The U.S. Military Takes a Step Forward – Women are Now Allowed in Combat Roles
The U.S. military is now ending its ban on women in combat positions. Did you have to read that sentence again? I still do, and I just typed it …and heard it on NPR this morning, and I heard it on the television last night. I still feel like it’s not something I should be hearing in 2013. No, I’m not talking about the lifting the ban part, I’m talking about the ban to begin with. It’s been nearly 100 years since we gave women the right to vote (and I’m hoping it was equally bizarre to at least some people back then that they didn’t have that right before 1920), and just now can women die fighting for that right, at least officially and directly.
Women have already been dying and getting severely injured in wars for years now. Tammy Duckworth, a disabled veteran currently serving in the House is great proof of that, and proof what kind of a hero a woman can be. The helicopter she was co-piloting was hit by a rocket propelled grenade in Iraq. Tammy was in the air, though, and a lot of the ban was on ground troops. Still, that proves that devotion and strength of character of women aren’t in question, nor should they ever have been. After all, there are plenty of women buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Even on the ground, though women have been in the line of danger for quite some time. As CNN points out, too, “More than 800 women were wounded [in Iraq and Afghanistan], and at least 130 have died.” War now is quite unlike war in centuries or even decades past. There isn’t really a defined front line anymore. Developing new strategies to fit into this truth is part of our struggle in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s also part of the struggle to figure out what our policies and strategies should be in the continuing ‘War on Terror.’ Like it or not, we don’t fight just one clearly defined enemy in a clearly defined space anymore. Our enemies are vast and spread out. As such, women in military roles are already basically in combat roles. As Joe Davis, director of public affairs for the Veterans of Foreign Wars points out, “The current DOD policy is to not assign women to combat units, yet irregular warfare, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, places those in combat support or combat-service support units in just as much risk as the infantry.” In Afghanistan women are also used as outreach to locals. At any point an assignment like that can already morph into a combat mission.