Should women/mothers accept combat roles in the military?

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced today that women would be allowed to serve in combat roles in the military.

According to The Associated Press, this move opens up 230,000 battlefront posts – many in Army and Marine infantry units. It will be up military service chiefs to recommend and defend whether women should be excluded from more demanding or deadly positions such as Seals or Delta Force.

Currently women could fly the helicopter supporting a infantry battalion or provide medical aid to that battalion but couldn’t actually serve as an infantryman.

Right now women “comprise about 14 percent of the 1.4 million active military personnel. More than 280,000 women have been sent to Iraq, Afghanistan or to jobs in neighboring nations in support of the wars. Of the more than 6,600 U.S. service members who have been killed, 152 have been women.,” according The AP.

From The AP:

“Our military is more capable, and our force is more powerful, when we use all of the great diverse strengths of the American people,” Panetta said at a Pentagon ceremony in remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr.

“Every person in today’s military has made a solemn commitment to fight and, if necessary, to die, for our nation’s defense,” he said. “We owe it to them to allow them to pursue every avenue of military service for which they are fully prepared and qualified. Their career success and their specific opportunities should be based solely on their ability to successfully carry out an assigned mission. Everyone deserves that chance….”

“The historic change, which was recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, overturns a 1994 rule prohibiting women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units.”

“The change will not take place overnight: Service chiefs will have to develop plans for allowing women to seek the combat positions, a senior military official said. Some jobs may open as soon as this year, while assessments for others, such as special operations forces, may take longer. The services will have until January 2016 to make a case to that some positions should remain closed to women….”

“Objections were few. Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council, called the move “another social experiment” that will place unnecessary burdens on military commanders.”

“While their focus must remain on winning the battles and protecting their troops, they will now have the distraction of having to provide some separation of the genders during fast-moving and deadly situations,” said Boykin, a retired Army lieutenant general. He noted that small units often are in sustained combat for extended periods of time under primal living conditions with no privacy.”

So I am very interested in women serving in the military and have always been fascinated by the Israeli Army, in which male and female service is compulsory.

From The Times of Israel:

“In Israel, women serve in combat roles from infantry to the air force.”

“At the end of 2012, Lt. T, the first female religious pilot-navigator to graduate from the IAF’s flight school, received her wings at the Hatzerim airbase.”

“This past year, 1,728 religious girls, roughly a quarter of the graduating class of national religious girls’ schools, joined the IDF.”

“Last September a deadly shootout along Israel’s border with Egypt shined a spotlight on the country’s only mixed female and male combat unit. The Caracal battalion’s response to the terrorist attack — which left three gunmen dead, including one whom Israeli officials said was killed by a female soldier — marked a major test for the unit.”

“Women were barred from field units until 2000, the year Caracal was introduced as a way to ease females into combat duty. The unit was positioned in areas along Israel’s borders with Jordan and Egypt. For years, the territory was calm, largely because Israel has peace deals with both neighbors. Soldiers who were there mostly worked to prevent drug and weapons’ smuggling and while they were trained to neutralize an armed threat, they rarely faced one.”

So here are my questions/thoughts:

  1. Should being a mother affect whether a woman is accepted into a combat role or is that totally her family’s decision?
  2. Are there skills and talents inherent in women that men don’t have that would complement the men or make them better at some combat roles?
  3. I remember lots of discussion during the Gulf War about concern about women soldiers being raped and my husband said that was a big discussion on CNN yesterday as well. As he points out, men can be raped too so is that even relevant?
  4. If we’re worried about rape, let’s look at the sexual assaults and harassment in our military academies. The Associated Press reported in December that sexual assaults jumped 23 percent in the nation’s three military academies in the last year. (And that’s not even behind enemy lines – supposedly.)

From The AP via the The Navy Times:

“Reported sexual assaults at the nation’s three military academies jumped by 23 percent overall this year, but the data signaled a continued reluctance by victims to seek criminal investigations.”

“According to a report obtained by The Associated Press, the number of assaults rose from 65 in the 2011 academic year to 80 in 2012. However, nearly half the assaults involved victims who sought confidential medical or other care and did not trigger an investigation. There were 41 assaults reported in 2010.”

“Reported sexual assaults have climbed steadily since the 2009 academic year. The Defense Department has urged the academies to take steps to encourage cadets and midshipmen at the academies to report sexual harassment and assaults in order to get care to everyone and hold aggressors accountable. The number of assaults reported by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., increased, while reports at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., declined.”

I think if women want that as a career then it all should be open to them but I also think women have to be able to pass the physical requirements for the jobs. I don’t think the requirements should be changed for them.

I would worry much more about mothers accepting combat roles versus just women. Although I guess that is up to her family? Could they be compelled to take a combat role or is that just open to them?

I would personally be horrible in a combat role but I think I would do well in a nursing or food environment. Overall I am good at taking care of people and horrible at fighting but that is just me.

So what do you think?

42 comments Add your comment

Techmom

January 24th, 2013
12:28 pm

Women should be allowed in whatever roles they are capable of. My big question is what happens when a women enters as infantry and then years later gets married, has kids and decides she doesn’t want to do that job anymore. Cross training in the military isn’t like just deciding to go work for another company in a different industry or going to technical school to get trained in another career field. It costs a lot of money to cross-train military members and I do think that’s a long-term factor consider the military is funded by tax dollars.

I agree the physical mandates should not change – if for example, you have to be able to walk 20 miles with a 50lb rucksack and a rifle to be in the infantry, that should be the requirement regardless of gender. It’s not just about whether you have the mental capacity to do a specific job but also the physical capacity. Your fellow soldiers have to rely on you being able to do the same job they can. Male soldiers should not be expected to pick up someone else’s slack b/c it’s a woman.

Scooby

January 24th, 2013
12:37 pm

Mothers v “just women”? Really? Why shouldn’t mothers be in combat roles? Fathers are everyday, or maybe they’re just men.

Dang!

January 24th, 2013
12:46 pm

If they get the same pay, they should get the same duty. You are in it all the way, or you’re not in it.

Jack

January 24th, 2013
12:54 pm

Sorry Ladies but I’m against it. If it gets down to hand to hand, the woman would lose. I know there are some women out there that could hold their own but most could not.

vee

January 24th, 2013
1:11 pm

Women who have children should not be in combat roles. I’ll go even further…women who have children should not be posted somewhere that they cannot live without taking their children. Working in the school system I have seen too many children left motherless while she has been posted elsewhere. Recently I read an article about a woman who was denied becoming an officer in one of the branches because she broke the rules. This rule was not becoming pregnant during her tour. The services must have some reason to make this rule.

malleesmom

January 24th, 2013
1:26 pm

All I’m saying is be careful what you wish for. For the record, the military does not issue a soldier a spouse or child(ren). If one takes the oath, be prepared for any and all of what that entails.

Not A Mom

January 24th, 2013
1:28 pm

Should we limit fathers roles in combat? If not, why are mothers special? Everyone should be treated equally – remember, all of our soldiers are volunteers – they know what they are signing up for.

jarvis

January 24th, 2013
1:31 pm

Only if they’ve eaten plenty of Super Foods.

FCM

January 24th, 2013
1:44 pm

I think that depends entirely on the woman herself. I LOVED the way a caller (Army Recruiter) put on the Bert Show today: Just because they now have the ability to go into those roles, does not mean they will. She was quick to point out that women have been in areas of conflict and potential danger in all wars…and used Jessica (from WVA) as an example.

Another caller to the show (US Marine, female) said that a Marine is a rifleman first. Therefore, she knew that if needed she could fire the weapon.

Isreal has had conscripted service of both genders for years now.

As has been pointed out fathers are called to serve. My children’s father was deployed twice in the most recent war.

Just because it is not the choice you would make (for you or your daughters) does not make it a bad choice.

Scooby

January 24th, 2013
1:46 pm

Good one @jarvis!

homeschooler

January 24th, 2013
1:59 pm

Agree that moms should not be in combat I even agree with vee that they should not even be deployed. I do, however think that this should not be the decision of the military but of the individual. If a mom wants to be a soldier fine but what kind of a mom signs up to be away from her kids for months or a year at a time? Yes, sometimes there are very capable dads at home to care for the kids but more often that responsibility falls on the grand parents and other relatives and the child is left without a parent. Take it from someone who has seen a lot of parentless children. NO ONE can replace a mom. If a mom chooses to be in combat she is just upping the chances that she will never come home to her child. Who would make that choice? I’m usually very nonjudgmental but, sorry I have to pass a little bit of judgement here. My biggest fear in life is not something happening to my children but something happening to me. I would never want them to suffer that kind of pain not until they are grown and can handle it. I don’t care if I was seen as a hero, if I had defended my country etc… Nothing is worth that. I have seen a lot of women who leave their kids for deployment. Most are very self centered. It’s that “this is what makes me happy” attitude. I’m sorry but if it makes you happy to be away from your children for 6 months and live in a war zone you probably should not have chosen to be a mom. Once you’re a mom that should be your first priority.
Really I feel the same for dads in that I think men who have children at home should be careful what they choose to sign up for. Kids need their parents. Both of them.
Having said all that I think the key is that there should be a set standard for those in combat. I agree with Techmom that those who can meet the standards should be allowed in combat regardless of their sex. Right now PT standards differ for men and women. That should not be the case for in combat positions.
A friend of mine brought up a good point. RIght now men have to sign up for selective service at 18. How would we feel if all women had to do the same? Just a thought.

Voter

January 24th, 2013
2:08 pm

No, women/mothers should not be in combat. I didn’t say they couldn’t, I’m saying they shouldn’t, until a need arises. Russia and France need them, especially France. We have enough men to do combat. Women are sweet, mothers, teachers, innocent and to be protected if needed. I love them and would not want them in harm’s way.

Native_Atlanta

January 24th, 2013
2:17 pm

Good points brought up here (same pay, not changing requirements, hand-to-hand). If the standards were dropped there are a lot of men who normally would not make it that would now qualify. Makes you question whether that’s providing the best possible fighting force or not.

I’m all for equality but there’s a reason women sued Augusta National for equal rights but not the NFL.

FCM

January 24th, 2013
2:19 pm

@ homeschooler…we have not needed the draft for a number of years b/c we have pleanty of able bodied volunteers. I am for doing away with selective service all together.

Native_Atlanta

January 24th, 2013
2:23 pm

Come to think of it, does this mean more women will be changing flat tires, taking out the garbage, pumping the gas, and all the other “manly duties” ESPECIALLY doing those duties in the presence of her ‘equal’ man?

Techmom

January 24th, 2013
2:40 pm

@Native_Atlanta, I’m married and changed a tire the other night. Trash duty goes to whoever sees the trash full and if my car is empty, I fill it up. Those are not “manly” duties, they’re simply duties.

Native_Atlanta

January 24th, 2013
2:43 pm

Techmom…. YOU CHANGED THE TIRE while your husband sat in the car?!

Native_Atlanta

January 24th, 2013
2:44 pm

Since Pandora’s box has been opened….. should jails be co-ed since women are equally as capable of defending themselves?

Trust me, an imate will be MUCH more kind than let’s say errrrrr AL QAEDA and the TALIBAN.

Grasshopper

January 24th, 2013
2:50 pm

Most of the women I work with are afraid to go up three rungs on a ladder. I can’t imagine going on a 20 mile hike with them carrying 50 pounds of supplies. I’m sure some could, but not many.

Compromising the effectiveness of the armed services for political correctness seems very short-sighted.

motherjanegoose

January 24th, 2013
2:53 pm

@ Native…I am married to a former Navy man. FIL was career military. There are plenty of woman out there who have; shoveled snow, changed a tire, driven a tractor, taken out the trash, done income taxes, pumped gas, hauled hay, castrated a bull calf, got a Platinum Credit Card ( or two or three) in their own name, rented cars in strange airports, negotiated contracts and an entire host of things I have done ( in the presence of a man). This does not mean that I ever have wanted to serve in the military.

Our son scored an almost perfect ASVAB and they were calling here night and day. He was not interested either. Not everyone is cut out for it. I would not want my daughter drafted. If she wanted to serve, that would be her choice. That being said, to those women who do it…I tip my hat to you as you endure many things I cannot fathom.

Having either parent gone, from the family, takes a toll. I appreciate all who serve and thank them for their sacrifice. I know I could not do it. Never wanted to.

catlady

January 24th, 2013
2:55 pm

I read an article last year about how many enlisted women are getting pregnant, perhaps to avoid being sent overseas. I think if you join up, you have to honor your committment. If you do become pregnant, you should have to repay the cost of your training. Some women seem glad to be a soldier until it is time to ship out, then they have “other reasons” such as children they already had when they signed up, not to go. I think if you enlist, male or female, you must expect to be sent to do whatever needs to be done.

motherjanegoose

January 24th, 2013
2:58 pm

@ Grasshopper…where do you work? I know I would not be able to carry 50 pounds for 20 miles but 3 rungs on a ladder?

mom2alex&max

January 24th, 2013
2:59 pm

It’s up to them. If they pass the same physical and mental requirements, they should be able to and the decision should be theirs to make.

Personally, I would never in a MILLION years and it has nothing to do with being a mom, but that is me, not everyone else. I don’t think it is a good idea for moms to do any kind of dangerous job, but already there are moms that are firefighters, cops, and in the military too. Just because they are not in combat doesn’t mean they are not in dangerous situations.

Defend America First

January 24th, 2013
3:04 pm

We no longer fight defensive wars. Our wars now are wars of choice to line the pockets of the military/industrial/oil/banking complex. Frankly I cannot understand why anyone, let alone a mother, would sign up to enable the government to throw away these trillions of dollars and to be used as cannon-fodder for the empire. What I find even more disgusting is when I read/hear of both parents going off to war. If the enemy were in our country (I’ll avoid any commentary regarding that straight line) I would fully understand every man, woman, and child fighting to defend their homeland, but when we are attacking, invading, and occupying sovereign nations that have not attacked us (Afghanistan did not attack us on 9-11 and neither did Iraq) I just cannot understand any of this behavior. Clearly the media and government brainwashing/propaganda machine has done what it set out to do.

Further, with all of the recent reports of sexual harassment and abuse in the Air Force, the countless reports of rape, assault, etc. in both combat and non-combat settings in all branches of the service (reportedly as high as 1 in 4 or more women), I also cannot understand why any woman would willingly subject herself to that kind of abuse. At least in the private workplace there are laws that actually protect people. Why those same laws don’t apply to the military is a mystery.

Stay home moms, take care of your children, homeschool them, and teach them about peace and our long-lost republic. Don’t throw your life away in support of the empire.

Native_Atlanta

January 24th, 2013
3:09 pm

motherjanegoose, thanks for the points. I served 6 years in the USMC and still work for the US Army. I am not bashing any duties… just seems like chivalry is being put to an unnecessary death here for the sake of politics.

When the ‘bump in the nigh’ occurs downstairs, can my woman go investigate? Sure can, but I’M BETTER EQUIPPED so I prefer she be the one to live to tell the story. lol

COMBAT isn’t any of these friendly within-the-border examples we’ve talked about. It’s cruel and it’s pitting the world’s MEN against our women. I don’t care how people try to paint it, that’s NOT A LEVEL playing field. Again, I go back to the jail reference (make prisons co-ed if it’s that simple).

Techmom

January 24th, 2013
3:09 pm

No, my husband was not in the car! I know how to change a tire and can do it faster than calling him and waiting for him to drive to me. The women I know who are afraid to do it are those who were never shown how. So to every parent out there- teach your daughter the basics of car repair.

I do however climb the ladder and clean the gutters at our house. My husband gladly holds the ladder steady while I climb. :)

motherjanegoose

January 24th, 2013
3:25 pm

@ Techmom…I can do it but that is what I pay AAA for. There comes a point when some things are too much of a hassle, for me!

Techmom

January 24th, 2013
3:34 pm

I’m not disagreeing with AAA… I’m just too impatient to wait on someone else (and too cheap to pay someone to clean my gutters!)

JF McNamara

January 24th, 2013
3:47 pm

It shouldn’t make a difference. We’re moving towards equality. If that is what a woman would like to do, then she should do it and accept the repercussions of it. So long as they are not forced into combat, I do not care.

DLink

January 24th, 2013
4:37 pm

I think Israel knows more about fighting psychology than most of the world put together. They analyze what the women appear to capable of, as in acts of violence, give them assignments they would approve to choose from. Combat and support options.

Just remember, in the IDF (Israel Defense Force) the motivation for joining is primarily pride/recognition in serving in the defense of Israel. In the capitalist U.S. it could very well come down to a job/money, not to say there might not be some motivation over there for that. Primarily, women are suppressed from many things there, which they are not here for the most part. It is a driving force for women in Israel. Women’s Liberation, if you will.

So being a mother might come into play. Would a mother here put herself in harms way for others children for the pay to support her own family? Would she kill? Something to think about.

I have no particular feelings towards Israel, but, they’re one of the best in military training. And apparently training women for specific tasks in the military. I’d get some advice from them on the subject of how to implement this. PS worked with some great women in the USN and some not so great, just like the guys. It was never a problem on our ammunition’s ship, in the field, it might be more interesting. Not that it didn’t happen on our ship. It was never a problem EXCEPT for an Enlisted/Officer incident, consensual. Ladies, as with abortion and such, I’ll leave it to you to decide.

sam

January 24th, 2013
4:45 pm

They should be allowed only if they are combat ready and can carry their own weight (and sometimes that of a downed man). The women likely to do this are white however; leaving the muslim and Mexican women here to continue to propagate drains on the economy, so not sure it is a good idea.

Jack

January 24th, 2013
5:00 pm

@TechMom I can see why he would hold the ladder for you :)

dc

January 24th, 2013
5:03 pm

Why should they get a choice? If men have to do it, women should as well…with NO difference in ability to “choose”.

dc

January 24th, 2013
5:06 pm

Have just re-read the comments above….and am even more amazed at the attitude that women should only have to serve in combat roles if they “want to”. Seriously? How does that make any sense at all?

Women who choose to go into the military should have to perform the same duties as a man would, without any “choice” other than what a man would have.

Amy

January 24th, 2013
5:25 pm

If a woman has met the physical requirements and wants to do the job, then let her freaking DO the job and quit your preaching! We are not all delicate flowers that need to be protected. Some of us enjoy rigorous workouts and adrenaline rushes. If I know the risks and accept them, let me do something for my country.

dc

January 24th, 2013
5:37 pm

of course it is without any question that, once a woman is captured in combat, and the media starts stories about her rape and abuse in prison, the politicians will insist that others lose their life trying to free her, in a way that they’d never insist for a male. Sad, but just the way it will work.

I feel for the parents of the soldiers who die because of this.

Amy

January 24th, 2013
5:56 pm

dc. so who needs to change here, the military and how they govern themselves or the media? By the way, where are you getting this information from? Examples? Fear-mongering isn’t giving you much credibility at the moment.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/#50568668

James

January 24th, 2013
7:36 pm

No.
If you disagree, read this article from the Wall Street Journal and see if it changes your mind…

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323539804578260132111473150.html

Dc

January 24th, 2013
8:43 pm

@amy.. Disagree with what? Do you disagree with either point that I made? 1) women should not get any more “choice” than male soldiers do, and 2)other soldiers shouldn’t be put in harms way should a woman get captured?

catlady

January 24th, 2013
9:54 pm

Techmom: before I was allowed to drive I had to rotate the tires on the car (no power tools). Took me hours but I felt much more confident.

El Cuco

January 24th, 2013
10:34 pm

This will not end well… Being in the military myself, I see the double standards when it comes to females in the military. For example, in every service, a female’s physical fitness test requirements differ from that of her male counterpart. Many times I’ve seen females get away with not doing something, and another member having to pick up the slack. Not only are these situations unfair, but it could ultimately hinder the mission. I’m sure I’ll receive flack for this, but it’s just my opinion based on my personal experiences form two different branches.

PFC

January 24th, 2013
11:05 pm

HOOAH!!!! I was ready for combat when I was in! Yeah baby!!!!!