Women in Combat – Current State of the Debate

SUMMARY: As the deadline looms for military branches to submit their recommendations to the US Defense Secretary for exceptions to the lifting of the combat exclusion policy, statistics and data are dominating the debate. More than 9000 female troops have earned Combat Action Badges, with more earning valour awards- including the Silver Star. With more than 214 000 women currently serving in the military, comprising 14.5% of the forces, and more than 280 000 women having served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the reality of women already in combat is seemingly ignored. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) cites as of April 2015, “161 women have lost their lives and 1,015 had been wounded in action as part of Global War on Terror Operations.” Critics of women in combat ignore this and continue to parrot statistics about higher injury rates for women.

The CRS summarises the arguments on either side:

Opposed to Lifting the Exclusion Ban

“Those in favor of keeping restrictions cite physiological differences between men and women that could potentially affect military readiness and unit effectiveness. Some also argue that social and cultural barriers exist to the successful integration of women into combat occupations and all-male units.”

Advocates for Lifting the Exclusion Ban

“Those who advocate for opening all military occupations to women emphasize equal rights and arguing it is more difficult for service members to advance to top-ranking positions in the armed services without combat experience. In their view, modern weapons have equalized the potential for women in combat since wars are less likely to be fought on a hand-to-hand basis.”

SOURCE: Richard Sisk, August 31 2015, ‘ Women in Combat: Silver Stars, Combat Action Badges and Casualties,’ Military.com, http://www.military.com/daily-news/2015/08/31/women-in-combat-silver-stars-combat-action-badges-casualties.html

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