"In my 22 years of active duty, I have survived two military plane crashes; rescued a sergeant from drowning; helped remove dead bodies from the flight line after an RB-47 crash; disarmed a knife-wielding troop in a barracks brawl; disabled and removed a would-be rapist from my squadron's barracks; thwarted two bloody suicide attempts; and performed many casualty and mortuary duties too gruesome to mention." - Captain Barbara A. Wilson, USAF (Ret) (Wilson). Would you believe that this military officer was not allowed to take on combat duties because of her gender? It has long been debated whether women should be allowed to fight in combat. Over the years, women have struggled and fought for the right to defend their country. In 1992, the Defense Authorization Act gave women the right to be pilots in the Navy and Air Force. In 1994, Defense Secretary A spin approved a policy allowing women to serve with some ground combat units during fighting.

Currently, 60-90 percent of all military careers are open to women, depending on the branch. These do not include the following: infantry, armor, cannon field artillery, short range air defense artillery, Submarine Warfare, Navy SEAL, security force guard protecting nuclear material, antiterrorism security teams, Combat Control, Special Operations Forces, Rotary aircraft, TAC Para rescue, and Weather assignments with infantry or Special Forces, all of which deal with combat (Wilson). The debate continues, should women be allowed in combat? Some people want equal rights for all women, while some are opposed to the idea completely. This isn't an issue of women's rights; it's about defending the United States the best way possible. The truth is, not all women are capable of performing such tasks. Those that are, however, should be given the chance, those who are qualified and are best able to perform the task, regardless of gender.

There are many reasons that people will argue why women shouldn't be allowed to participate in certain combat duties. One reason is strength; women just aren't physically capably of handling combat situations. In May of 1995, the U. S Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine developed a study that showed when a woman is correctly trained, she can be as tough as any man. The women in this study, all of which where volunteers with no previously adopted routine of strenuous physical activity, were put through a 24-week training study. They spent 90 minutes a day, five days a week jogging, weight lifting, and performing strenuous activities, such as running a 2-mile wooded course wearing a 75-pound rucksack.

The study showed that more than 75 percent of the women were able to prepare themselves to successfully perform duties traditionally performed by males in the military (Wilson). The Ministry of Defense in Great Britain performed a similar study, where they showed that "by using new methods of physical training, women can be built up to the same levels of physical activity as men of the same size and build (Wilson)." A second reason for opposition to women in combat is that men and women can't and shouldn't work together in those types of situations. Studies have revealed that men try to protect and assist women rather than continue their attack. A response to this claim can be found in a quote by Dr. Mary Edwards, Civil War Medal of Honor recipient, "You men are not our protectors... If you were, who would there be to protect us from? (Wilson) " Men and women have been working successfully together for years, "or did they have separate sex wagon trains pioneering the west?" Military units of mixed sexes have maintained order, accomplished mission, and passed operational readiness inspections easily.

The successful integration has been apparent as the academies and all male institutions such as the Citadel have been documented. Shannon Faulkerson, a 20 year old, fought for two and a half years to get into the all-male military school, the Citadel. Only a few days after winning her case, she quite the academy, claiming it was too rigorous (Luddy). Although Shannon was not successful, subsequent young women have made the grade and completed the program. The presence of women has long been cited as raising the level of professional standards. When gender is perceived as having a negative effect, it's usually because gender is the easiest way to break people into categories when conflict arises.

There are many other reasons that people will argue why women shouldn't be allowed to take on certain combat duties. They can't handle the whole killing thing and they aren't emotionally or intellectually capable of performing in combat situations are a few. While these might be true for some, there have been many women who have found themselves in combat situations and have risen to the occasion. During the four years between June 1941 and May 1945, over 58, 000 Soviet women endured the harshness of frontline combat.

Frostbite, sunburns, stress, anxiety, hunger, and fatigue were their standard day-to-day life. In October 1941, Soviet women pilots were organized into combat regiments. These women, all of which were volunteers, were to be front line pilots. They never wore parachutes and, after discussing it amongst themselves, they agreed that if captured, they might have to shoot themselves. This is exactly what Alina Smirnov a did. When she crash landed, she lost her sense of direction and when she saw people running towards here, she thought they were Germans and shot herself (Harrell).

A similar situation occurred during Desert Storm, where several women found themselves subjected to combat. Five Army women were killed in action and 21 were wounded. Two women were taken as Prisoners of War. Other women commanded brigades, battalion, company, and platoon size units in the combat service support areas. They endured the same harsh conditions as their male counterparts. They "sloshed through the same mud and blood as the men, witnessed the same horrors of war, and suffered the same discomfiting treatment and indignities upon their return to the country that sent them there (Harrell)." The deployment of women was deemed highly successful.

Women performed admirably and without substantial friction or special considerations. Lt. Hultgreen was the first woman to qualify in a combat-ready F-14 Tomcat. On October 25, 1994 her aircraft began losing altitude as she approached the USS Abraham Lincoln.

When she tried to eject, it was too late; the jet had already rolled. When the plane was eventually recovered, her body was found still strapped inside the ejector seat. A four-month investigation found that an engine malfunction caused the crash and that it was likely that no pilot could have saved the plane (Wilson). On September 1, 1999, Sgt.

1 st Class Jeanne M. Balcombe was awarded the Soldiers Medal for heroism in the face of danger. While on duty, on August 21 st, 1999, Balcombe was quick to place herself in harm's way between three soldiers and an armed gunman. She demonstrated her absolute dedication to the safety of her soldiers at the cost of her own life (Wilson).

After stories like these, who can argue that some women aren't capable of being in combat? Women have met challenges and have shown that they are capable of handling difficult situations. "They [women] don't want to be treated separate, or as unique-they simply want to do their jobs and serve their country. They perform with pride as soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines - and if that job is in a combat zone or on the moon - women will do it as well as men. All they ask is a chance to be an integral part of the Armed Services of the United States of America (Wilson)." It might be that only one out of a thousand women are qualified to perform a certain combat task. If a woman, however, can better serve her country in combat and is motivated to do so, as apposed to another job, she should be allowed to do so. Those who are qualified, capable, and competent, and are the best able to perform the task, should be the ones selecting those roles, regardless of gender.

I agree with Captain Flynn, who stated, "I think it comes down to a personal level - your own challenge, coordination, reaction, things like that... I don't think it's a gender specific (Wilson)." Works Cited 1. Harrell, Margaret C. and Laura L. Miller. "Military Readiness: Women Are Not a Problem." Rand Research Brief.

America Online. 1997. 28 Jun 2002. < web >. 2. Luddy, John.

"Congress Should Hold Hearing Before Allowing Women in Combat." The Backgrounder Heritage Foundation. America Online. 27 Jul 1994. 30 Jun 2002...

3. Wilson, Barbara A. "Women in Combat." America Online. 1996-2000.

27 Jun 2002.