Women in combat doesn’t spell victory

On Jan. 21, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made an announcement that could potentially bring sweeping changes to the United States military.

“[W]e are eliminating the ground combat exclusion rule for women and moving forward with a plan to eliminate all gender-based barriers to service,” Panetta said in an official statement to the Pentagon. “Our purpose is to ensure the mission is carried out by the best qualified and most capable service members, regardless of gender and regardless of creed and beliefs.”

The 1994 Combat Exclusion Policy states that service members can be assigned to any role that they are qualified to fill, with the exception of women being assigned to specific units “whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground.” These are namely the infantry, armor and special forces units.

For some people, this comes as great news. It seems as though an outdated military policy is finally giving way to a new age of reason and equality. Yet if we look at how this announcement affects military women and the U.S. Armed Forces as a whole, it begins to lose its luster.

“I think it’s a terrible idea,” junior Spanish major Brian Miller said.

Miller, an Iraq War veteran who served in an armored unit as a cavalry scout, says there are several reasons why this is not a practical decision.

“It’s not that women aren’t capable of combat,” Miller said. “Iraq is a combat zone, so anyone deployed there is, by definition, in combat. My problem with this is the weeks and months that I spent in terrible living conditions [as a member of my unit]. I can’t imagine how we could have accomplished the same things in a mixed gender environment.”

The living conditions that Miller and his platoon experienced required them to be content with living together, showering together, urinating wherever necessary together. That doesn’t come as a shock to most of us, but Miller pointed out that he wouldn’t want his daughter to be put into that environment.

“The natural progression is for the military to accommodate both genders with their own facilities, which would just be a logistical nightmare,” Miller said.

Okay, maybe the concept of gender equality is worth the logistical nightmare and the millions of dollars to provide necessary facilities. After all, say supporters of the decision, if women want to fight and are able to meet the requirements, isn’t it more important for them to have the chance to do so? Either way, those are some big “ifs.”

Sophomore applied health major Kelli Hoffman is a member of APU’s ROTC program, and naturally is planning on joining the military after graduation. Rather than celebrating the change, Hoffman says she would have preferred things to stay as they were.

“I don’t really like it,” Hoffman said. “Personally, I have no desire to be [in that role].”

Hoffman added that she does not know of any fellow female ROTC members who are interesting in serving in any of the capacities being made available. As with Miller, Hoffman doesn’t believe that women are incapable of serving effectively in a combat role. However, both Hoffman and Miller pointed out that women and men are currently given separate physical standards for the APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test).

This brings up the touchiest subject of all, which is the disparity in strength between males and females. Panetta’s announcement made it clear that women must be able to meet the standards that had been put in place for men. He emphasized that the military would not lower or change the standards in any way, but critics say that it is only a matter of time before this happens anyway to provide more inclusion for female soldiers.

Biological data shows us what we already accept as truth: most women do not have the same physical attributes as most men as far as muscular strength, endurance and testosterone levels, which affect aggression. Of course, this doesn’t mean that women can’t perform their duties as soldiers at a high level, but it calls into question why we are jumping through hoops to bring about what is essentially a false equality.

“I genuinely believe that men and women are built differently,” Hoffman said. “We’re not inferior, we just have different strengths. I don’t think it’s sexist to say that at all.”

This subject has received a lot of attention over the past two weeks, and it will continue to do so. Many will classify this primarily as a battle for women’s rights. What they are forgetting is that the military is fighting a different battle. First and foremost, the mission of our armed forces is the security of the United States and the American people at home and abroad. With that in mind, it comes as a bit of a surprise that military decisions are being made that don’t seem to work toward that purpose.

“I would say that there’s no need for this unless we had a shortage of men,” Miller said. “I mean, it’s frank, but so is war.”