Women in Combat
The idea of women in combat is not unusual anymore. They
should be able to hold combat positions beacause although physical
strength matters, the military still needs the intelligence that women
can bring. Also, banning women from the combat hurts their military
careers. Although women account for only ten percent of the
enlisted personnel (Time, 8/21/95/ Pg. 31), they are still a major
part in the armed forces. Their performance recently has generated
support from Congress and the public for enhancing the role of females
in the military.
During the Persian Gulf War, women were sent to the Middle
East to fly helicopters, service combat jets, refuel tankers, and load
laser-guided bombs. Their performance has led the world to realize
that women are extremely useful in combat. Defense secretary Dick
Chaney said "Women have made a major contribution to this [war]
effort. We could not have won without them." Leaders in the field
agreed. The Gulf War had the largest deployment of women in the armed
forces in history. These women encountered the same risks as the men
they served with. Twenty one females lost their lives (Holm, Women in
Combat: The New Reality, pg. 67-68).
In the Persian Gulf, there were no exact positions and all
areas were equally vulnerable, so the idea of safe havens for women
was not really applicable. By many armed forces policies, females are
banned from combat jobs and units, but in the Persian Gulf War females
were assigned to battleships, aircraft carriers, and marine support
groups dug into the desert. From their experience in the Persian Gulf,
military women have earned the right to be treated as equals with
men and not as protected individuals.
In spite of their record as able combat personnel, there are
laws and policies that restrict women in the United States Military
from serving in positions that require them to engage in direct
combat. Women in the Air Force and Navy are barred from aircraft and
vessels that have a chance to be exposed to combat. The official,
established policies of the Army and Marine Corps exclude women from
combat (Snyder, pg. 75-76). These policies prohibit women, on the
basis of gender only, from over twelve percent of the skill positions
and thirty-nine percent of the total positions offered by the
Department of Defense. Such policies excluding women from combat need
to be repealed by Congress. The Fourteenth Amendment's "Equal
Protection Clause" insures every citizen "the equal protection of the
laws." Although the clause is not applicable to Federal government,
the Supreme Court said the Due Process Clause in the Fifth Amendment
prohibits the federal government from making unreasonable
classifications. Therefore the set laws and policies that exclude
women from combat not only violate the Fifth Amendment, but also deny
women their fundamental right to engage and excel in their chosen
There have been many court cases involving women in combat
over the years, although there has never been a case directly
challenging the constitutionality laws and regulations banning women
from combat. In the case of Frontiero vs. Richardson, the court
rejected the idea that "man is, or should be, woman's protector or
defender," which in actuality, put women not on a pedestal, but in
a cage. In Satty vs. Nashville Gas Co., the decision stated that
gender does not determine who is able to perform capably as a soldier.
In the case of Schlesinger vs. Ballard, it was realized by the Supreme
Court that the combat exclusion hinders the abilities of women to gain
the experience needed for promotion within the military. The combat
exclusion puts women wishing to obtain qualification for high-level
positions at a disadvantage, because leadership training is
usually acquired in combat-type positions.
Although many females are not eager to go into combat, there are
women who can and want to do the job. In a time where technology takes
over battle lines and brains might be more important than brawn, a
reason to exclude women is non-existant.
Time Magazine, Aug 21, 1991 p.31.
Holm, Jeanne, Women in Combat: The New Reality, pg. 67-68.
Snyder, Kathy L. "An Equal Right to Fight."