In one of his last moves as Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta is planning to announce today a lift to the ban on women in combat roles. According to The Washington Post, the Army and Marines “will present plans to open most jobs to women by May 15.” Right now, the Army, which has the largest number of people in combat positions, excludes women from 25 percent of roles.
“The decision comes after a decade of counterinsurgency missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, where women demonstrated heroism on battlefields with no front lines,” the newspaper writes. Nevertheless, there are those opponents who say that male-female attraction would be an unwelcome side effect of greater female inclusion. There are also concerns about a woman’s ability to keep up with the physical nature of the job. I tend to agree with retired Col. Jack Jacobs who spoke with TODAY show’s Matt Lauer this morning:
When people are trying ardently to kill you, it really doesn’t matter to you who is on to the left and on your right as long as they’re doing their job. We fight to accomplish the mission. We fight for the country, but most of all, we fight for each other.”
Women have slowly been assuming greater roles in the military in the 25 years or so that they’ve been allowed to enlist. Women comprise about 14 percent of total active-duty military, according to Defense Department numbers reported by The Post, and 152 female members have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. About 238,000 positions will now be open to women.
According to another Washington Post article, a study of 30,000 active-duty military members found that African-American women were the most satisfied with their jobs of any other demographic. African-American men were the second most content. Hispanic women and men, in that order, were the next two. The least satisfied were white men.
“For women, pay and job benefits are more equal in the military than in the civilian labor,” Jennifer Hickes Lundquist, the University of Massachusetts researcher who worked on the study tells the newspaper.
“A more fair playing field, at least at lower military ranks, would be a boost for minorities and women. It would also be a potential drawback for white males,” the article continues. Some have said that, with this barrier broken, issues of gender discrimination and assault will be diminished.
Military women across the board will be pleased with the move, although it’s unclear how many women will jump at the chance and it will be at least a couple of years before women actually occupy the new available positions.
Because black women are so satisfied with their military service, it stands to reason that they will be enthusiastic about the chance to advance their careers. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who lost her legs serving as a combat pilot in Iraq, told NBC Nightly News, “It’s hard to make it to a general without a combat arms command at the brigade or the battalion level. And this will now allow women to have some of that command time.”