combat exclusion policy was officially put into place, banning women from ground combat units in the battalion level, which consists of 800 soldiers each, confining them to larger brigades. The reasoning behind this policy was because front line positions were too dangerous for women. However, the Pentagon is working to change this. Allowing women to serve in smaller battalions and combat units, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, earlier this month, announced the Pentagon would take this policy change to Congress with it going to effect at the end of January.
The end of this discriminatory ban reflects the direction this country is fighting towards. Happening after the recent repeal on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, this ban lift follows in the former’s footsteps, contributing to a more socially equal and just America.
This change in military rule comes after America being at war for over a decade, with women making up 15% of the armed forces. Women have already been unofficially serving at military front lines, and this change was a long time coming. Women have unofficially manned combat front lines because unlike older military ages, there is no actual front line and no way to limit fighting contact against any militia forces. The new change will mostly affect the Army and the Marines, excluding the Navy SEAL and Army Delta Forces. There is a difference between the musculature of males and females, and certain tasks in some military sectors are very physically demanding. But why do the armed forces choose to hold women back like they have? It’s very doubtful that no women in America are able to meet the physical requirements of special ops forces. Suppressing women’s rights to combat and infantry positions is an insult to the female population, and is reminiscent of segregation between Whites and African Americans before the civil rights movement.
For whatever political reason anyone believes America engaged in this war, and whether or not anyone personally supports it, the reality is that we are still in it. Allowing women to join men at the front lines supplements the lack of combat soldiers in the past. In the contemporary United States, gender restrictions in combat duties prove to be inadequate and irrelevant. The time of obsoleteness in gender specific roles in the military is not needed now, just as it wasn’t needed in the past.
The main concern with allowing women in combat duties is that they won’t be able to match the physical qualifications that so many men already can. And even though there are women in America who have the capability to keep up with their male peers, this military modification won’t immediately go into effect like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. It will be a work in progress, giving the military time to work out the kinks in regulations and qualifications that are sufficient for both men and women. According to CNN News, the Department of Defense has until January 2016 to modify expectations.
Lifting the ban in front line positions also gives women a better chance at rising to top ranks in the military, being able to garner combat experience their male counterparts have always had.
Even though the military’s focus should be on ending all wars the U.S. is involved in, the lift of this gender discriminating ban shows how America is evolving and with it happening so close to Martin Luther King Jr. day, it’s another step towards equality that the reverend would be proud of.