The purpose of this paper is to examine the controversial topic: should active duty women soldiers be allowed to function in combat ready roles while serving in any branch of the United States military? The argument of this paper is that the answer is no, and will be backed up with supporting evidence. However, before that is presented, some historical facts will be covered explained the traditional history of women serving in the military as well as examining some women who were involved in combat.
Women were first allowed to enter the military within the United States in 1901 and 1908 with the establishment of the Army and Navy nurses Corps. However, per historical data the ‘unofficially’ served in combat roles even as far back as then. Women would disguise themselves as men to serve as was the case with Deborah Samson, who served in the Revolutionary War under the guise of: Robert Shurtliff. (Women In Military Service) This practice of hiding their gender was quickly abolished and stopped after the Civil War due to stricter physical examinations of enlistees.
While statistical data is skewed in regards to the total number of women KIA (Killed in Action) during war times, the number sits around 360. That number spans World War I up until the Gulf War. Some of the deaths were attributed to enemy fire, others were due to things such as vehicle crashes, etc (Women in Military Service). Knowing this is time to examine why women should not be allowed to serve in combat roles.
Men and women simply are not created equal, and this is strictly from a physical standpoint. Yes there are anomalies of women showing great strength in physical situations, but the bottom line is that men are genetically stronger. Stronger, does not mean smarter or superior by any means, so this stance on the subject is not meant to come across as sexist. A soldier in full combat gear with rifle and magazines is carrying upwards to 80 pounds of gear. Soldiers are often times required to march for long periods of time, not to mention combat patrols. “The British military determined that only 1 in 100 trained female soldiers had the physical capacity to function in infantry and armor units” (Brown).
To further offer support as to why women should not serve in combat roles is the conflict of emotions which may occur during a time of duress or combat. An infantry soldier (not an officer) is paid to react as a unit, without thought; purely reactionary. Emotions can conflict with the objective of the mission; women tend to be more emotional creature; not a bad thing; however potentially a cause of concern while in combat. Women also have periods, a time of the month where they are experiencing additional mood swings, cramps, and other symptoms which could greatly impact them on the battlefield.
War time and deployments often times mean that men are away from their homes, wives, or girlfriends from up to 16 months at a time. Most soldier are young men, highly sexual and hormonal. The distraction of having a woman serving in a unit, or platoon can weigh heavily on the morale of the company. Imagine a scenario where someone became fond of a woman serving in the infantry. It creates unneeded competition and could quickly create tension between two males soldiers competing for the attention of the female.
Again, to stress the purpose of this paper is to analyse women strictly in combat roles. Women in the military in general is not an issue, and this author has no issue with women officers, pilots, etc. With this being said, where should the line be drawn? What classifies a combat role within the military? Author William Denn recently wrote a piece for the Washington Post stating that he supports women in combat roles. Here is an excerpt from that article, “Having women in our platoon would have dramatically increased our ability to elicit critical intelligence. This could mean the difference between a mission’s success or failure, with lives in the balance.” (Denn)
He believes that in todays Theatres, having women is important as combat patrols often take place in urban environments where reading emotions and gaining the trust of locals is as important as establishing a FOB (Forward Operating Base) deep in enemy territory. While that one situation may be the case for the Middle East, it is in this author’s opinion that should not be enough to justify them in combat roles.
As this author’s opinion is strictly subjective, so is Denn’s. He did not serve with women while deployed so he has no first hand experience. Another dirty aspect of any war is capture, torture and POW (Prisoner of War) treatment. Certainly a man can be tortured and raped, it would be this author’s opinion that women would be specifically targeted for this purpose. It is unknown if women would break any differently than a man under those kind of torturous conditions, however men can not be impregnated after rape. The psychological trauma sustained in a situation where that would happen to a woman would be devastating; and that reason alone is why women should avoid combat situations altogether.
In closing, war in general is a terrible situation that unless you have served and been in combat cannot begin to fathom everything that occurs mentally. It is troubling enough as it is. All this author knows that when in a foxhole, I would feel more comfortable with a man in uniform next to me and not a woman. If I were to get hit by a round and needed to be removed there is no way a women would be able to move my body due to gear and body weight.
- “Putting Women in Combat Is a Disastrous Decision.” Brown, Kingsley. U.S.News & World Report. Web. 04 Apr. 2015.
- “Women in Combat Roles Would Strengthen the Military.” Denn, William. Washington Post. Web. 04 Apr. 2015.
- “Women In Military Service For America Memorial.” Women In Military Service For America Memorial. Web. 04 Apr. 2015.