Women in Combat: A Reference Handbook

Women in Combat: A Reference Handbook

Women in Combat: A Reference Handbook

Women in Combat: A Reference Handbook

Synopsis

Women have been excluded from combat roles for most of American history. During conflicts such as the American Civil War, a few women enlisted as men; in some cases, their identities as women were not discovered until after their deaths. This title examines the historical background, dilemmas, and global context of this contentious issue.

Excerpt

From ancient times, women have fought their country’s enemies. They fought sometimes as queens, sometimes as generals, sometimes as admirals, sometimes as foot soldiers. Not all societies, however, admitted women into the military. Some women were permitted to join the military but not permitted to serve in combat. In the United States today, women comprise more than 15 percent of the military, but society remains divided as to whether women should be legally allowed to serve in combat.

Defining combat is basic to understanding what drives the controversy. In the 1990s, change took place in two types of combat: allowing women to fly aircraft and to be assigned to ships at sea. In ground combat, the third aspect of combat, policy, not law states women are not to be assigned. Despite the policy, women serve in ground combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. On what basis do women serve in ground combat? Are women permitted to defend themselves, but not to engage the enemy? In the type of wars the United States is involved in today where there is no front line, is it possible to not attack the enemy? When women are placed in combat, how is it justified? Chapter 1 seeks to outline the issues of ground combat by framing the controversy in the context of history, law, and policy.

Women who serve in combat zones face specific challenges. Women face sexual issues: pregnancies, harassment, assault, rape, and consensual relationships including same sex. Suicide and murder are also potential problems. Balancing family life and work is a challenge as is, for some, reconciling serving in combat with their religious beliefs. After their service is completed, women have readjustment issues. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) . . .

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