Females can apply for combat positions but must prove equal in physical strength

News

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






In the span of two minutes, senior Melissa Williams completes 49 push-ups while the guy behind her reaches 46. She’s holding her own during the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) at the Muncie Armory…

…Rewind to a normal lunch period in November 2012, and Williams just wanted the free stuff from a military recruitment table staked outside of the main cafeteria. However, she found herself talking to a recruiter, and within that month

w.brual.pie.2.22Williams enlisted in the National Guard. Although Williams said she had a difficult time convincing her parents—particularly her dad—that she wouldn’t get into any trouble, she now plans to serve in military aviation—with the potential to serve in combat situations—after attending Ball State University.

Just last month, she wouldn’t have had that option, but due to the Pentagon’s announcement on Jan. 24, females like Williams now have the opportunity to apply for combat positions in the military. According to this announcement, for the next few years until January 2016, officials will make assessments on how to begin integrating males and females in the units that aren’t integrated yet.

Peter O’Hara, former lieutenant colonel in the Army and international relations teacher, said there were no women when he first joined the Army, but later they filled roles in support units. Now due to the nature of modern war, the lines between front and rear have blurred, and some women already find themselves in combat situations. However, O’Hara said to be qualified for combat positions, strength is a huge factor.

“There’s no doubt that there are some women in tremendously great shape, great condition, better than a lot of men,” O’Hara said, “but there’s also no doubt that genetically men are bigger and stronger. In combat roles, that starts to play. Those issues could become major life or death issues.”

For her part, Williams said she doesn’t think males and females are physically any different. At the monthly drills at the Muncie Armory, she participates in the APFT, which consists of a two-mile run and two-minute sit-up and push-up drills. Williams said she even does APFT at home. And she never really sits around.

Since strength was the main argument against women in combat, O’Hara said the next question is how the military will change its physical qualifications for combat. O’Hara said he thinks the qualifications will be equal for men and women. According to U.S. History teacher Karen Taff, in 1976 when women were first admitted to West Point, a military academy, the physical qualifications didn’t lower.

Taff said, “Look at our Division I athletes; look at our professional athletes; look at our Olympians. Clearly the physical prowess of women has dramatically been opened up as of Title IX (legislation which provides equality for women’s and men’s athletics)…It has allowed women to do something they couldn’t do 50 years ago, which was really be team players in a very literal sense. So one of the arguments that has been against women serving in combat is that women were inherently unable to handle that group dynamic of being part of a team. All you have to do is watch our World Cup soccer team or our astronauts who are serving on crews. Clearly, that’s just an old canard.”

The new group dynamic with both males and females will also require cultural maturity, according to O’Hara.

“You’re out in the woods, in the desert, in an all-range, and you are coexisting together.” O’Hara said. “There’s no showers; there’s no latrines. It’s a dirty business.”

Williams said she can deal with dirty work since she prefers the outdoors to the indoors. Since the National Guard is a reserve component, Williams would act as both a civilian and military personnel.

w.yangkim.military.2.22Williams might not be deployed as easily as someone in an active component, like the Air Force. However, although reserve forces sometimes have part-time duties, they have the opportunity to serve in combat roles, especially since the Middle East is in a volatile era. Williams said she likes having the opportunity to apply for combat positions, but her dad would be upset if she took that opportunity.

According to O’Hara, most of the people in high-ranking positions of the military climbed the ranks starting from combat positions. In other words, only men could reach these high-ranking positions. Now that women can join combat positions, they have a better opportunity in career advancement.

Taff said the greatest indicator of gender equality is that the transition to integration was treated as a de facto “of course” instead of a complete surprise. Women were nurses in Vietnam, according to O’Hara, and women joined the Army after Vietnam. Taff added that women’s integral roles in the military started earlier.

Taff said, “General George C. Marshall was the chief of staff in the United States Army during World War II, and he recognized that World War II was going to take all of us. And there was a vast, untapped human capacity in half the population, and he recognized that women in our country, more than anything else, were Americans too, and that their qualities and their strength could be used to defeat the greatest evil we had ever seen, which was the Axis Powers. And so he was the person who put women in uniform, not just as ornaments, not just as committee members, but as integral to the war effort. They served as pilots, they were killed in combat, and if it was good enough for George C. Marshall, it ought to be good enough for anyone today.”

0