The military world was rocked on its heels last week when Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered all branches to open up all combat jobs to women. Honestly, we knew it was coming. But I still wasn’t excited. I was full of questions, some logistical and some emotional. And then social media exploded with snarky comments against women in the military, men in the military, milspouses who dared to have an opinion, and really, anyone who dared to disagree. Here’s where I think we fail. It isn’t any of our decisions, but why are we fighting each other on this? Anyway, here are some of my concerns. And hopefully some answers to those questions.
1. Is this possible?
Of course I mean, logistically. The services were given 30 days to make this happen. 30 days puts us at Jan 4th, the Monday after Holiday Block Leave (or whatever they are calling it this year.) Really, nothing much happens those last two weeks of December. Half-days, leave, Holiday parties, team-building activities, and lots of shortened office hours. So how, exactly, does Secretary Carter think this is going to happen when even the most junior LT knows how impossible it is to inprocess or outprocess an installation during these two weeks?
2. What does it mean for right now?
There is no one debating the fact that women have been in combat and have done brilliantly. There is no one debating the fact that they should be recognized as combat veterans. But there are going to be some hiccups in the plan to assimilate women in to the combat arms jobs in the military within 30 days. For example, in the Army, Fort Benning is the place you go for basic training to become an infantryman. Right now, it’s only men. Now there will need to be separated female barracks. Which isn’t an option. In accordance with Army Regulation 350-6 separate and secure quarters are required when male and female soldiers are housed in the same barracks in training commands.
3. What do service members think?
Of course opinions come from both sides, a female NCO in the Army thinks is a great idea, “Women have proven themselves capable in combat since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” She goes on to explain, “We may not have been in a combat arms job, but we certainly have been serving in combat.”
The opposite side of the coin comes from a young Marine LCpl who freely admits he hasn’t yet seen combat, but has participated in infantry-based training with women and has noticed some problems. “A big concern is non-work issues from a male/female unit that caused morale and functionality to degrade over time,” he says. “As much faith as I have in women and want to see true equality and success, I’m not sure we’re there yet. I don’t want more lives to be lost because we are trying to make a point.”
4. What does it mean for the future?
Honestly, here’s my biggest concern, the future. There are already rumors circulating that women will now be included in the selective service. I’m not ok with that. That women will subjected to the draft, if one is needed. I’m not ok with that.
And it really bothers me that now I have to be. In order to be a “good woman” I have to agree with this? No. I don’t want to serve in the military. I don’t want anyone to be forced to serve in the military. I want the best, the brightest, the strongest, the most highly trained serving in the military. I don’t want anyone else making that decision for me. Or for my daughter. Or for my grand-daughter. (Or for my son, but that’s a story for another day.)
I know some absolutely fantastic, strong, disciplined female service members who would be a fantastic asset to the combat arms field. Just as I know some male service members who are a much better fit in non-combat arms fields.
5. Do I get to have an opinion?
This is by far the most annoying part. Yes, I do. I get to have an opinion as an American and as a woman. And it doesn’t have to match yours. I believe women can do most everything men can do, but I’m not convinced we need to. Women can do things men can’t. It’s what makes us different and special. We all have strengths and weaknesses, I don’t think we need to make blanket statements about a gender. If this decision proves to be the thing that tips these wars in our favor, I’ll be the first to say I was wrong. But right now, I’m concerned. And I have a right to be. My lack of service has nothing to do with my ability to form an opinion. In fact, since I do not have personal experience, I spend more time researching and forming that opinion. We all get an opinion. We don’t all have to agree.
What do you think? And, more importantly, why do you think this way?