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The female acceptance into combat arms entails women army personnel assigned to combat positions. Combat is a French word referring to fight and in army context involves opposing military forces in warfare. In most cases, females get viewed as inferior to men and incompetent for combat roles. In the USA, the restrictions preventing girls from serving in certain combat roles got lifted as from 2016. The trade in policy was led by Leon Panetta who believed girls deserved the same chances as men as lengthy as they can prove their competency. While women had participated in several army roles in the past, frontline combat roles are a new concept. The paper provides insight into ideas related to female accession into combat arms including analysis of current laws and arguments surrounding women in the military fighting roles.
While women have served in the military in the past centuries, the number, roles and occupational specialties they participate in have changed tremendously in the past decades. Combat participation got banned until 1993 following the suggestions by the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of women in Armed Forces in 1992 that led to the removal of statutory restrictions surrounding women in combat. Since then, the decisions concerning gender roles in the military were transferred to the Department of Defense (DOD) (Bohon 19). While the change in policy allowed women to serve in aviation combat roles, DOD restricted the assignment of women below the brigade level which is involved in direct ground combat (Bohon 17). Initially, before the policy changes in 2013, military rules prevented women from taking roles requiring direct ground combat, long-range scouting tasks, and other physically demanding tasks. The change in policy in 2013 got fueled by the increasing roles of women in combat roles in War against Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. The DOD called for the integration of women into as combat roles from 2016.
Since the declaration of full integration the Army and the Marine Corps have been working on incorporating women in combat positions through various combat preparatory courses such as the Marine Corps’ Infantry Officers Course. Many services are in a dilemma on what to consider the standard combat readiness in female regarding physical fitness and war-fighting skills. For instance, in September 2015 the Marine Corps requested the then secretary of defense, Ashton Carter, for a renunciation that will dismiss women from infantry and armor positions (Letendre 93). The application got denied, and the DOD announced that all combat positions should be open to women.
It is clear the concept of female accession into combat arms is here to stay. However, the discussions whether women should take part in active combat roles are still common. The DOD approved the policy change as an effort to strengthen the USA army. However, critics of women inclusion into combat arms remain adamant the women physical capabilities are lacking. They point to the differences in physical attributes between male and female. Research indicates men have 31 percent more muscles strength and 14 to 29 percent more aerobics capabilities than their female counterparts (Letendre 93). Similarly, the average woman is shorter and weighs less as compared to the male peer. According to the opponents, these features mean the difference between victory and loss or death and life considering an infantry soldier may be required to carry more than 90 pounds into the battlefield. While studies show that intense physical training increases women ability to carry more than 100 pounds, it is clear that most men can out-lift an average woman (King 383). The effects of gender integration on the unit’s ability for cohesion and fighting effectively are also a concern. Social experts have indicated while male groups flourish on competitiveness and hierarchy most women believe in cooperation. Women are nurturing while men are risk-takers. Opponents of female accession into combat roles believe such differences will reduce combat effectiveness.
However, the proponents of women incorporation in combat arms reject the claims of degraded combat effectiveness citing that standardized combat qualification showcases that the qualified women are as competent as their male counterparts. While acknowledging the obvious physical differences between women and men, the supporters believe that women have the stamina and strength to hold their own in combat. A study by the Army Research Institute in 2008 indicated that women possess the abilities to succeed in combat (Letendre 94). Regarding unit cohesion degradation due to the social differences between the genders, the protagonists believe that gender has no influence on task cohesion which is the most important concept in solidity. The supporters mention that the adverse effects of certain concepts such as different races and the inclusion of women in aviation units have been familiar but have not altered the effectiveness of task completion (Bohon 17). It is only through poor leadership, and unclear standards can unit cohesion be adversely affected.
While both the supporters and opponents have facts to support their positions, it all comes down to whether women can accomplish their tasks. Indeed integration of female into combat arms will allow them an equal chance as their male peers to defend their country. The most significant aspect is the deployment of forces that are capable of winning irrespective of their gender. The military should consider solutions that are not only best for the unit and the army as a whole but also reduce the number of casualties. In recent years, the concept of equivalence rather than equality is promoted since women cannot help their inferior physical capabilities (King 380). The inclusion of female in ground combat reduces the societal concept of the military as one of the dominant patriarchal institutions. Since USA armed forces have not participated in large-scale battlefield engagement since the Vietnam War, it is yet to be adequately determined whether women are capable of accomplishing the task with competence. However, a small-scale involvement of women in open combat in Iraq and Afghanistan have showcased the importance of training women in combat.
Similarly, advances in technology used in the military such as robotics and autonomous systems will effectively increase the concept of women inclusion in ground combat. The use of robotics reduces the physical requirement in ground combat hence effectively leveling the physical capabilities between the male and female (Letendre 98).As such, the technological advancement which is an inevitable process is likely to improve the combat equation soon.
The main issue against female accession is the effect on mission effectiveness. However, similar arguments arise regarding racial differences, and it has not affected unit cohesion. Similarly, the concerns in physical capabilities can quickly get addressed by setting standardized war-fighting skills and other physical requirements. Advocating for equivalency may be significant in marine infantry which requires extreme physical prowess. The accession of women in combat arms provides each American the right to exercise the duty of defending their country if they so desire. At the age, it is unrealistic for states to restrict women involvement in particular activities they are capable of exercising the same competence as their male counterparts. Complete women integration in combat represents a historical growth in both the armed forces and social relations in the society.
Bohon, Dave. "Feminizing America's Fighting Force." The New American (2011): 17-22.
King, Antony C. "Women Warriors: Female accession to ground combat." Armed Forces and Society (2015): 379-387.
Letendre, Linell A. "Women Warriors; Why the Robotics revolution changes the combat eqution. ." PRISM (2016): 91-103.
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