The Department of Defense changes the rules on women serving in combat

From

Officials: Panetta opens combat roles to women

U.S. Marines assigned to the female engagement team (FET) attached to Foxtrot Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment conduct a security patrol in Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Jan. 3, 2011. The FET aids the infantry Marines by engaging Afghan women and children in support of the International Security Assistance Force. (DoD photo by Cpl. Marionne T. Mangrum, U.S. Marine Corps /Released)

By Tom Vanden Brook and Jim Michaels – USA Today
Posted : Wednesday Jan 23, 2013 15:24:14 EST

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has lifted the military’s ban on women serving in combat, a move that will allow women into hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando units, a senior Pentagon official said Wednesday.

Women currently serve in a number of combat positions, including piloting warplanes or serving on ships in combat areas. Since the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, 292,000 women have served in those combat zones out of a total of almost 2.5 million, Pentagon records show. In both wars, 152 women have died from combat or noncombat causes, records show, and 958 have been wounded in action.

The move will be announced officially Thursday afternoon by Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the official, who spoke anonymously because Panetta had not yet made the announcement.

Pentagon policy restricting women from serving in combat on the ground was modified in 1994, according to the Congressional Research Service. Women cannot be assigned below the brigade level — a unit of about 3,500 troops — to fight on the ground. Effectively, that has barred women from infantry, artillery, armor, combat engineers and special operations units of battalion size — about 700 troops — or lower.

More at the link.

Cassy Fiano Chesser of the Victory Girls was not at all amused:

Breaking: Leon Panetta Opens Combat Roles to Women

by Cassy on January 23, 2013

In the war between political correctness and military readiness, the PC Army has just won another battle. Despite the biological fact that women are not designed for combat, and that recent experiments have been miserable failures, Leon Panetta has decreed that the military must open combat roles to women.

Let’s get one thing clear right off the bat: this is being done to appease the feminazi groups and to force political correctness on the military. This is not being done to increase our combat readiness or for the welfare of our Armed Forces. While women supposedly still will not be allowed in infantry positions, they will be allowed to take positions as medics, pilots, and other combat-oriented military occupational specialties (MOS).

None of this is to say that women cannot serve in the military. They can, they do, and they should. Our female troops have shown that women can fight with valour, honor, and courage. But this does not mean that women should be serving in combat, on the front line. If women can serve with valour, honor, and courage, then why shouldn’t they be on the front line?

Simple: because women are physically built differently than men — specifically, we are weaker than men. It’s a biological fact. Women have drastically less muscle mass than men. Our bodies are not built to handle nine mile hikes, while carrying 100+ lbs of gear on our backs. Not even all men can handle a combat role in the military, let alone women. And there is no shortage of men willing and able to serve in combat positions. Basically, there is no reason at all for this. There is nothing — nothing — that a woman can bring to a combat position that a man cannot, and with no shortage of men wanting to serve in a combat MOS, this move serves no purpose other than pacifying the feminazis and the PC Gods.

More at the link.

Mrs Chesser’s husband is a Marine, who has served several tours of duty in the Middle East, and I’m certain that she has had this discussion with her husband in some detail.

However, Mrs Chesser’s objections notwithstanding, the decision the Secretary is expected to announce today had already been taken, in practice if not in policy, years ago. Female soldiers are already serving as medics and pilots, and many have seen combat. SPC Monica Brown won the Silver Star while replacing the regular medic in a combat unit;1 she had been deliberately selected by the unit commander, choosing her over other available medics, because she was the most technically proficient. She could not be assigned to that unit, but she could be, and was, attached to that unit.2

My younger daughter is a 25-U Signal Support Systems Specialist, and while she is currently a reservist in the United States, she could just as easily, under the old rules, have been sent to Afghanistan and attached to a combat unit as their “commo.”

The policy to be announced is, in effect, nothing new in the field; what is new is that the Army will be able to stop playing the assigned/ attached semantic games and start telling the truth about what it has already been doing.

Why is this the case? Mrs Chesser noted that there is “no shortage of men wanting to serve in a combat MOS,” but it has been our recent experience that there was a significant shortage of men, period, who wished to serve in the military during the worst part of the war in Iraq, and while active conscription was not reinstituted, the military used the stop-loss policy. When our civilian economy took a downturn, efforts at military recruitment were more successful, and the need for the stop-loss retentions diminished significantly. Mrs Chesser’s argument that there is no shortage of men wishing to serve in combat MOSs is truer now than it was eight years ago. The greater exposure of servicewomen to combat situations came about due to the practical needs of the Army at a time when there really was a shortage of male soldiers available for duty.

Along with the problems due to the shortage of manpower, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to a different type of combat situation than used to be envisioned. We tend to think of war as a moving front of action, and our servicewomen used to be fairly easily isolated from the front. But, at least for now, the wars in which we have been involved have had no real “front” lines, but have been smaller, piecemeal actions against guerrilla fighters in various situations, some urban, some rural, and some in small villages. The enemy attempt to sneak in to strike our forces at their more vulnerable areas, and those areas have included the situations in which our servicewomen were more traditionally stationed. The distinction between the combat and noncombatant areas has been thoroughly blurred and, practically speaking, the only way we could prevent American women from serving in combat in Afghanistan would be to pull every servicewoman out of Afghanistan, and use only male soldiers.

Was this a political decision, as Mrs Chesser maintains? Yes, I believe that it was. Will some of our friends on the left now try to use the argument that we can’t go into combat again because it will bring home women in body bags? Yes, I’m sure they will. Do some of the leftists secretly hope that this action weakens the capacities of our armed forces? Yes, I’m sure some do. Would this decision not have been taken had the election turned out better? Your Editor’s guess is that yes, that would be the case. But none of that changes the very simple fact that this decision had been taken years ago, in how the Army had to use its soldiers, during the course of the Iraq war. The Secretary’s decision3 is the catching up of policy and paperwork with the reality in the field.
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  1. We noted SPC Brown’s Silver Star, along with that earned by SGT Leigh Ann Hester, here.
  2. One of Mrs Chesser’s commenters, Sean Wells, wrote, “I, personally, served with numerous females in “front line” positions already. Half our medics were female when we took to the streets of Baghdad for counter-IED patrols. The pilots overhead, watching over us, and ready to evacuate us if the event one of our members got hurt were at least 1/3 females. I have no issue with women being in positions that they are capable of filling, up to and including front line Combat positions, IF THE STANDARDS ARE MAINTAINED. If that happens, then the logistic matters are small issues, easily resolved.”
  3. Realistically speaking, this is President Obama’s decision, but outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will announce it as his, to get it over and done with, and not burden the incoming Secretary, Chuck Hagel, with it.

One Comment

  1. From The New York Times:

    For Soldiers, Death Sees No Gender Lines

    [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="600"]“There were five of us sharing the same B-Hut, now there are three,” said Lt. Riannon Blaisdell-Black, the commander of the Third Platoon of the 164th Military Police. (Christoph Bangert for The New York Times)[/caption] By Rod Nordland | Published: June 21, 2011

    MEHTARLAM, Afghanistan — When Specialist Devin Snyder, a 20-year-old from the Southern Tier of New York State, was killed by a bomb planted on a highway near this town in eastern Laghman Province on June 4, she became the 28th female American soldier to die in Afghanistan.

    Servicewomen have died in all of America’s wars, but usually they were support personnel such as nurses and clerks. In Afghanistan, most women who have died were killed in combat situations, as Specialist Snyder was, despite the military’s official prohibition on women in combat jobs.

    The same has been true in Iraq, where 111 female soldiers have died, according to data compiled by icasualties.org, an independent organization that tracks military fatalities. In both wars, 60 percent of those deaths are classified by the military as due to hostile acts.

    Wars with no clear front lines have put women in harm’s way more than ever before, blurring the boundaries between combat jobs that are outlawed for women, and support jobs that are often as dangerous and in some cases even more so.

    Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Specialist Snyder’s death, however, was how little anyone noted that there was anything unusual about it.

    “Out here, there is no male gender and no female gender,” said Staff Sgt. Vincent Vetterkind, one of her fellow platoon members. “Our gender is soldier.”

    More at the link.

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