ENG1302 Lone Star College Combat Roles to Women in US Armed Forces Paper I’m writing about the reasons why women should be able to serve alongside any man.

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Women in Combat
Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection. 2018. Lexile Measure: 1590L.
COPYRIGHT 2019 Gale, a Cengage Company
Full Text:
In December 2015 the US federal government removed longstanding restrictions on women’s roles in the military by opening combat positions to
female personnel. The groundbreaking move marked the culmination of a gradual process through which women were slowly incorporated into
full participation in the US Armed Forces. American women’s military involvement dates back to the era of the American Revolutionary War
(1775–1783), when a small number of women fought in battles in an unofficial capacity or by disguising themselves as men. Prior to the Women’s
Armed Services Integration Act (1948), which allowed women to achieve permanent military status in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine
Corps, women’s military service was limited to specially designated departments formed only during wartime. After its passage, though women
could achieve permanent status, for many decades thereafter they were still largely relegated to support roles such as nurses and administrative
In 1993 Secretary of Defense Leslie Aspin signed a memorandum, later updated in January 1994, that opened more military assignments and
specializations to women. However, the memo contained language commonly referred to as the exclusion rule, which explicitly prohibited
deploying female troops in ground combat roles and instead limited female service personnel to military units that did not directly engage enemy
forces. In 2010 Congress formed the Military Leadership Diversity Commission, which was tasked with providing recommendations for improving
promotion among women and minority members of the military. Both the Military Leadership Diversity Commission and the Defense Advisory
Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) within the Department of Defense (DoD) recommended rescinding the ground combat
exclusion rule for women.
Following a memo from the Joint Chiefs of Staff that argued forcefully for full integration of women in all roles in the military, Secretary of
Defense Leon Panetta rescinded the provision prohibiting women from serving in frontline combat roles in January 2013. Branches of the military
were given until early 2016 to remove all remaining restrictions on the roles and opportunities available to female soldiers and recruits. Under the
leadership of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, the DoD formally opened all military jobs to female personnel in March 2016. As of July 2018,
women are not required to register with the Selective Service System (SSS), also known as the draft, upon turning eighteen, in contrast to nearly
all male US citizens, who are required to remain registered with the SSS between age eighteen and twenty-five.
Pros and Cons of Opening Combat Roles to Women in the US Armed Forces
Women have served, fought, and given their lives alongside male soldiers in the US military since its inception as the Continental Army
during the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), and their contributions have historically gone unrecognized. Expanding all service
roles and positions to women represents a positive step toward full gender inclusion and recognition of all servicemembers’ sacrifices.
The US military has historically been at the frontlines of social change by expanding eligibility, lifting exclusionary policies, and integrating
previously segregated troops successfully. The military pursued such policies with the intention and effect of strengthening US national
defense and security. Excluding women from combat roles goes against the US military’s tradition of social inclusivity and puts the US
military at a disadvantage.
While women, on average, may have less muscle mass than men, some women do possess the strength and endurance necessary to meet the
military’s rigorous physical fitness standards. Such women should have the opportunity to serve in combat roles if they so choose.
As the world’s military culture shifts away from heavy direct ground combat, women bring characteristics to the frontlines that are needed to
meet new challenges facing US forces. The increased presence of women soldiers in combat zones and occupied areas will improve relations
with local communities, reduce the likelihood of sexual violence in and near war zones, assist local women’s access to resources and
services, and work for gender equity more broadly by challenging traditional views of gender that discriminate against women.
Direct ground combat and special forces roles require recruits to meet intense physical standards that most women will not be able to
achieve. Lowering standards or creating gender-specific standards to allow women to serve in such roles in greater numbers will weaken the
combat-readiness of the military. Creating gender-specific physical standards would foster resentment between and among genders in those
units, lowering troop morale and negatively impacting unit cohesion.
Full gender integration of the military will also negatively impact unit cohesion due to differing gendered concerns about romantic
relationships, sexual harassment, discrimination, and assault. Placing women on the frontlines may burden male soldiers with the additional
duty of protecting female unit members. Additionally, male soldiers’ increased anxiety over allegations of sexual misconduct will negatively
affect both unit cohesion and preparedness. Women may also be targeted for capture and rape by enemy forces.
The military as an institution instills in soldiers highly masculine traits, behaviors, and thought patterns that foster cultures in which sexual
harassment and assault go unpunished. Military culture encourages the defeminization of women soldiers, thereby undermining the impact
that servicewomen’s unique contributions could have on military culture and international relations more broadly.
The military operates outside of other industries and professions and should not be required to enact or adhere to federal equity and inclusion
policies. The military’s primary purpose is national defense, which should be prioritized over advancing social policies.
Integration Efforts
In April 2015 nineteen women enrolled in the US Army Ranger School alongside 381 men, becoming the first class of female recruits to do so.
Ninety-four men and two women, Kristen Griest and Shaye Haver, ultimately graduated that August. In April 2016 Griest became the US Army’s
first female infantry officer. In September of the same year, the Marines’ Infantry Officer Course saw the first woman successfully complete the
program. In January 2018 the US Army added three posts specifically for women serving in combat capacities, and in April 2018 the first wave of
female recruits graduated from Marine combat training at Camp Pendleton in California. In June 2018 Lt. Col. Michelle I. Macander took
leadership of the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, notching a historic first for women in combat by becoming the first female commander of a
Marine ground combat unit.
In its 2017 report, DACOWITS released a series of findings and recommendations regarding the status of women in the US military. The
committee suggested that the military should shift its recruitment and marketing strategies to include women and that it should update its
colocation and mid-career retention policies to better prioritize the needs of female soldiers. The committee also endorsed mandating genderdiverse slates for promotions to senior positions, improving childcare and family resources, introducing gender-integrated boxing programs at
military service academies, and requiring “all military organizations to use scientifically supported physical training methods and nutritional
regimens that allow for gender-specific approaches to achieve the same required occupational standards.”
In 2017 Women in International Security (WIIS), a global organization that advocates for women leaders in peacekeeping and security fields,
reported that women make up slightly more than 15 percent of the US military, and that over 300,000 American women were deployed to
Afghanistan and Iraq during the conflicts that followed the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Female soldiers have made noteworthy inroads in
several US military branches since 2015, most notably the Navy, Air Force and, to a lesser extent, the Army. In a 2018 publication, the Center for
a New American Security (CNAS) noted that the integration of women into the Army has followed a slow but steady progression. However,
CNAS also noted the Marine Corps’ uneven history of gender inclusion and reported that the Corps has struggled to attract female recruits as it
attempts to increase the representation of women in its ranks from 8 percent to 10 percent. The report further noted that female recruits have not
been met with much success in joining the Special Operations Forces (SOF), which upholds demanding entry requirements, including extreme
physical standards.
Critical Thinking Questions
Do you think that creating gender-specific physical standards for direct ground combat and special forces roles would improve or diminish
unit cohesion?
Should the US military be required to apply the same equal opportunity and non-discrimination policies followed by other federal agencies?
Why or why not?
In your opinion, is the highly masculine military culture of the US Armed Forces an example of why servicewomen should be restricted
from serving in combat roles or an example of why the military needs more women on the frontlines? Explain your answer.
Resistance and Debate
The January 2017 announcement that an unnamed female candidate, likely Griest or Haver, had successfully completed the elite 75th Ranger
Regiment’s Ranger Assessment and Selection Program II rekindled debates surrounding women’s roles in special operations forces. Under the
administration of President Donald Trump, the US military has maintained its official position that all posts are open to any individual, male or
female, who meets the entry requirements. However, opponents of this position continue to argue that women lack the physical strength and
mental fortitude needed to succeed in such positions. Some have also contended that mandated inclusion of female soldiers damages unit cohesion
and lowers morale, that women’s menstrual cycles could adversely affect their combat readiness, and that female soldiers will abandon their
military commitments if they become pregnant.
While apprehensions about menstrual cycles and pregnancy have largely been dismissed from the ongoing debate surrounding women in combat
roles, the physical capabilities of female recruits relative to their male counterparts have remained a source of concern. Biologists note that male
and female bodies display noteworthy physical differences; women appear more susceptible to injury than men, and some research has supported
the long-held observation that men have more bone mass than women. Similarly, the less objective yet widely held notion that women simply
cannot outcompete men on the battlefield continues to hold strong sway in military circles, with some detractors of women in combat roles
alleging that including female fighters on the front lines constitute a needless national security risk.
Other critics of women in combat argue against their inclusion on philosophical grounds. One common argument posits that the military’s chief
mission is to achieve results when called upon and that introducing the gender-based notions of equal opportunity that have penetrated wider
society serve as an unnecessary obstacle to that objective. A related viewpoint holds that civilian notions of equal opportunity have no place in the
military, as the vast majority of civilians lack a meaningful understanding of the demands and challenges soldiers actually face on the front lines of
combat. In 2015 internal evaluations performed by the Marines showed that all-male units of the Marine’s Ground Combat Element Integrated
Task Force training program outperformed male-female units in nearly every important metric during rigorous testing exercises. Internal polling
conducted by the Marines also found that service personnel have their own unique set of gender-specific concerns. While male Marines expressed
anxieties about romantic relationships forming within units and potentially being accused of sexual misconduct by female recruits, female Marines
expressed worries about sexual assault, sexual harassment, and being targeted for capture by enemy forces.
The threat of sexual violence has often been raised among opponents of women’s service in direct combat roles, with some critics focusing on their
potential targeting by enemy forces and others pointing to cases of sexual harassment and assault within the US military as sources of concern.
Both arguments over women’s sexual vulnerability ultimately posit that if women do not want to be assaulted, then they should not join such a
masculine and dangerous profession. Some proponents of women in combat have countered that these arguments characterize men as natural
predators who cannot help but commit rape and sexual assault. Others who support a fully gender-inclusive military assert that women’s presence
in combat units and on the frontlines will work to reduce sexual assault and rape in the military and local communities over time. Because global
military engagement is evolving away from direct ground combat, they believe that women’s presence on the frontlines will benefit the US military
by improving local community relations in and near occupied areas.
Although the Trump administration has attempted to ban transgender recruits and soldiers from military service, it has not walked back policies
allowing women to serve in combat capacities. Anecdotal accounts from women in the military, however, have suggested that female soldiers have
faced increased levels of hostility from their peers and superiors since Trump assumed the presidency. Concerns about the DoD’s position on
women serving in frontline roles under the Trump administration began in January 2017, when Trump appointed Gen. James Mattis as secretary of
defense. Mattis, who was known to be skeptical about women in combat, had pronounced in a 2014 speech at the Marines Memorial Club in San
Francisco, “It would only be someone who never crossed the line of departure into close-quarters fighting that would ever even promote such an
idea” as integrating women into ground combat units. During Mattis’s 2017 senate confirmation hearing, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York
pushed Mattis regarding his on-record statements against women’s service in direct combat. Despite Gillibrand’s attempts to elicit a clearly stated
position, Mattis’s responses remained ambiguous, prompting competing interpretations of his stance.
In December 2017 lawyers from the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), representing the Servicewomen’s
Action Network (SWAN), amended a federal lawsuit against secretary Mattis to include claims that the Trump administration is actively working
to undermine the progress made by women in the Armed Forces. The amended lawsuit cited 2017 court filings in which the DoD and the Trump
administration both declined to unambiguously state that they would not reverse the landmark decision to permit women to hold combat roles
within the US military. One servicewoman named as a plaintiff in the suit, helicopter pilot Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar, announced her run for
congress in Texas in 2018. Her campaign video, “Doors,” which prominently featured both her combat service in Afghanistan and her later
involvement in the fight to overturn the 1994 exclusion rule, became a viral success upon its release in June 2018. One month after its release,
“Doors” had been viewed over five million times on YouTube and Facebook, and Hegar’s campaign reported that it had raised in excess of
$750,000 within the first ten days.
Source Citation (MLA 8th Edition)
“Women in Combat.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2018. Opposing Viewpoints in Context,
http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/DVTWLT815937416/OVIC?u=nhmccd_main&sid=OVIC&xid=4331443c. Accessed 18 June 2019.
Gale Document Number: GALE|DVTWLT815937416

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