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Women and Girls in Combat

Guest Author - Gina Cowley

The Military Leadership Diversity Commission is reporting that the current prohibition against women being “assigned” (as opposed to “attached”) to combat units denies them the opportunity to serve “in roughly ten percent of the Marine Corps and Army occupational specialties and thus is a barrier to advancement.” If you are American and use only a small portion of your grey matter then you know that gender discriminatory “barriers to advancement” are simply not permitted in this country. I suspect any revision to the ban will depend upon what constitutes those “occupational specialties” and that the current blanket ban will be tweaked to accommodate the soldiers involved. If you believe a female commissioned officer with decades of service deserves no more consideration than an eighteen year old girl soldier straight out of boot camp, then something’s wrong with you. In any event, it is seriously doubtful those positions are any for which the eighteen year old girl straight out of high school, with a desire to serve or looking for adventure and college tuition would be qualified to receive.

Females in combat are no strangers to the military. What is the subject of debate is the direct assignment of females to combat units. Other countries assign women to combat units and those are certainly worthy of study when it comes to the two major concerns regarding US assignment 1) lack of strength and stamina and 2) the potential for harm to unit cohesion.

I trust with a little congressional prodding the military will work things out when it comes to the denial of advancement to female officers due solely to the prohibition against combat assignment. In this area, there must be change as the blanket prohibition hinders the advancement of well qualified and deserving women and is therefore impermissibly discriminatory. The United States military is currently able to boast only one woman with the rank of four-star general. Ann E. Dunwoody received her fourth star despite the prohibition against combat assignment which is the usual path to that rank. She has served this country since 1975 when she was directly commissioned after college into the Women’s Army Corps (disbanded 1978) and frankly because of her well obvious dedication to service, I have absolutely no doubt Cmdr. Dunwoody would be able to handle herself admirably in any combat situation. Like her male peers – her record bespeaks her ability in service and her record alone earns her a choice of combat assignment.

I confess a personal hardship when it comes to differentiating between the feelings of families who send sons into direct combat situations and those who are called upon to send their daughters. I believe the feelings of the young soldiers who make up those assignments must be taken into account and this absolutely necessitates a consideration of gender differences. Any person who embraces an opinion that girls can do whatever boys can do (as opposed to women can do whatever men can do) knowing full well that youth is fraught with immaturity - has failed to fully consider the implication of military combat assignment as opposed to attachment. In no other area can a blind commitment to some perceived feminist equality perspective be more dangerous.

I am ill equipped to comment on the training a soldier receives that prepares him or her to cope with life and death; with killing or refraining to kill; with the possibility of capture and torture; with maintaining humanity towards an enemy when a heart feels nothing but vengeance; when nature lends itself to a hasty decision when the need of one may prove deadly to all; neither to the physical strength and emotional stamina which is required to fulfill the duty of an infantryman. In this area, those decisions are best left to those to whom war is their profession. Is this not the ultimate reason for the military? To protect whatever cost of life? While some of the arguments against combat assignment may appear to be offensive and archaic – perhaps something remains of the feelings we have toward females and males that modern American society seems so bent on obliterating: “the American public will not tolerate her young girls coming home in body bags.” However this statement hits you is the premise from which your thoughtfulness on the issue must come.

And so, because I doubt seriously there will come an American day in my lifetime when girls as much as boys will request direct combat assignments (and those assignments are requested) – I am of the opinion – make it best for the boys who fulfill combat roles solely by virtue of their gender. Should the military ever decide to force combat assignments – the tenor of the argument will certainly change.

By the same token, when military women have astutely performed as have military men – there must be no discriminatory policy which affects their advancement.

Dare you say there is no difference between a girl and a woman?
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Content copyright © 2014 by Gina Cowley. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Gina Cowley. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Barbara Gibson for details.

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