Blazing a trail in the military
n 2015, the ban on women in combat positions in the US military was lifted, and women began joining combat arms units in January 2016. Despite many successes and historic “firsts” for women in the military since then, the topic of women in combat roles is still hotly debated. Six writers pulled together by the New York Times weigh in on the topic, from the NYT Opinion “Room for Debate” series.
Jude Eden, former Marine:
Women should not be allowed into combat positions, because they often fail to meet fitness standards and have higher rates of injury and attrition than men. Enemies of the United States, including ISIS, specifically target female soldiers, which weakens the whole military. Keeping women out of combat roles still allows them to pursue many different military careers, and protects the military as a whole.
John Rodriguez, Ranger School graduate:
Women should be allowed to graduate from the Ranger School and deploy as Rangers, because they have shown they are qualified to do so, and because diverse regiments makes the military tactically and strategically stronger. That said, standards to join various military divisions should be consistently re-evaluated, to make sure that the most qualified people, including women, fill each role.
Kate Germano, lieutenant colonel in the US Marine Corps:
Expectations and standards, including physical fitness standards, should be equalized between men and women. Holding women to a lower standard reduces the preparedness of female Marines, increases dropout rates, and fosters a culture in the Marine Corps that does not respect women.
Kori Schake, Hoover Institute fellow:
Because the military represents one half of one percent of the American public, the issue of women in the military actually only affects a small number of Americans, and the military should not have to represent American society as a whole. Encouraging women who choose to join the Ranger corps and focusing on the integration of a few exceptional women devalues the contributions and achievements of the many men who achieve the same thing, and who largely oppose integration.
Anu Bhagwati, former Marine Corps Captain:
In deployment and preparation, women have demonstrated that they are capable of filling the jobs that have been denied to them. In order for integration efforts to strengthen the US military, all military occupational schools should be open to women. Fitness standards should be gender-neutral, and Marine basic training should be integrated. These changes will lead to full integration of women as equal members of the Armed Services.
Brenda “Sue” Fulton, chairwoman of the Board of Visitors at West Point and West Point graduate:
Competence and character, not identity, should be the measures used to create the best fighting force. In many roles from which they had been previously barred, women have demonstrated competence, creativity, commitment to the military. Allowing women to serve in all roles, including combat roles, will make the military stronger and smarter.
What do you think: should women serve in combat?
These opinions were written in 2015, as the Secretary of Defense was deciding whether to allow women to serve in combat roles. Many of the issues they bring up are still controversial, and we now have five years of data on women serving in combat. What conclusions can be drawn from those?
Questions about women in combat to discuss on Ohlelo:
- Do you think women should be allowed to serve in combat roles?
- Should physical fitness standards be equalized for men and women?
- Do you think that the military’s exclusionary culture is mitigated or further entrenched by greater diversity in its ranks?
- How do you think military leaders should go about implementing effective integration policies?