Women can now stand proudly with the men who defend our nation’s freedom by serving on the front lines in military combat zones — and not a moment too soon.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta on Jan. 24 lifted the ban on women in combat, overturning a 1994 rule. As women play increasingly important roles in the military, the Pentagon order gives females additional opportunities to serve and advance their careers. After all, women now comprise about 15 percent of active-duty service members.
Although women have participated in ground warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq, their duties were not officially categorized as combat actions. They were often just attached or located with combat units, but not assigned to them.
The move has garnered its fair share of criticism, mostly from people who claim that allowing women into combat will pose a threat to unit cohesion and negatively affect a unit’s ability to accomplish its mission.
However, in making his announcement, Panetta reiterated that the military’s physical fitness requirements and standards will not be lowered in order to increase the number of women in the ranks. Additionally, the secretary of defense did acknowledge that not all women will be able to meet the qualifications to become a combat soldier. But it also should be noted that not every male soldier is physically able to do some of the things required of infantrymen.
On and around Fort Stewart, reactions to the news have been mixed, even among women. And while everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, the important thing is that women who are able to perform to the required physical standards should be afforded the same opportunity as men.
Women have been working in high-stress positions around the world for decades now. They are executives, CEOs, law-enforcement officers and first responders. They are essential to both public- and private-sector operations. And, as Panetta said, they’re integral to the military’s success. The Pentagon has now acknowledged that fact.