Published on The Daily Femme – Friday, March 11, 2011
Contributed by Annamarya
Guess what. Women in the US military should be allowed to serve in ground combat.
Yup, that’s what the Military Leadership Diversity Comission’s final report has decided. And yup, just like the recently repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, it took nearly two decades for the government–or, at least a Congress-formed body–to realize its policy was fatuous.
The MLDC, which was established by Congress in 2009, spent a year and a half researching & analyzing military policies and practices, and determining ways to improve them. In its findings, the MLDC asserts that the Pentagon’s current policy excluding women from ground combat is an “overt barrier” to senior leadership advancement. To change this, the Comission recommends, among 19 other ways of diversifying the military, that the Department of Defense and the Services remove institutional obstacles that bar women from certain career fields and open additional units & fields involved in ground combat to qualified women.
This report is a step in the right direction. As NPR and Ms. magazine note, women have been in the thick of combat since the 1990s. And right now, there are hundreds of thousands of women serving in the US armed forces in a diversity of roles, ranging from combat aircraft pilot to combatant ship mate. But, according to current combat exclusion policy, they can only perform these roles in supportive capacities. Women & ground combat are never allowed to mix. Ever.
The policy doesn’t reflect reality, though. Supporters of the policy overturn,notes NPR, use the Afghanistan & Iraq wars as prime examples to show how the line between non-combat and combat positions is blurred. And documentaries like the Oscar-nominated Poster Girl, which tells the story of Iraq veteran Robynn Murray, only confirm this. How so? Murray was assigned to a civil affairs unit– similar to the Red Cross, said her recruiter–but instead of rations and medical supplies, she was armed with a machine gun. Of course, she wasn’t “in combat,” Murray recounts in the film as reported by Ms, even though she was charged with unit protection while atop a tank and under sniper fire.
The Department of Defense and the Services would only do right by military women if they heed to these recommendations and overturn a seemingly unconstitutional policy. But it’s not just a matter of gender inequality, although an overturn would be a rightful move in eliminating systematic discrimination. It’s a matter of recognizing skills, bravery, and achievements. And, most importantly, it’s a matter of copping to reality. As Ms. points out, women already fight alongside men. They are just as bloodied and bruised, and they come back home just as affected, despite being in “supportive” positions. To continue to deny such a truth will only show the DoD’s inability to support and empower the women it expects to serve this country without question. As retired Air Force General Lester Lyles, MLDC chairman, said, the military should reflect the diversity of its country. We are part of that.