Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Should Women Be Allowed in Combat? Women Make Up 15 Percent of America's Armed Forces, but Military Policy Prohibits Them from Serving in Combat Zones

Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Should Women Be Allowed in Combat? Women Make Up 15 Percent of America's Armed Forces, but Military Policy Prohibits Them from Serving in Combat Zones

Article excerpt

YES Where and how women serve in the military should be based on ability and training, not gender. Policies that prohibit the military from using the skills of all servicemembers should be changed.

Today, more than 350,000 women serve in our military, with some 30,000 in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But policy now limits where women serve in the Army and Marines. Specifically closed are infantry, armor, and most artillery units, and women cannot be assigned to units whose primary mission is to engage the enemy. These polices are based on what is believed to be the will of the American public, not women's proven abilities.

Women have always fought and died in America's wars. (As of June, 41 women have died in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.) They've led men in battle, been prisoners of war, fired lethal weapons, and operated our most sophisticated systems. They fly combat aircraft and serve on combat ships. Women meet the military's physical and mental standards, are technically proficient, and are highly trained war fighters and leaders. From my 28 years in the Air Force, I know that servicemen consider women part of the team.

In today's all-volunteer force, women have accepted the challenges, responsibilities, and dangers of military service, just as the men have. With today's battlefield and the war on terror, there are no front lines, and every unit regardless of size or mission has the potential to engage with the enemy.

Why handicap our military with outdated and unrealistic policies restricting the use of capable people? It is time such policies were abolished.--Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught U.S. Air Force (Retired)

NO The nation's pride in our military women does not justify assignments in direct ground combat, which involves more than the experience of being in danger, or even the risk of ambush. …

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