Women in Combat Women have played a tremendous roll in many countries armed forces from the past to the present. Women have thoroughly integrated into the armed forces; all positions in the armed forces should be fully accessible to women who can compete with men intellectually and physically. Yet, many argue that the distinction between combat and non-combat becomes blurred in the context of women warfare (Ladin; Holm, Hoar). In actuality, many women are assigned to jobs that will expose them to enemy attack, and this has been openly acknowledged by the top Pentagon officials. The United States Army has also recognized that women would be deployed in combat zones as an inevitable consequence of their assignments. This was confirmed in the following statement made by then Army Chief of Staff, General Bernard W.
Rogers, "Some people believe that women soldiers will not be deployed in the event of hostilities that they are only to be part-time soldier. Women are an essential part of the force; they will deploy with their units and they will serve in the skills in which they have been trained" (Holm). It appears that women have been integrated into practically every aspect of the military; yet there are some jobs that remain closed to them, mainly, combat specialties (Holm; Hoar). It is over these exclusions that controversy rages. Technically, women are barred by law/ policy from what is defined in narrow terms as direct combat. Each of the United States Armed Services excludes females from active combat.
The nature and extent of the exclusion varies with each service. In today's military, women were no longer confined to traditional roles in the medical and administrative fields. Almost all military job categories and military occupational specialties (MOS) have been opened to women. They now repair tanks, warplanes, and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM's). They serve on naval vessels that deploy to service ships and submarines of the operational fleet and on Coast Guard cutters operating off United States shores. They serve on missile crews, operate heavy equipment, and direct air traffic.
They also provide essential support to combat troops in the field (Holm). It appears that the United States military is in a position where women are so fully and flexibly involved in the organizational structure, that in a war, it would be very difficult to separate them out. Yet, there are those who feel those women are not physically and mentally capable of withstanding the effects of combat. There are many grounds on which this argument could be disputed, but women have contributed greatly in past wars.
They have served in combat in many skills during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam (Holm). One study (Binkin & Bach) found that many NATO and several WARSAW PACT countries employed women in combat roles during World War II. Russia was reported as using military women on the front lines. In Israel, where they are actually conscripted, women have also experienced armed combat. (Binkin & Bach) found that in the first phase of Israel's war of Liberation, one out of every five soldiers was female and they shared equality in both offensive and defensive battle situations. Holm found that some 7, 500 military women served in S.
E. Asia during the Vietnam War. She maintains that these women proved the modern American military woman is fully capable of functioning effectively in a military role in a combat environment, even under direct hostile fire. The United States Army has even conducted its own tests to examine the performance of individual units with women in the field, under simulated combat conditions (Hoar). The first test, labeled MAX-WAC (Women Content in Units Force Development Test) studied women in three-day field exercise, and assessed their effect on unit performance. The second test, REF-WAC, studied women in thirty-day sustained combat related exercises during the NATO annual RE FORGER (Repositioning of Forces in Germany) exercises in Europe.
The tests proved that women did not adversely impact unit performance. According to Ladin, these tests provided a great deal of evidence that military women can perform on a par with their male peers; and in terms of psychological barriers; women are not inferior to men. In general, military women feel the argument that they are not fit for combat physically is irrelevant, as combat is no longer characterized by physical activity. The technological and industrial advances of the twentieth century have caused extensive changes in the nature of warfare (Hoar, Holm, Ladin).
Due to this changing nature of warfare and military technology, combat will no longer depend on bayonets and physical force rather on lasers, microprocessors and other sophisticated devices that gender obsolete the conventional images of battle (Ladin). Clearly advanced technology requires a more highly educated workforce, and it has been maintained that military women do fit in such categories. According to a back ground study on women in the military done by Commander Richard Hunter, one of the Pentagon's leading experts on personnel matters, military women are better educated than military men and score higher on aptitude tests. He found that more than 90% of women recruits have high school diplomas, compared with only 60% of men, and women's aptitude scores are approximately 20% higher than the men (Ladin). Women have clearly demonstrated their capabilities and their potential for future contributions to the military.
Their most recent victory was achieved in the Persian Gulf War. There, women helicopter pilots participated in an air assault for the first time. They were involved in airlifting the 101 st Airborne into Iraq, in what has been called the largest helicopter action in military history (Ladin). In general, many feel that the experience of the Persian Gulf War has called for a new look at the ban on women in combat roles. In conclusion, women are thoroughly integrated into the armed forces, and are now so dependent on women that it would be virtually impossible to go into combat without them. In large part, women have already proved themselves.
One needs only look at their role in past wars. Regardless of the combat exclusion rule, women have served in combat roles throughout out history and it is inevitable that they will be needed for future combat roles. War has become much more diverse in the skills it demands. Today, combat is as much a matter of technical expertise, as physical strength. This increase in skill requirements further signifies the military's need for all dependence on women; they are currently serving in highly technical roles. Along with the changing role of women in the military, American attitudes a nature and roles of women in our society are also changing.
Polls and statistics have shown that there is a clear tendency toward liberalization in terms of women's roles. Work CitedBinkin, Martin & Bach J. Shirley, "Women and the Military," Washington, D. C. : The Brookings Institution 1977.
Washington, DC: Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, Dept. of the Army Women in the Army policy review 1982. Holm, Jeanne. "Women in the Military" An Unfinished Revolution Schneider, Dorothy & Carol J. Schneider. Sound Off! American Military Women Speak Out.
New York: EP Dutton, 1988. Hoar, P. William, "Case against Women in Combat," The New American 8 Feb. 1993. Vol. 9 No.
3 Ladin, Bret. "Army Unit to Bar Women" Globe Newspaper 13 June 2002: A 3. Online. LEXIS-NEXIS Michigan State University. New/Majpap. 29 Nov.
2002. Scarborough, Rowan. "Women taken our of Army Squads" The Washington Times 30 May 2002: A 01. Online FIRST SEARCH Michigan State University. New/Majpap. 29 Nov.