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Analysis of Women in the Military


Women have been compared to the frailty and beauty of ripe 
apricots in modern poetry; the reference could be construed as sexual. 
However, in spite of their frailty and beauty, women have served in 
combat positions in one capacity or another since the beginning of the 
United States, long before the establishment of the Army Nurse Corps 
in 1901. Many women willingly entered the pits of battle, disguised 
as men and using male names in past wars. With growing numbers of 
women in the military and their roles in Desert Storm, the Persian 
Gulf War, Somalia, and Bosnia, there is increasing interest regarding 
their full integration and future role in combat. There are still US 
military women who strive to be allowed to serve their country in 
other capacities during war time since the first deployment of women 
on combat ships in 1995.
 Most people have trust in their armed services to protect and 
uphold the ideals in which their country was founded. Allowing women 
to enter the armed forces represented the ideal that everyone should 
have equal opportunities to pursue happiness. Within this silver 
lining there is the contention by some that in letting women serve, 
especially in a direct combat role, we are defeating the primary 
purpose of the military: to protect our mother country. This view 
could be considered to fall in unison with the ancient double standard 
that women are the weaker gender. But what is combat specifically? 
Combat is about being exhausted, hungry, and living in the mud for 
long periods without access to clean water for drinking or bathing. 
It's about long periods of boredom interrupted by violent interludes 
of jolting fear, mingled with the agonizing cries of wounded, and the 
piercing sound of artillery. It's about the flesh burning stench from 
napalm or watching as fellow comrades gasp a last breath. It's about 
extreme discomfort and random degrees of emotion coursing through your 
being with no way out. Women in military specialties that are closer 
to the action would result in the likelihood of their becoming 
casualties just like men. Does this relevant factor elude those who 
want to be in combat? During Desert Storm five women were killed by 
hostile action, while two were held captive.
 Some women in the military maintain that service in combat 
means more promotions for them; thereby attracting more women to the 
service. Has combat been reduced to an opportunity? Does this 
contingency sound similar to the propaganda and glorification of war 
arranged to intrigue the naive into conflict? Surveys claim that some 
military women do not think of war as such. A 1992 survey concerning 
differences among Army personnel found that only 12 percent of Army 
enlisted women would volunteer for combat arms if it were at all 
possible. Critics claim physical standards for combat training are at 
risk and will be compromised if women are allowed into combat 
positions. Physical standards are critically important in such 
occupations as the infantry and in special operations units. There is 
contention regarding the disruption of the military's mission when 
female troops allowed in combat 
become pregnant. It is thought by some, the relationships that would 
inevitably develop would induce new and greater risk for men who acted 
differently in combat toward females than they do toward males. 
Homosexuality in the military offers additional biased credence to 
this theory.
 But the most damaging instance is thought to be the 
devastating impact on the morale, team cohesion, and fighting spirit 
within the armed forces. Combat is known to be a team activity which 
regiments soldiers. Some women may indeed be as physically and 
mentally capable as men to perform combat duties, but what matters 
more in combat is not so much individual ability as teamwork. It is 
presumed the presence of women in combat would disrupt the basic 
teamwork that makes a difference between victory and defeat or life 
and death on the battlefield.
 And finally, there is the rising of the old argument that 
female soldiers will be taken prisoner and sexually abused by enemy 
forces. Major Rhonda Cornum who was taken prisoner by Iraqi forces 
after her helicopter was shot down over Iraq during the Persian Gulf 
War denied any abuse initially, however she later admitted that she 
was "violated manually vaginally and rectally." How many men taken 
prisoner denied any abuse when they were subjected to sexual 
violations? Under any conditions, in our society males are reluctant 
to admit or volunteer information of this type of abuse when they are 
the victim. Further, from the experience in Desert Storm, sexual 
abuse of female captives will undoubtedly be used to extort 
information from male prisoners. History has proven that despite the 
Geneva Convention, varying degrees of mistreatment is always practiced 
to extort information.
 The role of women in the military will continue to be a topic 
of discussion whether the issue is combat, family, or homosexuality. 
The acceptance of women in the armed forces has been evolving from a 
role of freeing men for combat to equality in all facets of military 
life. Today, women are undergoing training as combat pilots and crew 
members for aircraft carriers and other fighting ships. This change 
is in response to demands for the potential of career advancement and 
equal opportunities for women who are qualified and truly want to 
serve in dangerous combat jobs. When a female soldier may choose 
whether or not she goes into combat, this creates a reversed meaning 
for the old term double standard; There is no option for the male 
 Desert Storm commander General Norman Schwarzkopf testified to 
Congress, "Decisions on what roles women should play in war must be 
based on military standards, not women's rights." Applying the 
individuals make the team analogy of critics, let me suggest the 
military standard should not center on anyone's rights or obligation, 
but instead on the individual in all instances. Perhaps then war would 
be called off like other events that lack participation.



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