ONTD Political

Women in combat: US military officially lifts ban on female soldiers

10:38 am - 01/25/2013

The US military officially lifted a ban on female soldiers serving in combat roles on Thursday and said that anyone qualified should get a chance to fight on the front lines of war regardless of their sex.

At a press conference in the Pentagon Defence Secretary Leon Panettaand General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that women had already proved themselves in action on America's battlefields and the move was simply a way of catching up with reality.

"Everyone is entitled to a chance," said Panetta, who is retiring form his post this year. At the moment women make up about 14% of the military's 1.4 million active members and more than 280,000 of them have done tours of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan or overseas bases where they helped support the US war effort in those countries. Indeed, some 152 women have been killed in the conflicts.

Panetta said the change was vital for the military's future success. "One of my priorities as secretary of defense has been to remove as many barriers as possible for talented and qualified people to be able to serve this country in uniform," Panetta said. "Women are already contributing in unprecedented ways to the mission ... they have become an integral part of our ability to perform our mission."

The move comes at the end of a long process of opening up the army to women and minorities and on the heels of allowing gay Americans to serve openly in their units. It follows a change last February that opened some 14,500 combat-related jobs to women and paved the way for a further examination of how other barriers could be brought down.

President Barack Obama issued a statement enthusiastically welcoming the decision. "Today every American can be proud that our military will grown even stronger, with our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters playing a greater role in protecting this country we love," he said.

However, the suggestion to do away with the bar on women in direct ground combat came from the top army commanders themselves, something that Panetta acknowledged had been crucial to its success. "They've got to support it. They've got to back it," he said.

The move could now open up some 230,000 new roles to women as long as they meet the exacting requirements for any post. Elsewhere around the world women are already allowed to serve in combat roles in countries like Germany, Australia and Canada. They are not allowed to do so in Britain's armed forces.

Pressure to allow women to serve in combat positions in America has been growing over recent years. In November 2012, four female soldiers, with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, announced that they were suing the Department of Defense over its restrictions on women serving in front line warfare.

The ACLU argued that women had effectively been engaged on the combat roles in Iraq and Afghanistan given the nature of those two wars and the changing notion of the 'front line'.

It also comes as the army faces inquiries into sexual assault within its ranks. On Wednesday the House Armed Services Committee held a public hearing into sexual assault in the military, prompted by outrage over a sex-with-recruits scandal at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

Nearly 60 current and former personnel, including two men, came forward with what the Air Force considered credible reports that they were sexually abused by their drill sergeants at the base.

Dempsey said that opening up the army to women on an entirely equal basis would actually improve the army's culture and lessen such incidents. He said that in his own career he had noticed an all round improvement in culture, discipline and physical prowess since women had first been allowed to join.

"We have had this ongoing issue with sexual harassment, sexual assault. I believe it is because we've had separate classes of military personnel at some level," he said and added: "I have to believe the more we can treat people equally, the more likely they are treat each other equally."

The move has been welcomed by many think tanks and academic experts. "The Department of Defense is recognizing women's contributions to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and acknowledging that times have changed, both in terms of the ways wars are fought and in terms of attitudes about appropriate roles for women in the forces," wrote Professor Megan MacKenzie in the respected news periodical Foreign Affairs.

The University of Sydney expert added: "The next battles for female soldiers will be ensuring that this policy is implemented effectively, stamping out any remaining sexist attitudes, and fighting to ensure that the military addresses its outstanding sexual violence problem."


U.S. Military Lauded For Creating Gender-Neutral Killing Field

WASHINGTON—Female veterans and feminist activist groups are commending the Pentagon this week following a watershed policy change that will lift the ban on women in combat roles, rendering the battlefield an equal-opportunity death zone. “The U.S. Armed Forces have been gender-neutral in their victims for years, and now they’re finally leveling the killing field for female combatants as well,” said Nadine Hynes, a retired Marine Corps Lance Corporal who was unable to add to the carnage of Iraq’s blood-soaked, limb-strewn slaughterscapes due to the Pentagon’s 1994 rule barring women from infantry and artillery roles. “Now, women will have the same opportunity to accidentally gun down innocent civilians or be ripped apart by insurgent rocket fire as men.” At press time, servicewomen were celebrating the likelihood of additional policy gains that would include the right to return from service equally haunted by their ordeals, and the right to face just as many hurdles to proper mental health care as their fellow servicemen.

Source has a better take on the story, if you ask me. The line in the first article nailed it for me - "Every American can be proud that our military can grow even stronger." I'm not.

hinoema 25th-Jan-2013 01:14 pm (UTC)
Although I don't like the necessity of a military, damn straight if there are opportunities to be had, they should be equally open to all. Now maybe women can actually manage some decent promotions that seem to always require combat experience.

If they can just control the rape problem so these fine soldiers don't have to shoot their troop mates...
mutive 25th-Jan-2013 01:44 pm (UTC)
From what I can remember, the main reason they did this is that the line between "combat" and "not combat" is growing pretty faint. How different is it to drive a convoy through a combat zone (that is being shot at) than it is to actually fight? Not much. But not being "in combat" means you can't get promoted as quickly. (Someone who knows more than I, please correct me if I'm wrong.)

So I'm in favor of this, as it leads to easier advancement through the military for women who are *already* placed in combat zones and in significant danger. It's not a radical change from the status quo - it's just acknowledging it and recognizing it appropriately.
hermionemalfoy 25th-Jan-2013 01:52 pm (UTC)
I am 100% in favor of this decision. This is/has been explicit gender/sex discrimination. For example, women with linguistic expertise are being passed over for intelligence jobs, which, if handled by the best qualified candidates, could prevent fatal mistakes. Even if you don't support the military, and hate the idea of women in combat (which, from my understanding, they essentially already ARE, just without appropriate credit or compensation), having better intelligence is always better. Unless you WANT the US to unknowingly kill innocent civilians...?

Edited at 2013-01-25 02:20 pm (UTC)
redstar826 25th-Jan-2013 02:01 pm (UTC)
Meh, we had the same arguments after DADT ended. I think it is possible to both not approve of US foreign policy while at the same time acknowledging that the military is not going away any time soon and that allowing discrimination to continue is pretty shitty.
akashasheiress 25th-Jan-2013 04:49 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen anyone who's critical of the military argue that the ban should be kept in place. Just reminding us that we shouldn't let ourselves be fooled into thinking that this changes the essential nature of the US military.
nikoel 25th-Jan-2013 02:46 pm (UTC)
Gah, I've got people handwringing about menstruation and going without a shower on my FB. From other women, no less. I told them all that it's not up to them and to worry about getting military rapists convicted and making abortion available to the military women who need it. Dammit, that pissed me off!
carmy_w 25th-Jan-2013 03:19 pm (UTC)
Props to you for getting them back on track to the...well, I was going to say real problems, but I guess I mean more critical problems.
wikilobbying 25th-Jan-2013 03:36 pm (UTC)
having a vile foreign policy should not mean upholding bans/separations like this. the so-called ban on women soldiers in combat hasn't prevented women from being put in combat zones. it hasn't prevented them from putting their physical and mental health at risk. it hasn't prevented them from putting their lives and other people's lives at risk. lifting the ban is more like a formal ways of the military claiming it's going to stop being condescending toward their servicewomen about their work and stop throwing them under the bus and stop barring them from the one part of the combat zone that's maintained the "boys only" sign.

foreign policy is foreign policy, we can still acknowledge how fucked up it is and protest it and do our damnedest to work on it without pretending that servicewomen didn't experience ptsd, injuries and amputations, death, and combat in the u.s. military before yesterday.
alexvdl 25th-Jan-2013 07:07 pm (UTC)
natyanayaki 26th-Jan-2013 03:13 am (UTC)
Uh huh.

(I just realized that could seem sarcastic, I didn't mean it sarcastically at all. I just agree with this post completely!)

Edited at 2013-01-26 03:18 am (UTC)
ljtaylor 25th-Jan-2013 04:50 pm (UTC)
even better...is it from the comic book adaptation?
xo_bumblebee 25th-Jan-2013 06:29 pm (UTC)
OK, so my husband is in the Army, and I have to say I disagree with this as a woman, just based on the military culture I have seen.

1) If an infantry unit were to be coed, then the male soldiers are going to be more prone to save fallen female comrades over fellow male ones. That is just male nature.

2) Infantry units tend to be posted in remote areas instead of huge FOB's. The infantrymen I know through my husband have been on deployments where they jumped into a location from a plane or helicopter and then had to build from scratch their own shelters, latrines, and couldn't shower for months on end. People were assigned to burn human waste if there were no facilities. A male can go on foot patrol and stop to pee anywhere, but a female would have to remove quite a bit of gear (to include flak jackets that protect from bullets and shrapnel) in order to pee. Just hygiene and privacy issues alone abound for both sexes if it becomes coed.

Do I think women are capable of being classified into the infantry MOS? Yes. Women can do the job just as well as men can. Do I think it's a good idea? No. They should probably start off by perhaps creating female only units (kinda like the Female Engagement Teams they already have but who instead serve in an infantry capacity rather than a political one), and go from there.
alketaire 25th-Jan-2013 07:08 pm (UTC)
So with 1... I'm sure you're probably half-asleep again, but you seem to be implying that it's wrong for male soldiers to place value on a female comrade's life. Also that this is due to "male nature" rather than the "military culture" I thought you were talking about. Also that the same military culture that tends to cover up rape will incline soldiers to give extra shits about women combatants mid-firefight.

And 2. Have you ever peed in the bush? Sure, there's combat gear with the belts and armor and equipment galore, but the most you're probably going to uncover is exactly what the guys will uncover when they poop on patrol. I'm not military myself, so please correct me if I'm wrong and women combatants must wear something akin to one-piece swimsuits under their uniforms.

Even so, this might be irrelevant if the military uses this opportunity to perfect those little crotch-funnels that let women pee standing up.

(edit for consistent grammar)

Edited at 2013-01-25 07:13 pm (UTC)
nikoel 25th-Jan-2013 07:10 pm (UTC)
If an infantry unit were to be coed, then the male soldiers are going to be more prone to save fallen female comrades over fellow male ones. That is just male nature.

'Sup Rick Santorum

Why don't you quit concern-trolling and let the individual women already in the military decide for themselves. Acting like they don't already know the issues and risks is paternalistic and women simply don't need that bullshit, for any aspect of their lives.

We should be concerned about ADDRESSING these issues with realistic solutions instead of wringing our hands over solvable problems.

Deleted previous comment to repost in correct spot! Sorry!

eta to add back the link!

Edited at 2013-01-25 07:11 pm (UTC)
alexvdl 25th-Jan-2013 07:14 pm (UTC)
1) Then those soldiers are shitty soldiers. Soldiers are trained in Combat Lifesaving (CLS). They are trained to know how to triage. They are trained not to leave anyone behind. To say that they are going to ignore wounded men, just to treat wounded females because it's male nature, is bullshit.

2) You'd be surprised at the ingenuity of females in combat. If you're ever in a MATV and see a big mouth gatorade bottle and a funnel nearby, I'd leave it alone. To reiterate, all of those things that your husband has done? Females have done them too. This isn't changing anything but the names and labels.

While at NTC, our unit was stuck on a godforsaken COP. We had 6 porta potties and a water buffalo for our hygiene requirements. We had an attached MP platoon. With females. They managed just as well as the males for the 17 days we were out there. Where'd they sleep? In the same GIANT ASS TENT that the entire rest of Apache Troop slept in. 120 people in a tent the size of a gymnasium. They used ponchos and woobies to wall off a changing area. If they wanted a shower they had the ability to stick their head under the water buffalo, too. Of course, most of the time it was below freezing...

Baby wipes are beautiful, beautiful things when out on patrol or in situations where you don't have regular access to a shower.

There is NO need for female only units.

Edited at 2013-01-25 07:16 pm (UTC)
wikilobbying 25th-Jan-2013 07:40 pm (UTC)
so how half-asleep were you drafting this bullshit?

i mean your top arguments are "male nature" making some weird form of chivalry irresistible in the infantry and apparently women won't/shouldn't be able to cope with a lack of hygiene and privacy on the front lines alongside the guys? if the women in the service who will be going into this would prefer women only units, that's one thing, but let them decide that instead of us suggesting it out of concern trolling.
girly123 25th-Jan-2013 07:53 pm (UTC)
Having known women who were in the military and still had to run out and shoot people/be shot anyway, I fail to see how any of this matters. Women were in combat before this; it's only a statement to make it official.
umi_mikazuki 25th-Jan-2013 09:15 pm (UTC)
Oh, these old tired arguments again.
squeeful 25th-Jan-2013 10:29 pm (UTC)
Please. I am a woman with female-bodied genitals. I can and have peed standing up with my fly down. All it takes it practice.

As for #1...congrats! You've just argued that men are idiots and horrible soldiers. If men are so blindly led by their "male nature", this is clearly a good reason to make armies women-only so that men can stay on the homefront to protect their precious fee-fees.
pimmie 26th-Jan-2013 12:15 am (UTC)
I'm also a military spouse. I'm offended that you used that qualifier to try to bring some sort of messed up expertise on the subject.

1) This is simply ridiculous and untrue. There's not much else to it. By using this as a point of opposition to women serving in combat you are essentially saying that because the culture is messed up, women shouldn't be given the same opportunities because the poor menz can't help themselves with their actions. That attitude is precisely what is wrong with military culture. And it's changing. The good old boys club is being taken down bit by bit.

2) This is also just ridiculous and untrue. The exact scenario you outlined does happen. It's been happening. Women have dealt with this for years. With ease. Sometimes better than the men. It's misogynistic because it assumes all women are weak and unable to perform as men do to change, stress, and shitty living conditions. Guess what, they can. My husband worked in a remote area with a small group. One of those members was a woman (there may have been more than one, I'm unsure) and he has stated that she was one of the best members of his team. They lived and worked in the exact conditions you described and guess what, she excelled. None of the men around her had an issue with her. Nothing about her inherent "femaleness" made her unable to work to task or handle the conditions around her. None of the men had any issues controlling himself around a *gasp* woman.

Please don't qualify your statements as though you know best. You don't speak for spouses and people like you are the exact reason that I choose to live an hour from post and refuse to attend functions or get involved in FRG stuff. I can't handle the hand-wringing or the clinging to old ways that a lot of spouses seem to love. Even when their servicemember is quite the opposite.

On a side note, I'm impressed and even surprised at the reaction to this and the repeal of DADT. I can't and won't speak for the entire Army, but within my circles and the various units my husband has been in, it's pretty much a shrug and "cool". Then they all go on about their day.

lainiest 26th-Jan-2013 12:22 am (UTC)
This came up in one of my classes yesterday, though unfortunately the teacher was only taking opinions from students who were former-military.

What I learned is that this is A TERRIBLE IDEA!!! because:

1. Women who meet the same physical requirements men do will still magically not be strong enough to perform the physical tasks required because they are women
2. It will be a safety issue because the men will be distracted by the boobs and it's the womens' fault that they are distracting the men because they are women
3. It will be a sanitation issue because the women will be bleeding all over the place because they are women
3a. You know, like how whenever you go to a store like Wal Mart you can't go ten feet without falling into a pool of blood because lol periods

Anyway yeah after that 'discussion' I found myself hating living in the boonies even more, somehow. :|
windy_lea 26th-Jan-2013 12:59 am (UTC)
LOL Jayzus, most men and their complete and utter terror of menstruation. Improvement in special effects tech is allowing action and horror movies to become more and more graphically gory, and audiences love it. Mention in passing that your cramps suck or that you need to make a tampon run and people act like you just gave a graphic and detailed description of everything going on down there. It's like a horror movie all its own ~It Came On a Monthly Basis~

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