Things sure do change http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ash-carter/us-military-combat-positions-to-women_b_9440158.html. During my nearly one year of training and another in combat I encountered zero women in uniform. Not even a nurse. Granted, that was 50 years ago and I don’t remember that as ever being noteworthy. My, how times sure do change.
Fifty years ago, women in the military was virtually a non-issue. Sure, I know they were there, serving just as honorably as any of their male counterparts. But a half-century ago there was also a draft to fill the ranks with as many male bodies as circumstances dictated. The all-voluntary military of today has changed all that.
No draft/no unlimited pool of bodies. And so there is no–and should never be–any form of discrimination concerning citizens willing to:
- wear the uniform
- reply, “Yes, Sir” and “No, Ma’am” to superiors in rank who may or may not be superior in any other way
- sit, stand, eat only when told
- bear arms
- follow orders
I am quite ambivalent on this matter, specifically, women achieving total equality with males in terms of position, ability to rise in rank, and openness to all MOSs, including 11B, infantryman. My equivocation derives from the struggle between personal experience of yesteryear and today’s societal realities.
I do not in any way doubt a woman’s fitness for service. And my manhood is not threatened by a woman who can outrun, out lift, or outshoot me. But therein lies the rub. I know how fast and far I can run, I know how much I can lift, I shot “expert” on the rifle range. All of that is peripheral to the discussion, however.
After all that physical recognition and achievement (and psychological preparedness as well, I suppose), there is the matter of actual combat, the raison d’etre for a standing military in the first place. Strength and stamina and stealth can get one to the enemy’s lair. At that very place, though, the soldier’s existential paradox arrives.
Pulling the trigger is the ultimate test: pull the trigger of a weapon aimed at another human being, pass the test. Simple enough. It does not end there. Pulling the trigger is also the ultimate proof of one’s more complex capabilities; it demonstrates unequivocally and irretrievably that one is willing and able to kill.
It is impossible for me to ignore the sexism of my view of women in combat roles. Since Vietnam, I have grown ever so steadily toward pacifism, knowing full well that there really are pockets of evil around the world that need to be dealt with. In the instant that it takes to pull that trigger a person’s life, male or female, is changed forever. Why would we want to place that life-long burden on yet another segment of our population? Are we prepared to have more women join the ranks of over-medicated, under-medicated, non-medicated, suicidal veterans with PTSD?