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Discussion of Whether Women Should Be in Combat

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It is said that “the share of women among the enlisted ranks has increased seven-fold from 2% to 14% and the share among commissioned officers has quadrupled from 4% to 16%” (Patten). In many countries throughout the years, women have served in the military and in combat. For example, in 1200 BC during the Shang Dynasty, Fu Hao was an extremely powerful general. During her times she controlled a large army of 13,000 soldiers. Continuing, in 60 AD, Queen Boudica was in charge of a large army that killed 8,000 Romans in an attempt to force Rome out of Britain. Finally, in the Soviet Union they had many women fighting in the air along with on the ground. The Union sent 2,000 female snipers to the front lines in World War II. A major accomplishment for a woman in this fight was Lyudmila Palichenko who had 309 kills. In the United States, women have fought in the military since the Revolutionary War where they started as nurses. As time progressed, women disguised themselves as men to fight in the Civil War until eventually they were able to serve in the military legally. Despite this, women should be in combat and should receive more roles in the military because they have served in the military for many years, women are as tough as men, and women are very intelligent and can handle the roles of combat.

The first reason women should serve in combat is because they have been in the military for many years and deserve to if they wish. For years, women have been trying to join the military and gain active roles and as time progressed, they were granted. The amount of women in the military has had a gradual growth after 1967 when the restriction of women raising above the lieutenant colonel rank was lifted, the entrance of women in the ROTC in 1969, pilot training in 1973, women serving at sea in 1972, and the ability of women to be in service academies in 1976. The number of women in the military has grown a tremendous amount due to the beginning of women being able to volunteer for the military. For example, the number of women enlisted has grown from 42,278 in 1973 to 166,729 in 2010 (Patten). Another reason for the grow of women in the military is due to 9/11. It is studied that 8/10 women joined the military after 9/11 to receive education benefits like being able to go to college and/or the ability to fight for their country. While all these women joined to fight, they could not actually go to combat due to the Direct Combat Definition and Assignment Rule. Vergun states that this rule came about in 1994 when the Secretary of Defense, Les Aspin, approved it. Included in this rule, “women will be excluded from assignment units below the brigade level” (Vergun). The brigade level are missions of soldiers that are in immediate combat. However, today this rule has been lifted. In 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey signed a memo to get rid of the harsh rule. Included in this memo it is said that within three years, the Navy, Army, Marines, and Air Force must make a plan in order to integrate women into combat positions. With them doing this it is opening many opportunities for women to serve in direct combat roles along with many military occupational specialties that were only for males. Panetta’s reason for lifting this rule is because of the women’s sacrifice, courage, and their contributions on the battlefields. He continues by saying that “women have earned the right to serve in combats arms” (Rice and Col Charles E). Churchill said, “truth is the first casualty of war” and with this, the military does not acknowledge the fact that women have earned their right to be in the military and in combat. For example, the military does not recognize the fact that Army Airborne CPT Kelly McCoy earned a Bronze Star in a firefight with two enemies on September 18, 2003. McCoy says in an interview with the New York Daily News, “America’s Middle Eastern policy is best described as building a bicycle while riding it; similarly, our policy toward women in combat is to expand it in practice and cynically outlaw it on paper, primarily to keep top leadership roles male-only” (Brower and Donnelly). This treatment of women is not right in the military. Col Carol Brown states that she believes “women who are technically competent and physically capable can serve in any leadership role they want to” (Brower and Donnelly). Women have continually fought for this country and have been awarded for it therefore they deserve to be in combat if they chose to.

Women deserve to be in combat just as much as men because they are as tough as them. According to “Women in Combat”, for most all soldiers in the military, their goal is to pass the toughest test, which is graduating from Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga. In the summer of 2015, 364 soldiers wanted the face this challenge and out of them, 19 were women. In this challenge, soldiers are faced with hiking up mountains, slogging through swamps, and taking long marches with heavy packs. Out of all the 364, only 96 soldiers completed the test and two were women. The women that passed this extremely difficult test were Army Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver. With this accomplishment, Sen. Barbara Mikulski says, “Captian Griest and First Lieutenant Haver have shown that women can compete on a level playing field with men to serve in the defense of our nation” (Spivack). While this is a major step for women, many critics are against it. They say that the Army lowered their standards and faked test data to ensure these females passed to make them look better. These critics do not believe that women

are actually tough enough to pass this test on their own. In support of the critics is Rep. Steve Russel, an Army veteran. Russel demanded that the Army to release the documents showing the woman’s scores at the school. He also believes the Army lowered their standards because he says, “in order to ensure that the Army retains its ability to defend the nation, we must ensure that out readiness is not sacrificed” (Spivack). Anyone can believe either way, but it is not safe for the Army to place restrictions in order for women to pass because it puts the safety of our nation at risk. Furthermore, arguers state that women would not be able to handle their roles in combat well and are lowering the Army training standards. For example, Elaine Donnely the president of the Center for Military Readiness, says that “as women have moved into more and more military jobs over the years, double standards for women’s and men’s physical performance have weakened overall military standards and sown seeds of discord among the ranks” (Clemmitt). Continuing, Donnelly writes that “with the co-ed training and setting different standards of physical achievement for men and women are setting the training bar lower”. She believes that since there is no gender-norms on the battlefield that all soldiers should receive the same training. An example of the military changing standards based on gender is in the Navy. For a 1.5 mile run the Navy will allow a passing score for a man who runs the distance in 13 minutes and 15 seconds, but for a woman they give a satisfactory rating for the same distance in 15 minutes and 15 seconds. Also, in the Air Force, the academy changed standards for women to make it easier for them. For example, they allowed more time for a run, less jumping distance, and fewer pushups. Even with this, women suffered many more injuries such as nine times as many shin splints as men along with more stress fractures, and more cases of tendinitis (Eden). Furthermore, every time women are tested, they cannot achieve the same scores as men, and they suffer many more injuries. This view is wrong because it physically impossible for women to perform as well as men. Also, recent ROTC cadets who view women as peers worry about their involvement in combat. These cadets worry that women will be “too weak to heft heavy weapons, let alone carry one of them should he be wounded” (Simons). While women might not be as tough and strong as men it is not their fault. Due to nature, it is physically impossible for women to have the same physical abilities as men. A man has much more denser bones which allows them to not get hurt as much. Also, his heart is bigger which means his aerobic capacity is greater so he can undergo more effort than a woman. Finally, a man is able to develop much more lean muscle to be able to be stronger and lift heavier objects. Due to all of this, a man will be able to maintain and perform far longer than any woman will ever be able to do no matter how hard she tries. In “Women in Combat: the Question of Standards” by Jude Eden she states that, “we females can train as hard as we like, and we may increase strength, stamina, and fitness. Nevertheless, our increased fitness still will not put us on par with that of the men who are training to their utmost, like men in combat units and the Special Forces”. This is the sad reality so no matter how worried the military is, women can never gain this same standard as men. Women should not be held capable for this flaw in their genetics and should be allowed to fight in combat anyways.

Another reason woman should be in combat and receive more roles is because they are very intelligent and can handle the duties of combat especially now that the branches of military are integrating them into roles. For example, Andrew Swick and Emma Moore state in their article, “The (Mostly) Good News on Women in Combat”, all about how the branches are adapting to women in combat. Continuing, the Army is making very good progress in having women in combat roles. As of 2018, over 600 women have been recruited or transferred for combat positions. Along with this, 12 women have graduated from Ranger School. Furthermore, to help first integrate female officers and non-commissioned officers, the Army created a “leaders first” approach. They did this in order to help female enlisted soldiers in making mentorship and role models among the units. Finally, the Army is also opening three more posts for women at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Carson, Colorado; and Fort Bliss, Texas. This will make five bases for women in combat roles (Swick and Moore). Continuing with “The (Mostly) Good News on Women in Combat” the Navy and Air Force aren’t as involved in direct combat, but they are both very good at including women in their units. The Air Force actually allows women to serve in most all roles in their branch. With the Navy, they have been able to have women on their naval ships successfully which allows them to potentially take on command. While the Army, Navy, and Air Force are more open to allowing women in combat, the Marines aren’t as easily adapted. The Corps were so against the gender integration that they had to have a study examining if it would affect combat readiness. However, they have moved past this and are attempting to grow their percentage of women from 8% to 10%. Furthermore, they are following the Armies lead with a “leaders first” approach. The Marines are putting senior female officers with non-commissioned officers in combat roles in an effort to help junior women and to recruit women for enlisted roles (Swick and Moore). Continuing, women are already basically in combat due to how close the support units that they are allowed to fight in are close to the battlefield. However due to this, it has already placed women in harm’s way and has proven that they are capable fighting in combat and being successful (Rice and Col Charles E). Furthermore, women have proved they can handle their duties because in Afghanistan, female soldiers help the male soldiers they are with in order to calm local civilians, women, and children during their operations. Also, they say that the woman’s presence will fill an important gap in order to protect and engage the civilian population. Finally, women have served in military power and transports that have been a part of firefights and have handled it very well. While women have proved their ability in fighting in combat, many people are still against it. Critics believe that women would just be in the way due to men’s attraction to women and the sexual harassment rate of women in the military. According to “Women in the Military”, the rate of sexual assault on women is higher in combat areas versus non-combat areas. While in these potentially deadly areas of combat zones the soldiers are counting on one another to have their back and due to this it can potentially lead to miscommunication. According to the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Health Center, they say that 41 percent of veterans treated said they had experience sexual assault and 29 percent say that they were raped. In order to prevent this, they say that women should dress less provocatively. I disagree with this and believe the military should come up with a better solution such as stricter regulations and having commanders watching the soldiers. It is not the woman’s fault that a male wants to take advantage of her. Continuing, with women in deployment with men, the men try to compete for the women. This will break the bond of trust within the men and lower the dependency rate among each other. A woman is a distraction for a man according to Anna Simons. She says that due to the harsh conditions of combat like laying in a cave or on a guard duty while it is very boring with a woman next to him, he will have a temptation to try to be sexual with her. She says this reason alone is why combat units would have to be separated because women bring out the vulnerability in men. Furthermore, the military needs to have a “ready” workforce so they can immediately respond when they need soldiers. Since a large part of the military is women, pregnancy gets in the way of having a “ready” military. In a pre-deployment processing, Army Sgt. Erica Crawley discovered that some women tend to become pregnant to get out of deployment. This can cause a massive problem for the military. Continuing with women being pregnant in the military, they cannot hide it like a male could if he got hurt. A pregnancy would require a woman to leave deployment and no other comparable “disadvantage” can make a man undeployable. While I disagree that women should be getting pregnant to getting out of deployment, I also disagree that the military forces soldiers to go to combat. While a pregnancy out of rape or consensual conception on purpose is not always the intent of a woman, it is not their fault. Thus, these reasons, I still believe that women will be a vital part in combat and will be even better as the military branches keep including them.

In conclusion, women are an extremely important part of the military and they always have been. Whether their role is a nurse, pilot, or even a mechanic they can be subject to combat even if it is right or wrong. Throughout history women have gained more respect and roles in the military and due to this, I believe they should be accepted in combat no matter what. Women have served in the military for many years, they are as tough as a man is despite being physically weaker, and they can easily withstand their roles in combat.

Works Cited

  • Brower, J. Michael, and Elaine Donnelly. ‘Examining the pros and cons of women in combat.’ The Officer, Mar. 2005, p. 38+. Gale General OneFile, Accessed 14 Nov. 2019.
  • Clemmitt, Marcia. ‘Women in the Military.’ CQ Researcher, 13 Nov. 2009, pp. 957-80,
  • Eden, Jude. ‘Women in combat: the question of standards.’ Military Review, Mar.-Apr. 2015, p. 39+. Gale OneFile: Military and Intelligence, Accessed 24 Nov. 2019.
  • Leidy, Levi. “Should Women Serve in Combat? A Look at Both Sides.” Our Military,
  • Patten, Eileen and Kim Parker. “Women in the U.S. Military: Growing Share, Distinctive Profile.” Pew Social & Demographic Trends,
  • Rice, and Col Charles E. “Women in the Infantry: Understanding Issues of Physical Strength, Economics, and Small- Unit Cohesion.” Military Review, U.S. Army CGSC, 1 Mar. 2015,
  • ‘Secretary of Defense rescinds ground combat exclusion rule for women.’ UWIRE Text, 31 Jan. 2013, p. 1. Gale Academic Onefile, Accessed 20 Nov. 2019.
  • Simons, Anna. ‘Women in Combat Units: It’s Still a Bad Idea.’ Parameters, Summer 2001, p. 89. Gale Academic Onefile, Accessed 14 Nov. 2019.
  • Spivack, Miranda S. ‘Women in Combat.’ CQ Researcher, 13 May 2016, pp. 433-56,
  • Swick, Andrew, et al. “The (Mostly) Good News on Women in Combat.” Center for a New American Security,
  • Wilson, Heather. ‘Women in combat.’ The National Interest, Summer 1993, p. 75+. Gale General OneFile, Accessed 23 Nov. 2019.
  • “Women in the United States Army.” Women in the U.S. Army | The United States Army,

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