Women allowed in combat

Shanel Royal

History recently encountered a huge development for equal rights on Jan. 24 when Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta lifted a law banning women from the front lines in combat.

This has been long overdue.

Only now lifting the 1994 ban shows the military is behind the times. Since 1775, women have been in the armed forces, though participating in smaller roles such as nurses. They currently hold military positions such as military police and pilots. Women are not the issue here – it is about those qualified to do the job.

According to the Statistical Information Analysis Division website, the military had 204,309 women in September 2012. This included the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. Women already fight in wars. No need for restrictions.

The Department of Defense website lists the death toll for the Afghanistan war at more than 2,000 so far. The deaths include men and women. These women are allowed to fight and die serving their country, though they are allowed little opportunity to choose what roles in which to participate. Mothers, aunts, and sisters defend the same country men defend.

“I’ve served with men and women on my squad and I can tell you there are some men who are incapable of being soldiers and there are some women incapable of being soldiers, but it is not based on their gender – it is based on their personal abilities,” said Jason Houston, a junior biology major who fought in Bosnia as military police.

Many women handle demanding jobs outside of war. Professions like doctors, firefighters, surgeons and police deal with difficult issues all the time. They deal with death every day, they make choices that affect people’s lives, and some put themselves in harm’s way to save others while some risk getting shot at.

The argument that women and men working together will cause sexual tension and awkwardness does not hold up. Men and women work together all the time, this is no different. Both sexes will have to get over themselves if tension does occur.

More often than not, soldiers will find themselves in uncomfortable situations. People argue that women cannot handle relieving themselves in front of men and sexual or crude banter. The societal norms go out the window when it comes to war. Staying alive should be a higher priority than age, sex and race.

As far as the physical and mental capacity of women, the military can extensively train and test them to determine who meets the standards.

“Even if we are not able to do as much (as men), I don’t see why we should be denied the right (to fight on the front lines),” said Sara Ixta, a junior business major.

Men are not exempt from the emotional outcomes of war. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs website, 11-20 percent of men and women veterans who fought in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Banning women from the front lines deprives them of choice. Let women decide for themselves whether or not they want to take on combat assignments. Not every woman is required to be at the center of battle. Those who want the roles and meet the requirements will get the jobs while others will stay working in non-combative areas.

“The (physical) standards will have to change,” said Connie Moore, a senior communications major and veteran. “I think that (the military) can train them to handle it.”

Women obtained the right to vote in 1920. America is about equality and freedom, yet women are not allowed to hold the same jobs as men.

“I don’t think people should use gender to determine someone’s abilities or effectiveness,” Matt Ott, a senior communications major, said. “Let women perform best in the job function that they do best individually.”

Panetta’s announcement means more jobs, though not every combat job will be open to women. The most qualified to fight are the ones who should be chosen. Not all women will pass training and requirements, but those who can deserve a chance.