A few weeks ago, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta publically announced that women are now be allowed on the front lines. Many women’s rights groups and civil liberties’ groups rejoiced. After “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed it seems as though, logically, this is the next step toward an equal opportunity military. But it is really the best route for our military, our nation, to take?
The chatter on social media sites and news articles seems to show that the line is divided, deeply, on this issue. Many people believe that if women are held to the same physical standards as men then they should be allowed to into combat. To be honest, most women are not as strong as their male counterparts- that is why they have different physical fitness test standards for males and females. I’m sure that there are a select group of women that can meet the same physical standards as their male counterparts, but I believe that number is extremely low.
On the other side of the argument, some believe that allowing women into combat will increase the likelihood of sexual assault between service members. Whether or not women are in combat zone should not matter- the issue at hand concerning sexual assault in the military are the service members committing the crime.
My husband is a Marine. Every Marine, male or female, is a rifleman first. I have no doubt in my mind that these women can hold their own. The training within infantry units and special forces units goes well beyond basic rifle and pistol skills. It goes beyond MCMAP and SERE. But again, I’m sure there are a select group of women who are able to complete the required training.
So if it’s not the physical, mental, and training capacity of combat that are the issues, then what is it?
As a mother, my biggest concern is that one day my daughter may be called by this country to serve under the draft. Even though we have had an all-volunteer military since 1973, all males must still register with the Selective Service when they turn eighteen. Currently, women are excluded from the Selective Service and they have been since 1981 when a law was passed that stated that since women were not allowed in combat forces, they did not have to register for Selective Service. Now that women are allowed on the front lines that law no longer stands.
In an article on FoxNews.com (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/01/24/decision-to-allow-women-in-combat-roles-raises-questions-about-draft/)), Tommy Sears, the executive director for The Center for Military readiness explains that once you lift the ban on women in combat forces, you are essentially ordering all women to fight. U.S. law on the Military Selective Service Acts states that if any changes are made regarding women in combat forces the Pentagon must give detailed legal analysis as to why it is still constitutional to exempt women from registering with the draft. Unfortunately, many legal analysts state that there is no legal justification as to why women shouldn’t be required to register for the Selective Service if women are allowed in combat forces (insert link: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2013/0123/Women-in-combat-Will-they-have-to-register-for-the-draft).
To me, this changes all aspects of women being allowed into combat. It is my belief that most women could not handle the aspects of direct fire nor should they be forced to register for the draft. As a society, we have categorized women into being the protected gender. Why, all of a sudden, is that bad thing? Women have different innate abilities that men do not possess and we can’t deny those things- over time the men have done the protecting and the fighting, and the women have done the caring and nurturing. It is our definable nature. If a draft is enacted and these mothers, wives, and daughters have to leave behind their families, how do you think it will make the men in their lives feel that they are not able to protect them as they have been built and taught by society to do? What will the men serving next to them do and how will that effect their combat readiness?
Is this to say that no woman is capable of fighting? No. There is a small group of women who will be able to actually complete the necessary physical, mental, and training requirements in order to be placed on the front lines. But why subject the rest of the female population to something they are not physically and mentally prepared to undertake simply because of that small group of women?
All in all, I don’t think that blindly letting women into combat is a good idea. I believe that well-thought our policies and procedures, to protect both the men and women, need to be established first. I believe that if they cannot find a way to exclude women from the Selective Service, then no women should be allowed into combat forces. I also don’t think these decisions should be made by members of Congress who sit in their cushy offices but by our service members instead. Afterall, they are the ones who will be affected by this change and they know best what this change will entail.
I realize that my opinion is the opposite of most people in this country. I know some of you will become angry with reading this article. But I also believe in the well-being of the citizens of this nation. To those women who wish to be a part of infantry units and who are brave enough to face combat head-on, I admire you. You are stronger than me. Perhaps one day women will stand beside men in direct fire and no one will think twice. But I don’t think flipping the switch is the right way to approach it, and I hope that it’s not my recently-drafted daughter standing next to them.