Printed in the March 2013 Issue of The Northeast Texan
Most media polls currently show a majority of Americans support the lifting of the 1994 rule banning women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta defended the decision that went into effect January 24, 2013, saying that women already make up 15 percent of the force and have increasingly found themselves in the “reality of combat” during Operation Enduring Freedom.
The question many are asking is, “Why?” Do we need women in combat? Why place women in those roles? According to the U.S. Department of Defense Recruiting and Retention Numbers for Fiscal 2012, Through July, “All four active services met or exceeded their numerical accession goals for fiscal 2012, through July.”
Offering an answer, Retired Airforce Gen. Lester L. Lyles, who chaired the Military Leadership Diversity Commission said, “We know that [the exclusion] hinders women from promotion.”
Kaufman County Tax Assessor and Retired U.S. Navy Captain Tonya Ratcliff believes there is room for women in the military and said, “I think women are capable of serving in all areas of the military, but that does not mean they should.”
The former Commanding Naval Officer further explained, “Combat is a totally different scenario than anything else humans would normally face. Even though many in our culture want to act as if men and women are the same, they are not. Completely outside of strength, stamina, and physical ability is the emotional strengths or weaknesses. On the battlefield, there is not time for the natural deference that some men would allow women. There is also no time for insecure men who want to force women to prove themselves worthy of being in combat. Often, when women break into a new field, they have to be the cream of the crop, and must prove themselves better than most men to be accepted in that new role. If we just start sending any and all women into combat roles, we should expect to see higher than normal fatalities.”
This insight begs the question, “Will the draft be instituted for women?” And, “What problems would this present?” Ratcliff noted that most political decisions have “ulterior motives,” but she was unwilling to speculate on Panetta’s decision.
Capt. Katie Petronio of the United States Marine Corps has gone public with statements regarding women in combat roles. She wrote in the Marine Corps Gazette, “As a combat-experienced Marine officer, and a female, I am here to tell you 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.” While serving in Afghanistan, Petronio acquired severe restless leg syndrome, muscle atrophy, extreme weight loss, and polycystic ovarian syndrome, which has rendered her permanently infertile…all this despite her above-average physical rates in boot camp. Her experience supports government findings on a more broad scale.
In The Presidential Commission on Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces, established in 1992, The Commission assessed the laws and policies restricting the assignment of female service members. The report to President Bill Clinton revealed, “Women’s aerobic capacity compared to men is lower, meaning they cannot carry as much, as far, or as fast as a man, and are also more susceptible to fatigue. Women are also at a higher risk for exercise-induced injuries than men, with two times a greater risk for lower extremity injuries, and almost four times a greater risk for stress fractures. In terms of physical capability, the upper five percent of women are at the level of the male median.”
It appears the United States military requires one standard for females and another for males. The question is does this benefit our country and national security?
Wills Point resident and Ret. U.S. Army Sergeant Fred Gonzalez said, “I do not have a problem with women on the battle field. Anyone in the military is trained to be a professional at whatever duty they signed up for. So, if a woman is trained to be an infantry soldier she’s as good as a man…sometimes better, especially in today’s military. I signed up for the Army in 1966, did basic in El Paso, Texas. After my school training on Hawk Missiles, I went to Germany for two years. I received an honorable discharge in May 1969 as a Sergeant E-5. While stationed in Germany, I worked with women on the Hawk site and didn’t ever judge them because of their gender.”
Of women currently serving in the military, Ratcliff acknowledged, “Some will want to prove themselves in combat and some would prefer to serve in support roles.” Ratcliff affirmed, “I do believe there are places for women in combat. I just hope that women are carefully streamlined into combat roles and not just thrust into the fray.”
Acknowledgement: Thanks to Laura McDonald for contributing research.