Published on February 18th, 2013 | by Alex Veeneman0
Ban On Female Service Members in Combat Lifted By Defense Secretary
Photo provided by flickr user Secretary of Defense
Alex Veeneman, Opinions Editor
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has reversed a ban on women serving in combat operations.
Speaking at a press conference at the Pentagon Jan. 24, Panetta said that he recognized the contributions that women have made.
“Female service members have faced the reality of combat, proving their willingness to fight and, yes, to die to defend their fellow Americans,” Panetta said, according to reports. “They’re fighting and they’re dying together, and the time has come for our policies to recognize that reality.”
A plan to implement the policy is due in May by chiefs of branches, and the process should be complete by 2016, a BBC report says. A representative for the Department of Defense did not respond to requests for comment.
The move to reverse the ban, originally introduced in 1994, comes after a lawsuit was filed previously in November in San Francisco by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Department on behalf of four women because of the ban.
At the time, Staff Sgt. Jennifer Hunt, one of the women who sued, said men would be looked at more favorably than women.
“Your infantrymen, your artillerymen — those are the people that are the cool kids of the lunchroom, so to speak,” Hunt said, according to a report from PBS and NPR station KQED. “So if I were to go up on a board against another civil affairs staff sergeant, and he was a male and he had come from the combat arms community, he would still get looked at more favorably for having that combat arms experience. I would have absolutely no chance to make up that cultural bonus that he gets from having that position open to him.”
An interview request with the ACLU about the decision was not returned.
Almost 203,000 women currently serve in the U.S. military, making up approximately 15 percent of its personnel, according to statistics from the Department of Defense. ROTC programs also operate out of universities including Lewis, where women are currently allowed to enroll and participate in the offered programs.
Dr. Joseph Gaziano of Lewis’ political science department says if women were to be treated as equals, a policy change is a necessity.
“For most in the military, it is the only way to get promoted and recognized for leadership ability,” Gaziano said. “We also have to understand that the arguments used against women in combat — they lack physical ability, will wreck the morale of the military and destroy the readiness of the army — are all arguments that have been used against African-Americans and gays in the military, and women in the past in other fields such as medicine and public safety jobs.”
Gaziano added that it would take time to evaluate the effectiveness of the policy.
“We really don’t know what is going to happen until we try it, but it is the practice in some countries such as Israel and Canada and, to some degree, by our own forces in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Gaziano said. “There will probably not be a rush of women to become combat soldiers, but they should have the opportunity. It took so long to happen because prejudice takes a long time to die out. We are seeing the same thing with gays in U.S. society. Prejudice is reduced with each generation, and demands for rights have to undergo a corollary change.”