Women In Combat
By: Alan Levesque
Recently I was asked how I felt about women serving our country in combat roles. Since I had only briefly considered this issue in the past, I had to give it a bit of thought and sort out some things in my mind. There’s quite a bit bouncing around up there so this process took a few days. I will state for the record that as a man, my protective instincts go on high alert just thinking about this issue. While having our young men wounded or killed in battle saddens me greatly, the thought of young women dying in battle seems for some reason to be even more horrific.
Most men my age were brought up believing that fighting wars was “a mans job.” We were taught directly and subliminally that women were weaker than men and couldn’t handle the rigors of certain occupations such as police officer and firefighter. As of this writing there are approximately 6,200 women working in the United States as full time, paid, career firefighters and there are estimated to be 35-40 thousand female volunteer firefighters. Fighting fires is very dangerous and very physically demanding but it appears that the women have simply adapted to overcome the obstacles placed in front of them. One female firefighter stated that she had to gain 10 pounds of muscle through heavy workouts in order to get through the training. Female firefighters have risen to become Battalion Chiefs and a small number are Chiefs. While there have been problems along the way, it appears that women have proven that they can in fact be effective firefighters.
While numbers fluctuate and it is difficult to arrive at an accurate estimate, it is believed that there are slightly over 100 thousand female police officers working in the United States at this time. As women made inroads into the field of law enforcement, many of the same things were said about them as were said about the female firefighters. Once again, it appears that the women proved everybody wrong and have excelled as police officers. A woman is just as capable as a man when it comes to handling firearms and any perceived shortcomings with regards to physical confrontation can be overcome through self defense or martial arts training. It could be argued that women in general have some attributes that could actually make them better suited to police work than men.
Why you ask would I write a piece on women in combat and focus on firefighters and police officers? The answer is simple. Both firefighter and police officer are highly regimented, uniformed occupations, with a clear chain of command. Both can be physically demanding and as women entered these professions, both offered a great deal of resistance based on the perceived shortcomings of the women attempting to enter the profession. We can learn much about how women would handle a combat role in the military by looking at how they have handled the fields of law enforcement and firefighting.
Technically, the roughly 13% of the U.S. military which is comprised of women are featured in support roles but make no mistake, women already find themselves near the front lines and in harms way and they have served their country admirably. This 13% figure is roughly the same percentage as for firefighters and police officers. As near as could be determined for this article, there are approximately 40 million females of military age in the United States. If a full 13% of these women decided to join the military there would be a staggering 5.2 million women lined up at the recruiters office. So while the military is made up of roughly 13% women, the percentage of women in the population as a whole who are interested in a military career appears to be much smaller. With the military option open to women, and approximately 40 million of them eligible to sign up, their ranks could conceivably swell. This has not happened leading me to believe that the percentage of women now serving in the military will remain about the same for the foreseeable future. I doubt that allowing women into combat would cause a rapid increase in female recruitment. The military already has separate facilities and other arrangements to accommodate women in the service so this doesn’t appear to be an issue. As mentioned earlier, women already find themselves in harms way. At this time the Army is allowing more “conduct waivers” and more people to enter the service with only a G.E.D. in response to the lower quality of recruits. Allowing women to serve in combat could mitigate this problem to a degree.
As a political conservative I may take some heavy criticism for the position I’m taking but I decided to just take an unemotional, pragmatic look at the situation and see where it took me. I believe that allowing women to assume combat roles, will, in the short term cause some problems. There will surely be issues to address. That being said, I do not think it will cause insurmountable problems. I don’t see an overwhelming surge in female recruitment. I don’t see issues with facilities or accommodations as they are already in place. I don’t see physical barriers that can not be overcome through training. In fact, it is probable that many of the jobs already held by women in the military are more strenuous than combat. I believe that the women in combat will be accepted much like they have been in the fields of law enforcement and firefighting. The acceptance may come grudgingly at first, but come it will. As with the men, basic training will weed out those who are unfit for combat duty. Some will make it and some will fail and those unfit for combat can still serve in a non-combat capacity. While I would favor making combat duty for women an option, and not mandatory, I believe that women who wish to serve their country should be given the same opportunities as men. I think they will do just fine.