Female combat soldiers

When one sits down and thinks of almost any war movie that they have seen it shouldn’t take long to realize that their mind is being filled with images of men, and exclusively men, on the front lines of battle. This is not some sort of subliminal sexism of Hollywood, but rather a historical reality for the United States Military. Although combat positions in the military have been available exclusively to male soldiers, this will not be the case for much longer.

On Thursday, January 24, 2013 top defense officials for the United States signed a memo that will be lifting the ban on female soldiers obtaining combat positions. Many soldiers would say that this is something that should have happened long ago due to the common belief that everyone deserves the chance to defend their country as a combat soldier if they choose to do so. While there are many voices that would call this a common sense advancement being made by the military, there are still a few voices that are rising up in opposition in order to bring reminders as to why the ban existed in the first place.

The biggest concern by far is that of the overall safety of combat soldiers on the front lines of battle. While some may call the ban sexist, others continue to point out that there are differences in the general physical capabilities of men and women. Men are generally capable of achieving greater physical strength and stamina than women, which is an important fact to many who have considered this issue. Karen Hacker, a chief warrant officer who has served in the Marine Corps for 20 years agrees with this by stating that women on the front lines would most likely have to try twice as hard simply to keep up with the men on combat patrol missions. This is not a statement criticizing women, but rather an understanding of the consequences of the anatomic and physiological differences between men and women height and muscle development.

Many expand this thinking by going on to question whether or not a woman on the front lines would be able to carry a fellow soldier out of danger, especially if that soldier is a male of much larger size and weight. A so called “simple” solution being presented by Anne Coughlin, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law would be for the military to just create a single physical fitness standard and leave that as a deciding factor for combat positions.

While this solution may sound very simple, it definitely comes with hesitations. Peter Mansoor, a professor of military history at Ohio State University, who also happens to be a former executive officer to General David Petreaus in Iraq, believes that it would be likely that many female soldiers would not be able to pass such a fitness test. Mansoor believes that this would result in accusations calling the fitness standards inappropriate or unfair. The last thing that the military would want to do is lower the standards of their front line soldiers.

Regardless of opinion on the matter, the plan is official, but far from complete. By the middle of May, the Secretary of Defense should be receiving a report explicitly explaining the details of lifting this ban on female combat soldiers. While specifics are not yet available, it is believed by many that female combat soldiers should be expected to appear before the war with Afghanistan ends.

Another step in the process will occur in January of 2016, when the Pentagon will receive a leadership notice that would regard possible positions that they still believe should be held by male soldiers. If any such position is discussed, it would most likely be a Special Operations Force field, such as the Navy SEALs. Currently, however, it is expected that female soldiers will gain access to all combat arms professions from infantry to artillery. No matter what the case is, officials stress that the standards present for all positions will not fall because of the lifting of the ban.