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Woman in Combat

Updated on February 8, 2020
abbykorinnelee profile image

Bachelors Degree in Organizational Behavioral Psychology with a background in Autism, Mental Health, Business Psychology. Sales Management.

Advocating Equality For Women in Combat Units

I will stand up and state right away, I am an avid advocate for women on the front line. Women in combat units, women in Marine Recon units, Seal units, other special forces and sniper units, and virtually in all areas and branches of the Armed Services. I have argued on the belief that a woman should be able to have the equality of a man when its concerning the military. I do also, however, believe that a woman needs to meet male physical, intellectual, and mental expectations and requirements. They can not have a separate set because they are female. I also understand that women play a psychological role in a man's ability to function to the level of their training. To make change though we have to combat problems in those areas and train from boot camp or basic training to achieve a level of psychological readiness that won't have them hovering longer over a dead woman's body then their male counterpart.

I have played devil's advocate on this issue as well and the "male" standpoint that women shouldn't be in the front line's so to speak. Most I would even agree with because I have run into so many military service member's that are women that I am shocked they are in the armed forces. I joined the military myself as that was the life I grew up in awe of and a part of as a Navy officer's kid. I am very adamant about "values" that are supposed to be part of the life in the military that I found myself by joining the Marine Corps in April of 1998.I learned values I have taken throughout my everyday civilian life and even lived them as an Army wife when no one else around me did.

I respect every service; especially woman that serve, don't get me wrong. I don't agree with separate standards and I fully believe that training begins psychologically in basic if we are to ever get over the product of having women in combat. I know several friends of mine are cringing if they read this: One a Marine that graduated basic the day I arrived, my son's godfather who argued with me for many years about woman not being in the Corps even. I would go toe to toe with him (though eventually he did tell me he agreed ONE woman should be allowed in the Corps and that was me and if I went back he would attend graduation in dress blue's no matter the SC heat.) One friend is in the Army and a previous friend and neighbor of mine that the military argument was one we often had fun over while drinking. I am pretty sure he would be shaking his head and have plenty of comments for me ( that is if he talks to me again, haven't heard from him since he left so cross fingers all is well ). The other another friend currently far away and just now argued with me about why woman shouldn't be in combat ( lots of love for that friend as well and no hard feelings we won't agree on that I hope because I am looking forward to having him home safe soon.)

I will say that it is feasible in my opinion to have the properly trained, meeting or exceeding men standards for woman to be allowed in combat. I do not think a majority of woman could make those demands even if they tried more than they had in them. I believe its something though that shouldn't be taken away from us just because we are female. Ten years ago I will stand up and say I could have done it. Yes I carried double my weight, I ran as fast if not faster, climbed higher, humped farther, carried more in my ruck if necessary because I felt I had something to prove to the men in the Marines. That I could be what we were trained for and that was a rifle man first. I laughed when other woman cried. I didn't cry until the day I was discharged; because I may be a Marine on paper, on my DD214, but I wasn't wearing the uniform and that killed me; so I cried. Sue me. However; I maintained the highest of standards I could possibly maintain and I believe females can do it and should be allowed to try.

Pentagon Commission Says...

A recommendation from the Pentagon commission has stated they want woman to be allowed to be in combat ground units. Woman have been serving in combat support units and are engaging in combat as it is; it is an unfair career disadvantage to not be allowed the ability to serve in ground combat units in terms of promotional opportunities.

In January it began to be expected that the Military Leadership Diversity Commission would be releasing a draft version of the recommendation. There were twenty other recommendations aside from the woman serving in ground combat units as well that are being considered.

The report also puts the pressure on about the demographics need to be more closely reflected to the United States in the military services.

The two services that would most be affected by the changes would be the United States Marine Corps and the U.S. Army branches. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos did not comment on the recommendation regarding woman serving in combat units. ( In my personal opinion I understand the position this leaves them in politically, militarily, and personal belief wise and I believe was probably a sound choice to remain non-committal. )

Chairperson of the commission was a retired Air Force General; Lester L. Lyles, that discussed the woman interviewed. They claim that woman were pulled from all ranks and all branches throughout military services and remained surprisingly neutral in neither "Gun ho" or "gun shy" status of their agreement or disagreement of woman being allowed to serve in ground combat nor about their own personal option to be able to do so. ( One that I would have been very "Gun ho" over I must say and hope that they realize the excessive change of psychological mindsets the country, the men who serve, the woman who serve and those that do and don't support the military will have to experience to ever accept the change if it goes into effect and how appreciative of the opportunity they should be. It reminds me of when black men began to be allowed to be integrated into service and how they began to be allowed to fight in the front lines and what a drastic change for humanity it really was. A change that I myself, never thought to see in a black man taking office or woman even being considered as it is to serve this way. The opportunity to be a part of this change is a huge step for humanity and one I don't think is being taken for truly what it means.)

"I didn't hear, 'Rah, rah, we want to be in combat,' " Lyles said, "but I also didn't hear, 'We don't want to be in combat.'
"What they want is an equal opportunity to serve where their skills allow them to serve," he said in a DoD release. "Removing the barriers for that, and removing the barriers to them getting credit for that, was our No. 1 focus."

Below Brigade level it is being recommended that implementation of new policies by the Pentagon; assign woman based on their qualifications to tactical units.


"The commission is not advocating lowering of standards with the elimination of the combat exclusion policy," the final report states. "Qualification standards for combat arms positions should remain in place."
The Combat Exclusion Policy was instituted in 1994 to Barr women from engaging in combat situations with weapons while having a the high probability of being in close proximity of a close combat situation. It was termed as "hostile force". This policy keeps woman from serving in units such as infantry units and artillery forces due to the high probability of hostile force proximity, hand to hand combat situations and also any special forces kind of MOS in the armed forces.

The Army and the Marines have the most restrictive in regards to the combat exclusion policies. That is if ground combat is the "principle role" of the mission and the units involved in the mission underway. The Army in a 2003 examination had nine percent of jobs unavailable to woman and the Marine Corps and eight percent unavailable to woman. The Navy in contrast held a percentage of only six percent unavailable to women and one we know is submarine jobs. In the Air Force only 1 percent of jobs were unattainable. The navy percentage may even be lower as they state that submarine jobs were opened early last year to woman.

15 percent of all service members are women in active duty and 18 percent are women in reservist units. 10 percent of our Iraqi and Afghanistan troops are women. With 80 percent of Army commissioned officers coming from fields restricted to woman; making promotion in higher ranks virtually impossible in some or most situations, 10 percent of those troops that are women have or are serving in what is termed "combat theater".

Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said officials "will thoroughly evaluate" the commission's recommendations as part of an ongoing review of diversity policies.

Even in earlier years of the Iraqi and Afghanistan conflicts; women have served in what is stated as "kinetic" situations. These jobs women have been active in are including; but not limited to, military police, truck drivers ( transportation or 88M ), supply, security forces, and thus females have directly engaged in enemy hostile situations and combat.

The first woman since World War 2 to earn a Silver Star was in 2005.

Army Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester: On duty in Iraq from the 617th Military Police Company of the Kentucky National Guard, she and her fellow Soldiers engaged the enemy during a convoy ambush March 2005. The MP squad flanked the insurgents to cut off their escape route, and Hester led her team through the fire and attacked the enemy trench line with rifles and M203 grenades. Before it was over, 27 insurgents were dead and six wounded. "It really doesn't have anything to do with being a female," she said in June 2005, when the medal was pinned on her. "It's about the duties I performed that day as a Soldier."





Women In Combat

Now I find it really upsetting to a point that this is such a huge stretch into change not expected of the military to advocate; especially recommendations from the Pentagon itself, and women were so neutral in comparison to my own reaction and those I have spoken to in regards to the news release.  The women were so even keel; not very impressed with the level of change this would mean to not only the military, but to the whole country as a whole.  It would mean a whole new way of training you would think to better handle psychological issues of a women on the battlefield and ways that training could be better fitted to accommodate such a change in the way we see and do things from a technical and logistical as well as psychological standpoint.

Another aspect that intrigues me and those that have thoughts on any of this please comment for I am genuinely interested in the aspects I am going to lay out for you.  I think its interesting that the Marines and the Army; training very differently, having very different mentality and values even, the animosity they have towards the other even historically; yet they are the top two that have the hardest adjustment to the addition of women, both top brass are non-committal and make no comment either way and both have the highest percentage of jobs not accessible to women.  Yet even the Navy has made it possible for woman to serve on submarines.

I am also interested in the way the military intends to deal with this change if it does indeed go through; because the argument is very much valid as to the psychological ramifications of men and their reactions towards a female in their unit on the combat front.  It was proved that men will hover more over a dying female then male knowing they can't save them.  They will hesitate in actions needed; they will also have problems in the sexual arena with harassment and rape.  Especially with the enemy and hostage situations.  So, is training going to change throughout the services?  I tend to believe it should and right now the Marines are more equipped mentally and psychologically to handle such a change if it happened today; that their training is more effective to deal with issues such as this but to be honest they probably need to adjust as well.

How are changes going to effect the way the citizens of this country feel?  Are their opinions going to be put in front of the deciding commission that generates a yes or no in regards to women being in combat units?  Is it something that we are going to be able to vote for or is it being decided in the government and military levels and why or why not should we be able to have a say in such a choice?  Were women really that cavalier about the biggest change the military could see in having since I would say integration of blacks into fighting forces throughout the military or even Obama becoming president over a protestant white male.  Changes I didn't think I would see in my lifetime and one that I personally was fighting for in regular friendly debates with fellow Marines or even soldier's that disagree with me across the board. 

I would love anyone to comment and give me your honest and blunt opinion.  Just be considerate and give an educated viewpoint; not bias or sexist based.  For war is a serious thing obviously and I have many friends that served or still serve in the service.  My close friends are even in Iraq as we speak and in jobs that put them in harm's way daily and I would appreciate nothing but respect even in disagreeing banter.  Thank you for those that serve even if you are what we term a "pencil pusher" everyone in the service has important jobs and demands of their lives.

© 2011 Abby Rourk

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