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Women in Combat: Women Join the Men in the Fight for Freedom
By: Theresa Deocales, Age 17 Posted: 04.16.03
This student writer argues that women have shown that they can fight just as well as the men and should be on the frontlines.
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They enlist in the same armed forces, go through the same vigorous training to become the best of the best, perform their duties and possess the same patriotic pride that every man in the armed forces possesses. Why is it then, that women are still being held back when it comes to defending our country?
Recent history has testified that women have proven to be effective in combat.
Women in the 1991 Persian Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War of 1991 sent 40,000 servicewomen to fight overseas; thirteen women were killed in the line of duty. According to Capt. Lory Manning, current director of the Center for Women in Uniform at the Women's Research and Educational Institute, this was " the largest deployment of women to a combat theatre."
Several important policy changes have been made since the Persian Gulf War most notably President Clinton's signing of the military bill ending combat exclusion for women on combatant ships and fighter planes.
Today, women account for 15% of the military and experts say that in the Iraq War, women are likely to serve in many more positions than during the Persian Gulf War.
By all accounts, women have made significant progress in the fields of armed forces, but it has been a slow process and restrictions still confine women to limited positions.
Restrictions to women
In the Navy, for example, female officers are eligible to serve in all of the Navy's officer communities except submarines (a policy currently under review) and special warfare in the Navy SEALs.
In the Army, women cannot serve in the infantry, armor, cannon field artillery or short -range air defense artillery. The Marines put similar restrictions on women, while the Air Force closes positions to women in Combat Control, Special Operations Forces, Rotary Aircraft, TAC Pararescue, and Weather assignments with infantry or Special forces. Despite these divisions, all Coast Guard positions are open to women.
Senior Casey Johnson, who is awaiting acceptance into the Air Force, feels that these restrictions are fine on paper, but should not necessarily apply to all women, especially if they are capable.
" I think that if females are competing with men for the same positions and are qualified, then they should be able to have the same opportunities," Johnson said. " If [they] can outperform the men, then there should be no double standards."
Can women perform as well as men?
Common arguments made about allowing women to combat are whether or not women can perform as well as men and if integration of both sexes will have a negative effect.
A report by the U.S. Army Institute of Environmental Medicine at Natick,
MA, concluded that " when a woman is correctly trained, she can
be as tough as any man."
Senior Analyst Everett Harman added, " You don't need testosterone to get strong."
Still, there are those who are in opposition to women fighting in wars. The Virginia-based Independent Women's Forum has denounced initiatives to allow women to serve in combat units. The IWF cited a number of possible reasons why women should not be allowed to serve, ranging from the danger of the mixing both sexes in close quarters to women endangering men's fighting in combat and morale.
But there is a majority of the American public, especially American military families, who encourage and even support women playing an enhanced role in the armed services.
As the times change and more opportunities are presented to women to serve in the armed forces, many experts believe that the U.S. will eventually include women in combat missions. The Iraq War will provide U.S. women soldiers with the chance to prove their opposition wrong.
Theresa Deocales is the Editor-in-Chief at The Knight, the Notre Dame High School student newspaper in Sherman Oaks, CA.
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