As a milspouse, we live by many sayings. Semper Gumby is one that we hear often, but when the Pentagon announced the lifting of the ban on women in combat there was not much gumby-ing going on. It seems as though the battle lines are drawn – either women should or should not be allowed in combat positions.
There are many reasons being tossed around as to why women should or should not be combat positions with a few that we seem to hear over and over. Let’s take a look at 4 of these common reasons and discover together if they are founded arguments or arguments of passion.
Women Are Not Strong Enough
It is obvious that women’s bodies are just naturally structured differently. Women carry more fat on their body while men are more muscular. What comes into question most often is women’s upper body strength. New Marine PT standards taking effect January 2014 will require a woman to complete at least 3 pull ups with 8 needed in order to achieve a perfect PFT score while men have to complete 20 pull-ups for a perfect score. During the testing for amending the PFT requirements, about 21% of 318 female Marines completed the 3 pull-ups. Upper body strength is something that can be increased if desired through proper training.
So, can a woman carry a 200 lb. injured comrade during a battle? If she is strong enough, yes. If she is not strong enough then I doubt she’ll be allowed to serve in that specific position. This leads directly to the next common argument.
Physical Standards Will Be Lowered
Ouch! For those who work hard for equality between men and women, the last thing they would settle for is a handout! On the same token, the standards for certain positions previously closed to women will be reexamined. The services have until May 15th to give an initial implementation plan to Officials. This includes determining what positions should remain closed to women; why the positions should remain closed to women; and figuring out gender neutral requirements for positions (mental as well as physical).
If women are continually not meeting the standards for a certain position, the service will have to take a closer look at the requirements and determine if they are too high. From there, the requirements will either have to be adjusted or the service will have to justify keeping the standards at the level they are at.
Women are not going to automatically be allowed in positions being opened to them and the standards for the positions are not going to suddenly be adjusted (read: lowered) for women to be accepted. Everything will be reviewed and modified accordingly.
In combat, many troops are on the move for days and weeks at a time leaving them little to no privacy to take care personal hygiene needs. There will certainly need to be some adaptability here and I am even interested to see the rules on this! Men are used to doing their business in front of other men, peeing in bottles and such. Women do not have the ability to do their business so easily. Plus, some men are uncomfortable taking care of things in front of women, and this works both ways. Add on top of that the monthly visitor women have and this suddenly becomes a whole different ball game. At the same time, women have been serving in unofficial combat positions for some time. A female combat medic goes to where the injured are, female pilots often fly in combat zones, and any female who has seen enemy fire and has fired back to protect and defend have made it work. If those women serving in combat positions, as well as the units they were with, figured it out then I have a feeling others will too.
Relationships and harassment is the last main argument that is often voiced. It is no secret that the military seems to be lacking when it comes to handling sexual harassment and assault cases against women. Having men and women work so close could cause additional problems. It could also have the opposite effect and help ease the number of cases because men and women are always integrated. They have to learn to work together and support each other.
When you always have people separated and then let them have a little to no interaction, well, that has the same effect as telling someone not to touch the red button! Really, this scenario depends on how the military addresses it. Unfortunately assaults happen. Expecting them to happen can help strengthen educational training and prepare them to have a corrective action plan in place.
As far as relationships go, sexual relationships are not the only types of bonds being developed within units. When you work with someone for a good amount of time, in close quarters and stressful situations, you naturally develop a bond with that person and have a platonic relationship.
Think “Band of Brothers.”
Aren’t men and women able to have a bond with each other just as men have a bond with other men? It is appalling that people think that only sexual relationships can happen between men and women working together. Again, this matter depends on how it is handled by the military. And again, women already work closely with many men in combat situations.
If it’s been done once, it can be done again.
Our Military Always Prevails and Thrives in the Face of Change
It seems as though each argument is an extension of another. Since women aren’t physically strong and built like men, we have to lower standards.
Our military is the strongest and most advanced military in the world. That means our military has to remain flexible and adaptable. Change has come about several times over since the birth of our military and after the initial outcry of whatever change is taking place dies down, they carry on and continue to be the best.
A woman being allowed to serve in combat positions is shaking and rattling some heads, but once emotions subside and details are ironed out, our military will be back to business as usual.