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Feb. 14, 2013

Pros and Cons of women in combat

Change is on the wind; let it blow free

By Patrick Elder

Deep seated beliefs are often the most difficult to overcome. The longer a belief has been ingrained by society, the longer it takes for those still under that belief to un-latch the hatches and allow the winds of change to blow unfettered.

There are very few beliefs that have been held so long as the notion that women are inferior to men. The last century has seen more progress than the rest of human history combined and yet still inequalities remain.

On Jan. 23 the Pentagon took a decisive step towards breaking down one of the few remaining impediments to true gender equality by lifting the ban on women in the military serving in combat roles. This decision followed numerous studies and reports from the

Pentagon’s Military Leadership Diversity Commission, the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces, and the Defense Advisory Commission on Women in the Services, all of which concluded that a military woman’s only barrier to service was the restriction on serving in combat. Since the decision, those who would have women excluded from the most dangerous of tasks have been quick to denounce the move.

According to the Congressional Research Service as of April 2012, 283,000 women have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in more than 10 years of combat operations. More than 800 of these women have been wounded and over 130 have been killed.

In addition, numerous women have been awarded for their heroism, including two winners of the Silver Star — our nation’s highest military honor for heroism.

Those who are concerned for the safety of women in the military certainly have good intentions. They simply want to see those who can’t protect themselves safe and secure, just as any of us would seek the same for young, defenseless children.

But therein lies the problem. Women are not defenseless children. Some may act as such and wish to be treated thusly, but the same can be said of men, albeit in smaller numbers. It is simply illogical and factually incorrect to think that all women behave in this manner.

This jaundiced mentality stems from an outdated, chauvinistic idea that no woman can protect herself — that it is simply outside their innate capabilities. The women already serving on the front lines — despite prior restrictions — prove this with their blood, spilled on the sands of Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Even as I speak to the abilities of women in combat, perhaps the most important issue remains unspoken; combat roles are the only method of rising in the ranks in the Army. With upward movement in rank comes greater pay and a greater ability to choose the military not just as a career interlude, but as a career destination.

As women will be phased into combat roles throughout the next three years mental and temperamental requirements will not change.

Women will not be asked to do any more or any less than men. They won’t be given preferential treatment. They will be judged on their merits, not on antiquated notions of resounding feminine inferiority. They will be judged as they should be, and perhaps more importantly, as they want to be.