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US military finally allows women to enter combat

Reed Schneider, Opinion Editor
February 6, 2013
Filed under Opinion

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is lifting the military’s official ban on women in combat. This decision overturns a 1994 Pentagon rule restricting women from artillery, armor, infantry and other such combat roles, according to the New York Times.

It’s taken a bit too long for our government to realize women deserve equal rights in all areas of profession. A factory can be a dangerous place, but management wouldn’t dare refuse a position based on gender. They would be sued.

That’s exactly what happened to the government. Two federal lawsuits were filed last year challenging the Pentagon’s ban, according to the Huffington Post. This, along with studies and surveys done that proved no ill effect on soldiers’ performance and morale, helped put pressure on officials to overturn the policy.

Equal rights are imperative when taking into consideration America’s evolving definition of freedom, so why did it take until this year to implement it in the force that fights for it? Even with the turnover, there’s still resistance. Put simply, the resistance is composed of people with general concepts on what women should and shouldn’t do.

A prime example would be the leadership of a conservative Christian group, the Family Research Council. According to the New York Times, a statement was sent out with Jerry Boykin, a retired three-star general with a long career in special operations forces. In the statement, he refers to the lifting of the ban as a social experiment.

“This decision to integrate the genders in these units places additional and unnecessary burdens on leaders at all levels,” Boykin said. “While their focus must remain on winning the battles and protecting their troops, they will now have the distraction of having to provide some separation of the genders during fast moving and deadly situations.”

That’s a derogatory oversimplification of the matter and is primarily based on theory. If a person can complete the rigorous training required for a special operations force, whether it be a woman or a man, the leader shouldn’t need to separate the genders afterward.

Former Army officer Shelly Burgoyne used to believe the same things Boykin believes. In a letter to the Washington Times, Burgoyne reveals the change in opinion after serving with combat units with women.

“Experience trumps theory every time,” Burgoyne said. “And when it does, intelligent humans must begin to change their minds.”

With both Republicans and Democrats endorsing the lifting of the ban, it looks like Panetta’s new initiative will pass, according to the New York Times. The plan doesn’t require a final decision from the services until January 2016, but a military official said the change would be implemented as quickly as possible. Panetta’s decision could open more than 230,000 new jobs to women, according to the Huffington Post.

Considering how long it took the military to realize the opportunities women were being denied, it’s surprising that there’s still some political hesitation. Any male or female that joins the Army or its specific divisions gets trained regardless of gender. Lifting the ban isn’t forcing women to join the armed forces. It’s giving them the opportunities to gain combat experience, advance in ranks and fight for freedom in ways they weren’t previously allowed because of a stereotype.

In the conclusion of Burgoyne’s letter, Panetta’s decision is described as a life-altering point for women in the military and a little scary for some men.

“But mostly it seems that talking heads and politicians with absolutely zero combat experience are the ones with all the reasons why women should not serve in combat units,” Burgoyne said.

Burgoyne is definitely onto something. While diversity has been an ever-growing fact in our government, old white men still hold majority, but Panetta lifted the ban on women in combat. He proved outdated and biased laws can be overturned. Panetta’s decision is a definitive step toward true equal rights.