Should women be in combat?

That's me on the left in basic training in July 1980. We'd just finished our first visit to the weapons range. I was feeling proud of myself. Notice the cigarette. So glad I quit smoking!

That’s me on the left in basic training in July 1980. We’d just finished our first visit to the weapons range. I was feeling proud of myself. Notice the cigarette. So glad I quit smoking!

Should women be in combat?

No.But neither should men be in combat. I hate that any American has to put on a uniform, pick up a weapon, point it at someone and kill them. The idea that we kill people for a political reason is abhorrent.

As much as I hate the idea, sometimes we are called to do exactly that.

My mother and father both served during World War Two. My father served by driving a tank. My mother served in stateside hospitals as a medical technologist. She never had weapons training and never had any field training. If she had been married, should would have had to ask her husband’s permission to join. If she had had a child at the time, she would have been disqualified to be a WAC at least until her child was fourteen years old.

By the time I joined in 1979, my opportunities in the military were much greater. I served in the same units with men. I deployed with them, I went on field training exercises, fired weapons, threw grenades, ran obstacle courses, wore a gas mask and chemical suit and lots of other things my mother could never do.

Still, my path was much different than my brothers who joined shortly after me. He chose to serve as an officer. I was enlisted.  He was infantry, became airborne qualified and ended his career in Special Operations.

Despite the changes between when my mother was in uniform and when I served, there were still lots of military jobs I was unable to do by regulation. Be in the infantry, drive a tank, fly an attack helicopter, be a Ranger, a Green Beret and many more. Secretary Panetta, with the sweep of a pen, has changed that.

The services will go through a period to decide exactly what jobs will now be opened to women. While they do that, I’m sure those in the men-only military jobs will come up with long lists of reasons why women shouldn’t be allowed to do them.  Like, that a woman doesn’t have the strength it takes to put a track back on a tank when they are thrown. A woman is unable to meet the physical requirements necessary to be a Ranger or a Special Forces soldier. Or a woman’s monthly cycle and her emotional swings will get in the way of her doing the job properly. All reasons I’ve already heard and I’m sure there will be many more.

I wonder how many of those same reasons were used when the opportunities my mother was denied were made available to the women of my generation. I’d bet we could dig up newspaper commentaries from the early 70s and republish them and save ourselves the time of hearing the familiar arguments.

Just as the arguments failed before, they will fail this time. Women can and should be allowed to serve in whatever capacity they desire and are capable of.  Any woman who raises her hand and puts on the uniform knows what she’s up against. She knows how hard it will be. She knows the conditions will be horrible, the challenges tough, the action deadly. She knows all of that and yet she wants to serve in combat anyway.

When our citizens want to serve their country in that way, how can we do anything but support them?

If we must go to war, if we must take up arms to protect and defend, then we should accept all of the help we can get, even from our women.

 

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