Battleland

Women in Combat: Shattering the ‘Brass Ceiling’

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Army Photo / Master Sgt. Kap Kim

Marine General John Allen speaks to Sergeant Maria Rodriguez, left, and Specialist Mellanie Harber, members of a Female Engagement Team in Afghanistan last April

The Pentagon will declare Thursday that it is lifting a ban on women serving in combat — a decision essentially rendered a fait accompli by more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, where many women served ably under fire. Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to make the announcement, based on a recommendation from Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The historic change will open up hundreds of thousands of jobs in infantry, armor and other previously all-male units from which women have been formally barred under a 1994 Pentagon rule. Ultimately, they could even be allowed to serve in special-operations units, including the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s SEALs.

Women who missed the opportunity to serve in combat cheered the change. “All jobs should be based on qualifications, not gender,” says Battleland contributor Darlene Iskra, the first woman ever to command a Navy ship.

(MORE: Modern Marine Couple: Let Women into Combat Units)

But the decision goes deeper than the post-9/11 wars. With an all-volunteer military, the Pentagon needs women in its ranks. Beyond that, the fluid nature of the 21st century battlefield has rendered long-ago battle maps, with a clear demarcation between front lines and rear echelons, as dated as muskets and bayonets. Basically, it has become untenable for the U.S. military to pretend its female troops are not engaged in combat.

Many women have griped that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq essentially placed them on the front lines, without getting the combat credentials often needed for promotions. Women constitute about 14% of the U.S. military’s 1.4 million active-duty personnel. While women have totaled more than 10% of those sent to war zones, they have accounted for 1.82% of those wounded and 2.26% of those who died.

Those numbers will climb as women move deeper into the combat arms. “We’ve had over 250,000 deployed and 144 given their ultimate sacrifice,” Army General Ann Dunwoody said of the post-9/11 wars, shortly before her retirement last year. “I think some of our policies are lagging and are catching up with the current employment of women,” the U.S. military’s first female four-star general added. The change is also likely to raise questions about continuing to require only males, once they turn 18, to register with the Selective Service so they can be summoned to fight, if needed, via a draft.

(MORE: The Combat-Exclusion Policy: Under Attack)

There is no law barring women from combat, and it remains to be seen if some in Congress try to fight to change. But the initial reaction was largely positive. Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, called it a “historic step for recognizing the role women have, and will continue to play, in the defense of our nation.” The head of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee added that since 9/11, “thousands of women already spent their days in combat situations serving side-by-side with their fellow male service members.”

With Panetta’s green light comes the tough part: ensuring there are sufficient women in uniform who want combat jobs and that they are physically capable of performing them. In the past, career-minded female officers have been more interested in that option than enlisted women.

If, as it appears will be the case, women will have to meet the same physical standards as men, that too could whittle away at the number of women eligible for combat slots. A female Marine officer caused a stir last summer when she asserted that “we are not all created equal, and attempting to place females in the infantry will not improve the Marine Corps as the nation’s force-in-readiness or improve our national security.” The only two female Marines in the corps’ infantry-officer training course the first time it was open to them last year dropped out.

(MORE: Viewpoint: Barring Women from Combat Is Unconstitutional)

A husband-and-wife Marine couple countered that the combat-exclusion policy “institutionalizes the concept that all male Marines, based on gender alone, are capable of performing duties in the combat arms, while all female Marines similarly are not.” Iskra warned that requirements should not be brandished to block otherwise qualified women. “The requirements need to be based on real requirements,” she says. “Too much in the past, height and weight requirements, for example, were used to exclude candidates who would otherwise be able to do the job.”

Battleland contributor Elspeth Ritchie, who has written about women at war, served as the Army’s top psychiatrist before retiring as a colonel in 2010. She suggests the policy change simply acknowledges reality. “We — female soldiers — were in combat,” she said Wednesday. “I came under fire. I carried a weapon. I earned three different combat patches from Somalia and Iraq. It seemed a farce to proclaim that we were not.”

Nearly a year ago, Panetta signaled that he was open to allowing women into more combat slots when he decided to allow them to serve with forward-deployed combat units in support jobs. “Women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission,” he said last February. “We will continue to open as many positions as possible to women so that anyone qualified to serve can have the opportunity to do so.”

Despite that pledge, four women recently sued Panetta and the Pentagon, saying the ban was a “brass ceiling” hindering their advancement through the ranks.

Time to move the struggle from the courtroom to the battlefield.

PHOTOS: Been There, Done That: Pentagon Formally Opens Combat to Women

119 comments
usmcr7
usmcr7

I feel women shouldn't be in a combatant mos like infantry. The female body is weaker build wise. They have female sanitary needs. It's bad enough our male combatants have to go through the ugliness of war. Then always there will be the male to female attraction, which causes problems and men aren't the only ones starting this problem. When will females learn they have certain limits in certain ways just like men do. Don't get me wrong they can use their brains in other matters like intel or other aspects of the military.

viviansanchez943
viviansanchez943

Funny - putting women in combat roles seems to be working well enough for Canada, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Norway, and several other countries.

 Is the Ranger course designed to provide the right skill set for the mission, or is it designed as a muscle camp? How do Ranger skills apply to the modern battlefield? It is physically demanding, but does it rely on upper body strength rather than practical skills? The rope crawl picture could be at summer camp.

The ‘could a woman carry a man?’ question assumes an isolated small woman, a large man and both are too dumb to strip off excess equipment. It is also an ‘upper body strength as preferred attribute’ problem.

In the 1980s, the services went through a ‘fat boy’ purge which decimated the ranks of female officers and enlisted. Women who didn’t conform to a specific waist to hip formula were bounced. Not that they weren’t excellent performers, or were obese – they just didn’t look feminine enough.

Once all the women capable of physically competing with men were purged, the services claimed women weren’t capable of competing with men physically. Of course, all the competitions depended on upper body strength.

Try this one: Place a chair or stool about 4 inches from a wall. Bend over, with your head touching the wall. Pick up the chair. Stand up.

Males can’t do it. Their hips won’t work that way.

One standard, one tab. But make sure the standards are useful, practical and meet the requirements of the mission.

Always challenge conventional wisdom.

Safdar27
Safdar27

As a retired Infantry Officer, I think that the female soldiers are not fit for combat. It is not only strength and endurance, which is required in rugged terrain conditions but it is nerves. Allah has created women as sweet and saltish as compared to men. The scenes of people dying, blood and human limbs are shattering for females. Male soldiers on the other hand can sustain this pressure and perform. Safdar<www.researchome.com>

horror
horror

You need to look into why you are fighting for Israel land grabs, but Israel Mossad (demo) agents, some dressed as muslims, were the only people arrested in new york on 9/11 for their activities.  That don't add up, and you don't have to be a math scholar to get it.

horror
horror

Amazing that the jew slaves can listen to all the jew propaganda. It doesn't even state that murdering psychopaths are a danger to society, just trying to brainwash you that sane people kill everything (for their invisible friends from Israel). Actually trying to convince you people should be psychopaths. No wonder you are all mentally deranged. Too much tv and time propaganda. Turn off the tv children. Its exposed these people who make time only here to brainwash you. They brainwash their American slaves in specific, give you dumbed down Magazine covers so you don't think too much. Enjoy Ben Shalom Bernake reducing the size of those food packages for Israel land grabs!

1913Intel
1913Intel

Every change that I want to make is fine unless you can show catastrophic damage within one year. The burden of proof is on you.

What would happen if a scientist acted that way?

Liberals just plow ahead by changing things that have always been. This is a sign that our leadership is taking us over a cliff. Well, I mean taking you over a cliff but not me. I just moved out of the US.

I run a blog on emerging risks. Women in combat is the last thing we should be thinking about. Based on what I'm seeing, you should be real worried about nuclear war. 1913intel.com

ranger71
ranger71

   I would urge all readers to google the testimony of the late Col. John Ripley, USMC, as well as his statement before congress concerning the role of women in combat. His point that American female soldiers taken captive would be treated as sex toys, not soldiers, is indictment enough alone to warn against this  tragic action. The US has not fought a single enemy that honored the Geneva Convention in half a century or more, and our enemies today clearly view it with utter contempt. Essentially, the desire of a handful of women to achieve politically-useful command rank, is going to require the deaths and grievous wounding of hundreds of thousands of the traditional nurturers of our society.

t5o1m
t5o1m

Women should not be in combat. I was in a marine infantry unit and fought in Iraq for 3 tours and 1 in Afghan before getting out of the military. I've seen how people react in combat and cant even fathom how bad a women would handle the situation of someone getting shot right next to them. I've been there and done that. We carried over 70 lbs of gear on us at a time usually while in combat. For many women that is half or more than half of their body weight. The fact that they could be captured, tortured, and raped is a whole different story as well. The women need to be able to meet the same demands that the men do. I know in my unit we would go on humps (or hikes) for 20+ miles with well over 100lbs of gear on going at a min. of a 3 mph pace. I honestly don't think any women could do this.

As for people mentioning other countries allowing women to fight directly in combat, how many of those countries are actually at war? Or have been at war in the last 10-20 years? Not many. Just because some countries do it doesn't make it right. I don't think its worth lowering our standards to allow women to participate in war. They think it's something glorious because of stupid movies, just like boys signing up straight out of high school. In reality, war is horrible. I know from experience.

atpcliff
atpcliff

Currently, more than 26 countries allow women in direct combat, including Canada, New Zealand, Britain, Australia, Norway and Germany.

In addition, Israel, Turkey, Norway, Russia, Poland, India, China, Afghanistan, Korea and Britain have females in Special Ops. The U.S. just opened up Task Force 160, an aviation special ops force, to women.

thewholetruth
thewholetruth

I think it is horrible to allow women to serve in these wars. Women are too  aware and intelligent to engage in combat

alvarez.t3
alvarez.t3

Military wording , shattering the brass ceiling . or more like abandoned military Veterans with shattered minds and cardboard boxes for a ceiling , male or females destroyed alike after shattering their lives for , Wall st. , the Banks or maybe the ponzi scheme , The federal  reserve ..pick a Ceiling .

JonathanMartin
JonathanMartin

What a privilege! Now women can be used as pawns in senseless wars too!

raidx259
raidx259

And how is a woman going to be able to carry a wounded comrade? 

A man can carry another man of equal or greater weigh that is unable to move on his own because of injuries. Will a woman be able to do that? Or are we putting that injured male soldier at risk of losing his life for the sake of equality?


VincentLovece
VincentLovece

They better not lower the standards to make this work.

BillPearlman
BillPearlman

What always happens here is that they reduce the physical standards in order to bring the percentages in line with acceptable levels. 

TomDenson
TomDenson

It's a wonderful thing that that has been shouted and celebrated throughout every part of history, when  a Man is prepared to sacrifice for what he believes in, to fight those that would destroy. Why is it hard for society to see it the same way for Women? 

When a Woman says "i am prepared to fight, sacrifice and die to protect those around me" i will happily give her a weapon and trust her to guard my back while i guard hers. If she struggles i'll help her, because i know well that i will struggle at some time and she will help me. 

Male or Female, if they are willing to fight to protect their own, who are we to stop them? 

alvarez.t3
alvarez.t3

Drones before women . Panetta the coward allowing more abuse to our women in service , as if verbal , mental and physical abuse by American male soldiers isn't enough pressure on American women fighting a corrupt Oil for blood war .

gysgt213
gysgt213

Women are already there folks.  Now they  are waiting for the rest of us to man up and come aboard.

alansky
alansky

This is an historic event alright, but it has absolutely nothing to do with equal opportunity for women. The military is running out of male soldiers to send into combat, so now it's the women's turn to get blown up.

cent-fan
cent-fan

We have women flying F-18s, we probably have women directing aircraftcarrier flight decks (which is one of the deadliest jobs), we have women that can fire torpedos and fire missles.  We have women in the Coast Guard fighting drug dealers.  We have women stopping drunks and getting shot on duty as police right here in the good ol'USofA.  No woman is going to qualify for special forces.

So, given those facts I hear a bunch of folks with their panties in a twist because a relative handful of women think that the best way to a higher rank and pay is through being a grunt in the infantry.  Obviously an F-18 pilot wasn't an option for them.  Few will go into the infantry, fewer will qualify, even fewer will stick it out as a career... so why don't you all step back off the ledge.

paulejb
paulejb

How about liberals in combat? You certainly won't find many of them in the combat arms.

horror
horror

Enjoy the war against the Sinaloa cartel our govt armed and funded! Enjoy wells fargos prison plantations!  Enjoy all the wars,, says morons at Time trying to manipulate and brainwash the masses.

atpcliff
atpcliff

@ranger71 

And your point is???? I was not happy about the prospects of being a POW either...but I still joined up.

atpcliff
atpcliff

@t5o1m

Meet Lyudmila Pavlichenko. She killed 257 men in one month. She was removed from the front lines, against her will, when she was wounded for the fourth time, in a mortar attack.

Soviet women served in tank crews, operated machine guns, artillery and anti-tank guns. They flew fighter planes and bomber planes. Female snipers killed over 12,000 German soldiers.

atpcliff
atpcliff

@t5o1m

Meet Antonina Kotliarova:

She was a female Soviet Infantry Sniper, She didn't enjoy killing men, but it was her job, so she kept at it. But, in situations like the Liberation of Warsaw, everything was close range, so she was firing submachine guns, machine guns, and antitank weapons.

Later, near the Vistula River, she was operating a machine gun emplacement. After the war, an interviewer asked if she had been trained on the machine gun:

"No, we were already experienced. We could do everything on our own. And then, we had good eyesight, and skills. After all, we had graduated from a sniper school.

One male soldier was killed there. He sat there very sad, he probably felt that he would die. He wouldn't come to the embrasure (the defensive structure) or the machine gun."

Here is a case where the women are fighting, and the man is psychologically unable to do so.

atpcliff
atpcliff

@t5o1m

On the 14th of August 1942, Natalya Kovshova's regiment was committed to the fighting near the village of Sutoki-Byakovo in the Novgorod Region. The machine gunners and snipers resisted the German offensive in trenches. The Russian soldiers were killed one after another. Natalya was one of the few remained alive She was wounded. She decided to pull the pin of her grenade, and wait to blow the German soldiers up when they reached the trench.

When the Germans finally reached the trench, Natalya detonated the grenades, killing herself and many German soldiers. She was posthumously awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union shortly after, in recognition of her sacrifice.


horror
horror

@thewholetruth Thats why women are super violent and manipulative? Yah, they will only engage in combat against people they think wont hurt them.  You sound like one of them giving your manipulative crap out now.

atpcliff
atpcliff

@JonathanMartin 

I think that this will help some of us curb our rampant zeal for wars...and make it less likely that we will be fighting stupid wars in the future!

atpcliff
atpcliff

@raidx259 

They are going to carry a wounded comrade by picking him up and moving him.

You are generalizing about women. Some women can't do it, so they won't be allowed to. Other women will meet the standards, so they will be allowed.

Mr.357
Mr.357

@raidx259 They're already required to do this while training to become combat medics.

t5o1m
t5o1m

@VincentLovece they will have to...trust me i was in a marine infantry unit and maybe 5% of women tops could hack it

atpcliff
atpcliff

@BillPearlman 

They should not do this...but on the other hand, they need to make sure the standards are realistic, and match up to the specialty that they apply to.

alvarez.t3
alvarez.t3

@gysgt213  End the war is the message, stop killing for the 1% corporate terrorist .

atpcliff
atpcliff

@alansky 

This is partially true....we don't have enough guys, so women have had to do it...but it's also a reflection of how great some of our women are, and we are realizing that we are decreasing our military effectiveness by not letting them fight.

atpcliff
atpcliff

@cent-fan

The Israelis already have women in special forces, as do Turkey, Norway, Russia, Poland, India, China, Afghanistan and Britain.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@paulejb 

You're not one to talk about the reality of combat anymore then most pundits are.

usmcr7
usmcr7

@atpcliff @t5o1m Ahh yeah and American women are just as crude as Russian women? Note there's a difference between some countries women and cultures. I forget what country it is but women put metal tubes around their necks to elongate the neck. Would an American women even try this? NO. Also they didn't mention if that Russian female soldier was on 20 mile hikes with 70-100 lbs of gear and keeping up with the platoon. She actually used good reason for blowing up the germans and herself. She knew she would have been raped even if she did live from her wounds.

raidx259
raidx259

@atpcliff @raidx259 Yeah right, a woman can't pick up a 200lbs guy over her shoulders like another man can. 

Yes they can drag a guy a few feet, but if you were wounded in combat and full of shrapnel, who do you think is going to get you to safety soonest? In combat a few seconds can make the difference between life and death. If you think a woman can do this as quickly as a man, you are delirious. 


raidx259
raidx259

@Mr.357 @raidx259  That's nonsense 357. You are blinded by your convictions. A woman can't pick up a 200lbs guy over her shoulders like another man can. 

Yes they can drag a guy a few feet, but if you were wounded in combat and full of shrapnel, who do you think is going to get you to safety soonest? In combat a few seconds can make the difference between life and death. If you think a woman can do this as quickly as a man, you are delirious. 

atpcliff
atpcliff

@VincentLovece @TomDenson 

That has already happened. Women ARE allowed to compete in the NFL...it's just that none of them (so far) have met the minimum physical standard to do it. Combat has been different. There have been women who have met the minimum standards, but have NOT BEEN ALLOWED in combat. That is bu!!sh!t.

I am not in the NFL, because of my physical limitations, and I am a guy. Does that mean that no guys are in the NFL???

TomDenson
TomDenson

@VincentLovece @TomDenson Why not? Only a small percentage of men are able to do the job of an elite athlete, i dare say say the percentages are the same once we get passed the sexual divide. And as we see in the Olympics women are not far behind at all, i think they would bring just as much entertainment to the sport as they would honour to the military.

atpcliff
atpcliff

@alvarez.t3 @gysgt213 

The reason we were in Iraq, and now in Afghanistan, is that we need foreign energy for our country to function. If all our energy was domestic, we never would have been in the Middle East ever.

cent-fan
cent-fan

@atpcliff  Perhaps, but I heard on NPR that special forces like the Navy Seals are excluded from the obligation to test women for qualification.  I suppose that doesn't mean they can't be flying the transport helicopter.

VincentLovece
VincentLovece

@MrObvious @paulejb No, you really don't. Most soldiers are from conservative regions, such as the South and the Midwest, and Mormons make up a disproportionally large share of the military.

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