SUMMARY: Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has publicly stated that women who meet the physical standards should be allowed to serve in front-line combat roles in the Marine Corps infantry and special operations. While Marine officials are yet to submit their recommendations to Mabus, who will have until October 1st to submit exemption requests (if any) to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. Mabus has publicly stated, “I do not see a reason for an exemption.” The one thing that Mabus is adamant about is keeping physical standards unchanged. General Joseph Dunford, the current Marine Corps Commandant will be making the recommendation shortly, and will then assume his new position as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Retiring Admiral Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, has also stated that the women who meet the training to become SEALs should be allowed to serve.
SOURCE: Meghann Myers, September 1 2015, ‘Navy Secretary wants Marine Corps Infantry open to women,’ NavyTimes, http://www.navytimes.com/story/military/pentagon/2015/09/01/secnav-no-reason-not-open-marine-infantry-women/71529246/
SUMMARY: Former Lieutenant General David Barno and Dr Nora Bensahel, an academic at the School of International Service at American University, write about the recent Ranger graduation and the continuing debate about women in combat. Their main submission is that the “monumental milestone” should “end the debate about whether women are capable of serving in all combat positions.” With only 3% of all US military members earning the Ranger tab, the achievements of First Lieutenant Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver truly shatter the “brass ceiling” and prove that women can meet the toughest standards.
SOURCE: David Barno and Nora Bensahel, August 20 2015, ‘Female Rangers Should End the Debate About Women in Combat,’ Time, http://time.com/4004571/female-rangers-should-end-the-debate-about-women-in-combat/
SUMMARY: While the achievements of First Lieutenant Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver passing Ranger School demonstrate to the skeptics that women have the “military mettle” to serve in combat positions, women have been serving in combat (without the training) for years now. It is convenient political ammunition to use the graduation of the two female Ranger graduates to justify women’s participation in combat roles. However as Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak writes, it is a “little like making Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg go back and get their college degrees to prove they can make it in the marketplace.” The erasure of women’s combat narratives is commonplace, with Colonel Ellen Haring, one of two Army Reserve Officer’s who first sued the Defense Department and Army for barring women from combat units, claiming that “over 1000 women have been killed or injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
SOURCE: Petula Dvorak, August 20 2015, ‘Ranger School reality check: Women have been fighting – and dying- alongside combat units for years,’ The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/ranger-school-reality-check-women-have-been-fighting-and-dying-alongside-ranger-units-for-years/2015/08/20/1faf0a6c-4741-11e5-8ab4-c73967a143d3_story.html
SUMMARY: Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine Corps captain and founder of Service Women’s Action Network, writes, “women are ready for combat.” As women have already been serving in combat effectively for the last 13 years during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, women have the capabilities to fight. Since 2013 when the Pentagon announced the rescission of the combat exclusion policy, more than 100 women have passed the Marine Corps’ infantry school and two female officers have now passed Ranger school. Bhagwati creates a succinct analogy that encapsulates the current position of women in the US forces, “not allowing female Rangers to serve in Ranger regiments is like surviving the trial of medical school and being told that you can’t be a doctor.” The most important strategies that Bhagwati calls for are; gender-neutral physical fitness standards, all occupations opened without exceptions, and a fully integrated training program in the Marine Corps.
Jude Eden who joined the Marines in 2004 and is a female combat veteran of the Iraq war, provides a counter-view for the retention of combat exclusion for women. Eden cites higher injury rates, attrition rates and non-deployability as “risks compromising missions.” The focus on mission accomplishment seems to be from Eden’s personal experience on entry checkpoint duty in Fallujah in 2005, when insurgents targeted a convoy “almost certainly because they were transporting females.” This highly speculative assertion seems to be the basis of Eden’s protectionist stance on women in combat.
SOURCE: Anu Bhagwati, August 20 2015, ‘Retire the myths; Women are ready for combat,’ The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/08/20/should-women-serve-in-combat-roles/retire-the-myths-women-are-ready-for-combat
Jude Eden, August 20 2015, ‘Maintain the Combat Exclusion for Women in the Military,’ The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/08/20/should-women-serve-in-combat-roles/maintain-the-combat-exclusion-for-women-in-the-military
SUMMARY: Ukraine has had a historical tradition of women in combat, for example women played an active role in the Red Army during WWII. Women however are still officially barred from front-line service in Ukraine’s regular army, yet many women have joined in civilian volunteer battalions that are integrated into the regular army or National Guard. Lera Burlakova quit her job as a journalist in December 2014 to serve as front-line soldier with a volunteer battalion in Pisky, but due to her unofficial status she has not received a salary since she joined the battalion, and is not eligible to receive awards and benefits available to combat veterans. Interestingly Burlakova explains that it is in some ways easier to be a woman on the front lines because there “was less of a stigma for a woman to admit fear.” Many Ukrainian women have been actively participating in combat, whether it is Dimitrova travelling to the front line to deliver supplies, or Julia who served in the trenches.
SOURCE: Nolan Peterson, August 11 2015, ‘Meet Ukraine’s Women Warriors,’ The Daily Signal, http://dailysignal.com/2015/08/11/meet-ukraines-women-warriors/
SUMMARY: According to recent figures released by the Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, 340 women officers have been granted permanent commission. This seems like a small number and it is, considering there are 60,000 officer’s out of a total 1.3 million people in the Indian Armed Forces (IAF), with female numbers being 1436 in the army, 413 in the navy and 1331 in the IAF. There is still great resistance to women in combat for “operational, practical and cultural” reasons, which means that this update on permanent commissions is a deserved victory for women in the military. The majority of women in the IAF are limited to short-service commissions, which are capped at a maximum time period of 14 – 15 years. There has been a tendency in the IAF command to link combat employability with permanent commission, which has obviously barred women from these secure positions. In order to retain and recruit more women in the IAF, serious “cultural and operational adjustments” need to be made.
SOURCE: Rajat Pandit, August 1 2015, ‘Big Leap: 340 women officer’s get permanent commission,’ Times of India, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Big-leap-340-women-officers-get-permanent-commission/articleshow/48302503.cms
SUMMARY: Chelsea Manning writes about her experience as a Transgender soldier and suggests that merely allowing transgender people to serve openly in the US military will be meaningless without further anti-discrimination measures. The first and most obvious obstacle is the health system in the military, with serious limitations on mental health and medical treatment for transgender service-members. The continued psychopathologisation of the trans community in the military perpetuates the myth of ‘gender dysphoria,’ which currently renders a solider “administratively unfit” to serve. A study by the University of California Los Angeles’ Williams Institute estimates that 134, 300 trans veterans have served in the US Armed Forces and that 15,500 trans people are currently serving. Forcing silence and repression of gender identities “harmed all of us in some way,” says Manning, who goes on to say, “it harms the unity and cohesion on which the military and the mend and women who serve in it require.” Another serious obstacle is systematic hostility, from identification requirements and uniform restrictions that make it difficult to effectively transition.
SOURCE: Chelsea E. Manning, July 29 2015, ‘Transgender people’s inclusion in the military is a key firs step – but not the last,’ The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/29/transgender-peoples-inclusion-military-key-first-step-not-last