Whether you are a pacifist, anarchist, atheist, or militarist, you probably have an opinion about the Pentagon’s recent decision to dissolve all restrictions against women serving in combat. The issue is layered, and began at least hundred years ago, when women first started serving as nurses in World War I. Since then, women’s military roles have continued to expand, and along with it, their exposure to the dangers of warfare. Although officially women have been barred from combat roles until now, Senator Jack Reed, member of the Armed Services Committee and supporter of the change, says, “The reality of today’s battlefield is that all who serve are in combat.
As a recent USA Today article points out, in Iraq and Afghanistan, women have been attachedto combat units, which doesn’t appear to be any different from being in a combat unit, except that once your tour is over, you cannot claim the combat experience for job advancement to upper-level military positions.
While Marine Capt. Katie Petronio, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, believes women are not physically suited for infantry roles, nor are they coveting such positions, Army Spc. Heather Wood, who was in Afghanistan in 2010 as a military police officer, counters, “Heck, there are males out there that can’t handle being shot at.”
In a Businesswire newsreel, Carey Lohrenz, the first female F-14 Fighter Pilot in the U.S. Navy declares, “Women have already proven themselves on the battlefield. The same old banter about the negative effect on unit cohesion or mission effectiveness, lack of physical strength, or the inability to deal with the ‘stress’ of combat just doesn’t hold true.”
One of our authors, Kathleen Jabs, lived some of this history, in particular, as one of the first female cadets at The United States Naval Academy in the 80’s. She drew from this experience as the background for her mystery novel, Black Wings, which features Audrey, an ambitious female fighter pilot who turns up dead. Given her insider status, we asked Kathleen about her views on the recent Pentagon decision. What follows is her take on the turn of events:
Women have been serving alongside men for decades. Lifting the ban on women in combat acknowledges that women have been in combat situations for the last 10 years. They’ve been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan on the ground, flown combat missions in the air and patrolled the waters off the Gulf States. Removing the ban is an important recognition of the environments where women are serving. As long as women are qualified and meet the physical requirements, they should have the right to serve in any capacity in the military. It won’t be easy to fully integrate; it never is, but the changes I have seen during my time in the Navy have been remarkable.
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