The Pentagon is attempting to institute new rules that will create a greater equality between men and women serving in the United States military. Basically, it will get them closer to the combat missions they likely signed up for in the first place.
The Pentagon is recommending to Congress that women be allowed to serve closer to the front line. “According to defense officials, the new rules are expected to continue the long-held prohibition that prevents women from serving as infantry, armor and special operations forces. But they will formally allow women to serve in other jobs at the battalion level, which until now had been considered too close to combat,” reports the Associated Press.
Women were technically already on the front line as medics, military police, and intelligence officers but they couldn’t be assigned as an infantryman in a battalion or company going out on patrol. “The changes would have the greatest effect on the Army and Marine Corps, which ban women from more jobs than the Navy and Air Force do — largely because of the infantry positions,” writes the AP. “There long has been opposition to putting women in combat, questioning whether they have the necessary strength and stamina, or whether their presence might hurt unit cohesion. There also have been suggestions that the American public would not tolerate large numbers of women coming home from war in body bags.”
Of course the wars we’re fighting these days don’t have such specific battle lines drawn and there isn’t even a consensus on the issue. “The Service Women’s Action Network said its response was mixed. ‘On the plus side, this is a huge step in the right direction,’ said Anu Bhagwati, former Marine Corps captain and executive director of the network. However she said it was ‘extremely disappointing’ that the ban would continue on women becoming infantry. ‘To continue such a ban is to ignore the talents and leadership that women bring to the military and it further penalizes servicewomen by denying them the opportunity for future promotions and assignments that are primarily given to personnel from combat arms specialties.'”
“This does not dismiss the sexual tension issues, nor does it dismiss the differences physiologically between men and women in terms of cardiovascular fitness,” said retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis.
A little more background information from the piece:
A 1994 combat exclusion policy bans women from being assigned to ground combat units below the brigade level. A brigade is roughly 3,500 troops, and is made up of battalions, which can be about 800 soldiers.
So while a woman serving as a communications or intelligence officer can be formally assigned to a brigade, she can’t be assigned to the smaller battalion. The military has gotten around those rules by “attaching” women in those jobs to battalions, which meant they could do the work, but not get the credit for being in combat arms.
And since service in combat gives troops an advantage for promotions and job opportunities, it has been more difficult for women to move to the higher ranks.
The information about the report was given to the press by anonymous defense officials because it’s not yet been publicly released. Safe to say we’ll be hearing more about this soon.
(via Yahoo, image by Sgt. Jennifer L. Jones)