The Associated Press is reporting that the Pentagon plans to put women in combat roles in the next few years. Pop some popcorn and sit back to the watch the show, because this is going to make a lot of people extremely angry.
The plans, which have been reviewed and approved by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, are expected to be announced earlier today. The plans appear to detail that women and men must meet the same physical and mental requirements to qualify for “certain infantry, armor, commando and other front-line positions” across the Armed Forces. Women may be able to start training as Army Rangers by 2015 and as Navy SEALS by 2016. According to CBS News,
Women make up about 14 percent of the 1.4 million active U.S. military personnel. More than 280,000 women have been sent to Iraq, Afghanistan or neighboring nations in support of the wars
Interestingly, this announcement comes after revelation after revelation of sexual assault in the U.S. military. In January of this year, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey speculated that the many sexual assaults in the armed forces might very well be linked to the ban on women in combat. He said:
“It’s because we’ve had separate classes of military personnel…The more we can treat people equally, the more likely they are to treat each other equally.”
This move from the Pentagon will be highly controversial, both within the military itself and in the public at large. My own interest in serving in the military is less than nil, but I certainly don’t begrudge any woman who chooses to do so. I also don’t subscribe to the gender essentialism that says us females are just too weak and too dainty to fight people with guns; Yes, there are biological differences between men and women, but if the U.S. Armed Forces deems it ok, I think it’s probably ok. (I say that because they’re the experts in their field, not because I think everything the Armed Forces does is awesome). I don’t know much about what’s involved in becoming a Navy SEAL or a Army Ranger, but if there’s any organization that should be able to make decisions about who is fit to train for those positions, it’s the Pentagon.