WOMEN IN COMBAT

The idea of women in combat is not unusual anymore.
They should be able to hold combat positions beacause
although physical strength matters, the military still
needs the intelligence that women can bring. Also,
banning women from the combat hurts their military careers.
Although women account for only ten percent of the
enlisted personnel (Time, 8/21/95/ Pg. 31), they
are still a major part in the armed forces. Their
performance recently has generated support from Congress and
the public for enhancing the role of females in the military.

During the Persian Gulf War, women were sent to the
Middle East to fly helicopters, service combat jets,
refuel tankers, and load laser-guided bombs. Their
performance has led the world to realize that women
are extremely useful in combat. Defense secretary Dick
Chaney said "Women have made a major contribution to
this [war] effort. We could not have won without them."
Leaders in the field agreed. The Gulf War had the largest
deployment of women in the armed forces in history. These
women encountered the same risks as the men they served with.
Twenty one females lost their lives (Holm, Women in
Combat: The New Reality, pg. 67-68).

In the Persian Gulf, there were no exact
positions and all areas were equally vulnerable,
so the idea of safe havens for women was not really
applicable. By many armed forces policies,
females are banned from combat jobs and units,
but in the Persian Gulf War females were assigned
to battleships, aircraft carriers, and marine
support groups dug into the desert. From
their experience in the Persian Gulf, military women
have earned the right to be treated as equals with
men and not as protected individuals.

In spite of their record as able combat personnel, there
are laws and policies that restrict women in the United
States Military from serving in positions that require
them to engage in direct combat. Women in the Air
Force and Navy are barred from aircraft and vessels that
have a chance to be exposed to combat. The official,
established policies of the Army and Marine Corps exclude
women from combat (Snyder, pg. 75-76). These policies
prohibit women, on the basis of gender only, from over twelve
percent of the skill positions and thirty-nine
percent of the total positions offered by the
Department of Defense. Such policies excluding women
from combat need to be repealed by Congress. The
Fourteenth Amendment\'s "Equal Protection Clause" insures
every citizen "the equal protection of the laws." Although the
clause is not applicable to Federal government, the Supreme Court
said the Due Process Clause in the Fifth Amendment prohibits
the federal government from making unreasonable classifications.
Therefore the set laws and policies that exclude women from
combat not only violate the Fifth Amendment, but also deny
women their fundamental right to engage and excel in their
chosen occupation.

There have been many court cases involving
women in combat over the years, although
there has never been a case directly
challenging the constitutionality laws and
regulations banning women from combat. In
the case of Frontiero vs. Richardson, the court
rejected the idea that "man is, or should be,
woman\'s protector or defender," which in
actuality, put women not on a pedestal, but in
a cage. In Satty vs. Nashville Gas Co., the
decision stated that gender does not determine
who is able to perform capably as a soldier.
In the case of Schlesinger vs. Ballard, it was
realized by the Supreme Court that the
combat exclusion hinders the abilities
of women to gain the experience needed for
promotion within the military. The combat
exclusion puts women wishing to obtain
qualification for high-level positions at a
disadvantage, because leadership training is
usually acquired in combat-type positions.

Although many females are not eager to go into
combat, there are women who can and want to do
the job. In a time where technology takes
over battle lines and brains might be more
important than brawn, a reason to exclude women
is non-existant.

By: Megan Craven,
Jennifer Kopper,
Stacey Rohrer

Sources:
Time Magazine, Aug 21, 1991 p.31.

Holm, Jeanne, Women in Combat: The New Reality, pg. 67-68.

Snyder, Kathy L. "An Equal Right to Fight."

Category: Social Issues