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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Women are fit to fight, day or night

Since its birth, the United States military has denied women the option of performing combat-oriented jobs. On Jan. 24, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced to the press that this ban had been removed.

“If they can meet the qualifications for the job then they should have the right to serve,” stated Panetta.

While this decision seems like a slam-dunk for feminists and equal-rights activists alike, this policy change is largely cosmetic.

Women have historically served as full-fledged members of the military in America since 1948, though they have been blocked from enlisting in jobs that were considered “front-line” positions. Theoretically, this has been to protect women, but this practice limited the professional aspirations of military females.Despite this, many female service members perform jobs that place them in clear danger, regardless of what their job may be.

In an email interview, I spoke with Specialist Tonya Landis, who has served in the Army for the past six years. Landis is a mechanic and is regularly outnumbered by her male counterparts. Despite this, she routinely accomplishes difficult tasks in dangerous situations.

Landis reflects the more common opinion within the military. “I think it is a bad idea to have women in combat (positions),” said Landis. “There are some things that women physically shouldn’t be doing.

“I think there are many hurdles left for females, civilian and military alike. The biggest for military is being taken seriously and not be labeled as a s— or w—-.”

Opponents of this change in policy such as Landis argue that women on the front lines will be too distracting, and that male soldiers will have difficulty focusing on the task at hand. Others argue that women are not physically capable of performing these laborious jobs.

Regardless of how physically demanding these positions are or whether or not a woman on the battlefield may distract her male colleagues, neither of these arguments really hold water. Women are already in these combat zones. The only thing they lack is the same training as their male counterparts.

Associate Professor of Philosophy Lisa McLeod works with students pursuing the women, gender and sexuality studies major. When asked about this policy change, she did not seem impressed.

“What is probably the biggest hurdle left is changing the public perceptions of women,” said McLeod.

So, yes, this recent policy change is a good thing, and it will go a long way in supporting the professional advancement of female service members, though inequality is still rampant in both the military and civilian worlds.

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  • C

    Christopher SmithFeb 8, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Having served 8 years in the Unites States Marine Corps Infantry I would suppose that I would have a rather unique perspective on this issue. I therefore will make an attempt to cut through the nonsense and get right down to the crux of the issue. That issue can be best defined as maintaining combat effectiveness.

    If a woman can meet the standards there shouldn’t be any objections to her service in combat arms. However, that would limit the recruiting pool to a very exceptional few. You see, true equality is not just a granting of the privilege of everyone regardless of sex to serve in the infantry, but serving while meeting the same standards as all of the other infantrymen are required to do. Such a job requires peak physical fitness as to maximize combat effectiveness, while at the same time, not being so strenuous to the point that you can’t meet your retention goals.

    So if equality and combat effectiveness are our goals, I can think of nothing more reasonable than holding women to the same standards as men. That means that a woman should be required to perform the same physical fitness test to the same standard as a man, she should be able to conduct 20 mile ruck marches or 12 mile ruck runs as a male would, and she should have the physical strength necessary to engage in hand to hand combat against her male counterparts. To ask her to do any less would be to lower the standard and thus, lower combat effectiveness. Not to mention registering for selective service.

    You see, the goal of the military is to win wars. The higher the standards the higher combat effectiveness becomes, and thus, the higher the probability of accomplishing the goal of winning wars. Once again, we do not want the standard to be so tough that we have problems maintaining retention in the combat ranks. At the same time, we do not want to lower the standard so that our combat effectiveness decreases. Therefore, we do not want to lower the standards or ask anything less of a female than we would a male in some sort of silly gender affirmative action scheme. The happy median between the rigors of the standard and retention should be in accordance with a reasonable maximum goal of combat effectiveness, whereas, taking into account gender should have zero consideration in the process. That is true equality.

    The only problem I can foresee is that if the military were so bold as to hold women to the same standards as men (They won’t), or even if they were to maintain the female standards as they are now (Which would cripple them), is that women will no doubt find it hard to move up the ranks in the infantry. Should a woman fall out of a 20 mile hike, she will be negatively counseled. Should she preform at a lesser standard as the men, she will receive lower promotion marks than the males. This will no doubt lead to charges of discrimination, and thus, the lowering of the standards to avoid legal challenges absent of the consideration of combat effectiveness and mission accomplishment. Indeed, it would take a highly exceptional woman to serve in the infantry, and at the same time, maintain competitiveness for promotion. Believe me, they do exist, but they are also scarce. I say highly exceptional because by default of the nature of military service to the country makes all who serve exceptional.

    Some who may object to this view will no doubt point to the nature of the current conflict where women are unexpectedly thrown into combat situations. To them I say that there is a massive difference between those in a noncombat MOS laying down a defensive base of fire until the quick reaction force comes to bail them out, and, doing multiple day combat operations where the job is to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy. Harassing sniper fire on a convoy, the occasional IED, or the rare complex attack on a base or convoy is much different than moving to and sustaining close combat with an armed force intent on killing you. To draw a conclusion from operations we are currently involved in to advocate lower standards is simply leaving out the obvious nature of the two jobs.

    Yet others will point to counties like Israel, among other countries, who have females in combat jobs. In the case of Israel, their relatively low population makes it more practical to get every person they can in the field; a weakness we have the luxury of foregoing in the United States. Other countries can be taken on a case by case basis similarly.

    So what’s to become of this policy? Well, they will likely lower the standards (They will never hold females to the same standard as males), discrimination complaints will rise, training injuries will go through the roof, and combat effectiveness will fall. In the end does this make our grunts in the field more or less safe? Does this make their ability to accomplish the mission higher or lower? I suppose history will be the judge, however, due to the highly politicized nature of this subject it is likely that the brass that opened this field up for females under the direction of our President will scramble to avoid criticism at any cost that may come of the failures that will occur. And all for a feel good form of equality that gets the feminist vote riled up but raises concerns for those who have bullets flying over their heads. Indeed, the wounded Marine in the street who is desperately looking for that hero to drag him in his entire combat load out of the kill zone only cares about one thing, the ability of his fellow Marines to accomplish the task. The only way for this policy to continue with any credibility is to hold women to the same standard as men.