Women in Combat Arms Units comes to the fore
Unless you've been living under a rock the past 36 hours, you know that Leon Panetta is dropping the combat exclusion policy for women:
The U.S. military is ending its policy of excluding women from combat and will open combat jobs and direct combat units to female troops, multiple officials told CNN on Wednesday.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will make the announcement Thursday and notify Congress of the planned change in policy, the officials said.
"We will eliminate the policy of 'no women in units that are tasked with direct combat,'" a senior defense official said.
Here's a discussion on CNN about it:
From another CNN article, reviews are mixed:
Julie Weckerlein, who has served more than 13 years in the Air Force and did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, thinks the change reflects the military catching up with the times.
Women supporting supply missions have been drawn into battle in Iraq and Afghanistan, where there are no physical front lines.
Now, Weckerlein said, "people will be able to serve in the career fields they are qualified for, and they won't be turned away because of their gender." [...]
Rep. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, has said he doesn't think women are physically capable of combat duty.
"To have women serving in infantry ... could impair the mission essential task of those units, and that's been proven in study after study," he told radio host Laura Ingraham this month. "It's nature -- upper body strength and physical movements and speed and endurance and so forth."
My friend Jonn Lilyea took the middle ground:
Jonn Lilyea, one of the founders of the military blog "This Ain't Hell," wrote that he thinks it was an "ill-considered decision."
Lilyea, a former sergeant who fought in Desert Storm, wrote that he is opposed to women in combat units, not because women are a distraction but because he thinks the Army and other services will be required to accept more women than are qualified or can be trained.
"If we're doing this to make the military better, fine, but if we're doing it just to beat our collective chest and show how just we are, then that's how a lot of body bags are going to get filled," he wrote.
The American Legion's position, embodied in "Resolution No. 36: Repeal DOD Policy Prohibiting Women From Combat" at the Milwaukee Convention in 2010, states:
RESOLVED, By The American Legion in National Convention assembled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 31, September 1, 2, 2010, That The American Legion shall initiate efforts to encourage the repeal of the Department of Defense’s policy governing the assignment of women in combat situations.
The key of course will be ensuring that the standards required of various MOSs (Like Infantry, Special Forces, SEALs etc) does not get changed. That is covered by "Resolution No. 139: Military occupational specialty standards":
RESOLVED, By The American Legion in National Convention assembled in Indianapolis, Indiana, August 28, 29, 30, 2012, That The American Legion strongly believes that the Department of Defense and all branches of the military services must maintain the current physical and mental requirements and qualifications for acceptance into military service that have created the best and most respected military in the world; and, be it further
RESOLVED, That the mental and physical qualifications of all military personnel, regardless of gender or age, should be held to a single duty position specific standard depending on Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) and not be amended without Congressional authority; and, be it ...finally
RESOLVED, That The American Legion believes that without such Congressional hearings and oversight there exists the distinct possibility that changes will be made to lessen the current standards or set a double standard, one for men and one for women, for the sake of accommodating personnel for "social experiments," therefore, reducing our nation’s military effectiveness.
Our official statement on this has been released as well:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 -- The leader of the nation’s largest wartime veterans’ service organization has reacted cautiously to today’s announcement that the U.S. military plans to expand combat roles for women in the military.
“Women in the military are performing magnificently in Afghanistan and in U.S. military units throughout the word,” American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz said. “Women comprise nearly 15 percent of our active forces and we simply would not be able to accomplish our missions without them. That said, we do not believe that the administration should precipitously change long-existing policies without careful review and oversight from Congress.”
Delegates to The American Legion National Convention last August passed a resolution that called on all branches of the military services to maintain the current physical and mental requirements and qualifications for acceptance into military service that has “created the best and most respected military in the world…” It further called on all military personnel, regardless of gender or age to be held to a single standard based on their MOS and that the elimination of the combat exclusion clause for women come only after congressional approval.
The most important aspect to consider in changing existing policy, Koutz said, is if it enhances the military’s war -fighting capability. “Political or career considerations should not enter into the equation,” he said. “The bottom line is: ‘Will it make us a more capable fighting force?’”
Membership in The American Legion has been open to women who are serving or have served during wartime periods since the organization’s founding in 1919. Women Legionnaires were eligible to vote for their national commander before they could vote for the president of the United States.
NOTE: Picture at top is from the DoD and is captioned
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Sienna De Santis and U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Heidi Dean, both with Female Engagement Team, India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, greet children during a patrol in Sangin Valley, Afghanistan, on Oct. 29, 2010. Marines conducted security patrols to decrease insurgent activity and gain the trust of the Afghan civilians. The battalion was one of the combat elements of Regimental Combat Team 2, whose mission was to conduct counterinsurgency operations with the International Security Assistance Force. DoD photo by Cpl. David Hernandez, U.S. Marine Corps. (Released)