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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Women in the Military

Every now and then, the issues of the roles of women serving in the military come to the attention of the general public, and opinions abound on whether or not they should have equal ability to serve in specific combat roles.  The subject is touchy, and it isn't surprising that there are good arguments on both sides of the issue.

Historically speaking, women have always served in roles that bring them quite close to combat and mortal danger including the Revolutionary War where women had roles ranging from nurses to spies.  Dr. Mary Walker received the Medal of Honor for her efforts in the Civil War, and she was frequently to be found in the thick of the action.  But some argue that women should still not serve on the "front lines of battle" for a variety of reasons, and those people will readily defend that position in spite of historical examples of women who have been there and done that.

The question of what exactly constitutes a "front line of battle" is blurred in the modern era.  The battlefield may now be a city center or a forward combat support medical facility where women are already doing their jobs in the direct line of fire, and arguably, they are already well-trained to fire back.  There are still some traditional battle environments where men are perhaps more physically capable to engage in combat as compared with the average female warrior, and that is an argument against routinely placing women in those roles.  But there are also many women who are just as physically fit as some of their male counterparts including ability to bear a fighting load, engage in evasive maneuvers and defend their fellow soldiers without compromise.  Some of those women will not be afforded the opportunity to showcase their abilities simply because they are prohibited from serving in a combat job.

At this time, women continue to be restricted from serving in the Army's infantry, armor, special forces, combat engineering and air defense artillery; the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps each have similar restrictions on jobs.  Only the Coast Guard has no specific barriers for women who wish to serve in all the available positions for that service branch.  As the fields of battle continue to evolve in the modern world, the question of how women can or will serve in direct combat environments must continually be revisited and debated.



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