The question of whether women should be able to join the frontline with their male counterparts has been controversial. With the increase inequality of women, more and more gender groups are asking for fair opportunity across all work sectors, irrespective of gender. Over the years, women have proved to be emotionally, intellectually and morally capable of doing what men should do. Women have long been a key component of the U.S. military. They also behaved heroically in a number of operations around regions such as Iraq. However, there are also concerns about how much mental and physical stamina women can cope with in the face of war (Cawkill 30). Even though women can be equally capable, various issues still arise that may affect their ability in combat.
As per the 1994 Pentagon rule, women were restricted from many positions in the military. The Pentagon held that “Service members are eligible to be assigned to all positions for which they are qualified, except that women shall be excluded from assignment to units below the brigade level whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground.” However, over the years, various changes have been noted with the most recent being Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s bid to raise the military ban on women. Lifting the ban on women engaging in battle was directed towards enhancing the stature of women in the military. However, even though the ban existed almost ninety percent of military positions were already open to women (Goldstein 108). Thus it is not that women were not allowed in the military, but that they were not involved in direct frontline combat.
One of the arguments that have been raised against women engaging in frontline is the danger of on-base relationships. Soldiers just like any other human beings are not free from emotions. Wherever young men and women intermix in close quarters emotions are bound to rise at some point, which is evident even in the workplace where colleague relationships tend to form. Relationships would be particularly distracting in the face of battle which requires one to be fully committed and ready for any eventuality. How a soldier is emotionally impacted a lot on whether they will survive or die on the battlefield (Porter and Rick 16). This in turn ripples across the unit with regards to its survival and ability to accomplish the goals designated. Hence the ability to remain focused on the mission for a day or more requires a soldier to be void of distractions.
Another factor that may hamper effective integration of women in front-line battle is cultural tradition. In society, men have always been the ones in charge of taking care of their women and children. This tradition is still present in the military where men may act foolishly trying to protect women (Porter and Rick 18). In addition to this, military readiness may be crippled in cases where a woman pulls out due to cases such as pregnancy, which brings into light the cost-benefit factor of allowing women in frontline battle. Women compared to men require more logistical, regulatory and disciplinary costs. One instance where this can be justified is where a unit member becomes pregnant requiring them to be pulled out of a do or die mission, which would mean finding another replacement and retraining the whole unit to ensure consistency and group cohesion. Furthermore, due to natural fitness men are able to carry more military supplies which are integral during prolonged periods of isolation in combat situations.
However, even though women may be at a slight disadvantage, it is believed that most of the arguments raised against engaging women in frontline battles can be managed. Women have proved that they have the physical endurance and mental will to engage and even win in combat. More often women have been recognized for various acts of bravery in combat situations. Hence, when they pass all the military requirements to join frontline battles, they should be enrolled and allowed to engage. However, being in frontline battle is one of the harshest and most punishing situations even for men (Pereira 23). Most of the men who engage in front-line combat return home physically maimed and mentally depressed. The number of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) in 2016 across the military was almost fifty percent. Hence for both men and women, this interprets to high medical costs and a shaky family life after military services.
Serving one’s country is the ultimate sign of patriotism. It involves making a personal decision to sacrifice one’s safety, career and life to serve your country. Hence if women want to be engaged in frontline combat and they meet the threshold, then they should not be excluded. They should be empowered and supported by their male counterparts without being prejudiced against or harassed. One of the issues that have greatly hampered women integration in the military has been sexual assault by colleagues (Hoge, Julie and Carl 2). Many military women have been victims of sexual assault and even rape within the camps. However most of them do not come out since this would be seen as weak. Studies show that almost seventy (70) percent of women who serve in the military have PTSD due to sexual assault within the ranks.
However, it should be noted that every military personnel has their own abilities and capacities in the face of combat. We are all differently endowed both mentally and psychologically. This is not a question of women’s intellectual quality or value as a human being but rather one of effectiveness and efficiency (Cawkill 30). In many instances, women are smarter than men, however in instances where physical endurance is needed, men prevail. Soldiers have been known to carry as much as 60 kilograms of military gear and still engage in combat. However, women should be allowed if they are able to compete on an equal footing with their male counterparts without affecting the mission. On the other hand, they should be incorporated in the various military units where their skills can be crucial to the success of the mission. Having a diverse military unit engaging both men and women would lead to enhanced military competitiveness.
Cawkill, Paul, et al. “Women in ground close combat roles: The experiences of other nations and a review of the academic literature.” Defense Science and Technology Labroratory, Porton Down 2009.
Goldstein, Joshua S. “War and gender.” Encyclopedia of sex and gender. Springer US, 2003. 107-116.
Hoge, Charles W., Julie C. Clark, and Carl A. Castro. “Commentary: Women in combat and the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.” International Journal of Epidemiology 36.2 (2007): 327-329.
Pereira, Angela. “Combat trauma and the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder in female and male veterans.” Military Medicine 167.1 2002: 23.
Porter, Laurie M., and Rick V. Adside. Women in combat: Attitudes and experiences of US Military officers and enlisted personnel. Naval Postgraduate School Monterey Ca, 2001.