Tamara Gamboni-Short 1 ENGL 111 Meg Pennington October 2, 2000 Women in the Military: Combat Roles When I think about women in combat, I think about the days of the Revolutionary War, women helping their husbands to load cannons or I think about the army nurses who played vital roles overseas during the Vietnam conflict. I also think about women Helicopter pilots providing air support to our soldiers and sailors during Operation Desert Storm. Twenty years ago when I enlisted into the Army I never even considered that I would be expected to serve in an actual combat role nor did I join the army to be able to experience any combat situation other than training. Thesis However, today there are several advocates of the Equal Rights Amendment who believe that women in the military should be allowed to serve this country in combat roles. Although I have heard numerous debates on television and read about them in newspaper articles, I have yet to hear an enlisted women verbalize her desire to serve as an “Infantrywomen” or an Armored Tank Crewmember”. It seems to me that the only people Gamboni-Short 2 fighting for more combat roles for women in the military are women who are not in the military. Women do not belong in the combat zones during military conflicts.
It disrupts the overall moral and personal readiness of the unit. To prove this I will offer statistics, opinions, and statements from other female soldiers. It is obvious how my male counterparts feel about Women in Combat by the omission of females in combat positions. I have interviewed several women assigned to my unit to see just exactly how women in the military feel about serving in combat roles. The first women I spoke with, SFC Sheryl Skepple, has served on Active Duty in the Army for 16 years, she is married to a civilian and has twin two-year-olds.
When asked how she felt about Women in Combat she replied with the following: “Women in the military have been deployed to numerous operations throughout the world. They trained and served side by side with their male counterparts. If you are on the frontline or providing support from the rear you are still in combat, and will do what is necessary to protect yourself and others. Whether it is feeding soldiers, or sending supplies to them, you are contributing.” The point SFC Skepple is trying to Gamboni-Short 3 convey is that women have been supporting combat missions without having to fire weapons.
Further she says, “In my opinion, women have proven that they can serve in combat, and are willing to do so because they know if called upon they don't have a choice. However, I pray to God that I will never have to fight. As of September 5, 2000, there are 90,563 women in the U. S. military, comprising about 13 percent of the total U.
S. Armed Forces (Defense Almanac OCT 2000). In 1970, only 1.4 percent of the total military was comprised of women, a number that more than tripled to 4.6 percent in 1975, nearly doubled to 8.3 in 1980, rose to 10 in 1985, 11 in 1990, to the current 13 percent (Government Executive March 1999). When discussing the history of women in combat, one might think of Joan of Arc who in 1429, at age 17, successfully led French troops into battle against the English. Hundreds of women disguised themselves as men to fight in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
Beginning in 1942, separate military services for women were established, but women did not gain professional military status until 1948 when President Truman signed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act, which limited their number to 2 percent of the total military. In 1991, the Gamboni-Short 4 restriction of women from flying combat aircraft was repealed, but the 1948 law still bans women from serving on naval combat vessels (Minerva Spring 1994). I don’t think the answer to the gender problems the military faces is to go back to the separate military services. We can work productively, side-by-side with service men provided we stay in garrison environments rather than field environments. Major Angela Haynes, a Quarter Master officer in my unit, has been on active duty in the army for over 13 years.
She is married to a retired Enlisted soldier and has two children. She was in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm just 10 miles from the Iraqi border. When her unit was getting ready to move to the border to provide combat support, her Battalion Commander gave her the option of moving out with her unit or staying in the rear. She chose to stay behind. Her explanation was clear. MAJ Haynes felt that she was already in a combat zone but that given the circumstances didn’t see a need or the necessity to go any closer to enemy lines.
When there is knowledge of eminent danger, women have no business occupying combat lines. Men well always feel like they have to protect the female next to them. Instead of Gamboni-Short 5 concentrating on the enemy in front of them, they would be distracted by the woman next to them. Good order and discipline doesn't just happen. But when lives are at risk, military men and women must function together as a seamless whole. This happens only if bonds of absolute trust exist before a battle, trust that everyone knows the mission, trust that each will do his or her job, trust that risks and rewards will be allocated fairly and equitably. In the National Defense Authorization Act for the Fiscal Years 1992-1993, Congress rescinded female combat exemption laws and then the Clinton Administration opened a quarter million previously closed combat positions to women (GAO Report, July 1996).
On October 1, 1994, the Defense Department issued a policy that rescinded the so-called risk rule that gauges the specialties to which women can be assigned. The policy was backed strongly by Secretary of Defense Les Aspin and was the extension of the changes made in April 1993 that opened most aviation specialties, including attack helicopters, to women (Army, March 1994). The policy emphasized that no job will be closed to women just because it is dangerous, but fails to open direct offensive ground combat jobs to women (Army, March 1994). Gamboni-Short 6 Even today, the official policy of the Army and Marine Corps excludes women from combat, which precludes 12 percent of skilled positions and 39 percent of the total positions (GAO Report, July 1996). Proponents of opening all positions in the military to women argue that military readiness is enhanced when there is a larger pool of applicants, whereas opponents insist that due to politics, quotas would be undeniable, thus allowing unqualified women into key military positions. Opponents of allowing women to compete for combat billets argue that it is too dangerous to put women in the position of becoming prisoners of war. Without a doubt, there is a much greater probability for acts of sexual molestation and rape with the addition of women to the front lines.
Although they were technically in support roles, two female U. S. soldiers were taken captive and the Iraqis in the Gulf War sexually abused one. This situation made those who were already skeptical about putting women in such a compromising position further question whether women should be subjected to the horrors of combat.
Many, however, argue that adult women who make the decision to join the military are aware of the consequences (Minerva, Spring 1994). Gamboni-Short 7 Show me a woman in the military who desires a position that would require direct combat involvement, and I will show you a women who falls under the “don’t ask – don’t tell” policy. I am not typecasting, however, in my twenty-years in the military I have not met a “straight” female soldier desiring front line combat duty. I asked SGT Monique Roddie, a Logistics Specialist, what her feelings were on Women in Combat. She stated the following: “Women in combat roles should not be considered because of personal hygiene issues, you cannot expect a women to go to the field during Menstruation and provide the support to her fellow soldiers that they should and do expect.” “It is impossible for a woman to know exactly when an “accident” may occur and that would eliminate any chance of a seamless whole.