As he's headed for the door, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has apparently removed all bans, bars, and other impediments to women serving in combat. This comes as welcome news to Molly Pitcher, Margaret Corbin, Elizabeth Newcume, Dr. Mary E. Walker (MOH), and a host of others who served openly or in disguise over the years.
The fact is, women have served openly in combat since the Revolutionary War, some (check the names above) with distinction. Women have served in disguise as infantry and other positions in every war up until modern times. There are a number of women in the current conflict (and others such as WWII) who have seen combat, not just as pilots, nurses, or such; but, who have found themselves in the fight and responded as such to do any warrior proud.
Speaking strictly for myself, and no other and no organization, I've found some of the restrictions on females being in "combat" zones to be foolish and short sighted. The efforts to restrict or remove them when someone suddenly realized that there was no rear area have cost time, money, and sometimes even blood needlessly. If you are a troop, you are a troop, and if you don't understand and/or accept that and the risk that goes with it, you shouldn't be a troop. That applies not just to women, but to all.
The problem is, times and the art of war have changed. The new move is going to open up a range of MOS positions that are currently barred -- with some good reason. That reason is the physical requirements for those jobs, and the fact is that many/most who try for them don't make it as it is.
My own personal take is that I have no problem with women in combat, with one proviso. That condition, however, is that they meet all extant standards, and that includes the unspoken standards that go with it. I do not want to see anyone, of any gender/whatever, get a job (any job) unless they meet every standard extant. That means the phsyical, the mental (toughness), intellectual, and -- most of all -- the conditions that come with the job. The lack of privacy, the harsh conditions, the exposure, the danger.
For reasons I won't go into, I need to tread carefully here; but, I implore command not to do the easy thing, the political thing, and change standards to meet an official or unofficial expectation in regards participation. Those that meet the standards deserve the shot, no matter who or what they are.
Those that don't, well, they have the knowledge that they tried and tried their hardest. Depending on what area you are talking about, the washout rate can be the majority of those who try. Hurts like hell not to make the cut, but you can (often) try again. Some do, some make it. The rest, well, they tried.
The reason our troops do things well, with shock and awe, and putting more power with more precision than ever before, with the lowest number of casualties, is because we do insist on high standards -- particularly for our elite forces. They will remain elite forces only as long as we maintain (and even increase) the mental, intellectual, and physical standards.
Based on recent trials, I honestly don't see a huge number of people beating down the door for some, or even most, of those positions. That could change.
There are some women who can and will meet the standards, and they do deserve a shot. That said, I'm going to quote Jonn Lilyea who makes some very good points:
I’ve never subscribed to the theory that women in combat will distract
from the job being done, but rather I’ve opposed this because the
sociologists will force square pegs into the round holes, with a hammer,
If history has taught anything, the services had better keep the
standards for combat jobs regardless of sex. As I’ve always said, the
bullet isn’t forgiving and doesn’t discriminate.
Wise points to ponder.