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 soldiery. 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.