Should women be given combat roles in the military and allowed to fight alongside men on the front lines?

Owatonna, MN Correspondent– Aside from Joan of Arc, Xena the Warrior Princess, and a handful of comic book and movie heroine warriors, females fighting on the front lines in a war was never considered until the rise of the modern feminist movement started in the 1970s. Women have gradually earned the right to join the military and expand their roles, but the debate about whether to allow them on the front lines hasn’t been resolved.

The main objection by military leaders seems to be physical capability. But if a soldier who is five feet four, weighs 140 pounds, and has no previous physical fitness training other than boot camp can serve on the front lines with a soldier who is six feet four, weighs 250 pounds, and can bench press a Smart Car, why is that a problem only if the shorter soldier is a female? If physical capability were the only requirement for combat duty, why aren’t our front-line fighters all built like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime?

That leaves social and cultural objections. Socially, it seems that military leaders object to the mingling of the sexes in the close quarters and extreme circumstances that characterize combat. Do these leaders really believe that soldiers won’t put staying alive as their priority and worry about interpersonal relationships after the battle is over? Isn’t that what military training is for: teaching soldiers to have a singular focus on doing one’s job during the battle, concentrate solely on the objective, attain the goal? Where is it proven that women can’t focus or concentrate or set and achieve goals as well as men?

The cultural issue implies that women have always been the weaker sex, aren’t aggressive, can’t be fierce, and are essentially what our male soldiers are fighting for—Mom, apple pie, and the American Way. Yet, biologically, females are often the most aggressive and fierce fighters when threatened, especially when it comes to protecting their young. Think of a mother bear who will rip to shreds any stranger who comes between her and her cubs. Moose, lions, tigers, elephants, and apes are other examples of fierce, aggressive mothers. After all, what is more important, more worth fighting for, than the innate biological instinct to protect the babies and ensure the survival of the species?

Until and unless it’s proven that fighting units with male and female soldiers together are less effective and lose more battles than all-male units, females should be allowed to fight on the front lines.

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent– Women have been given the go-ahead to participate in combat roles and fight alongside men as the ban for serving in that capacity was lifted in 2016. Whether that ban will be reinstated in 2017 and beyond is hard to say, but whether women will automatically sign up just because they can is another consideration. The opportunity for a woman’s role in combat still involves specific requirements. A few select women will be able to fulfill them and others will not.

Not all women are capable of maintaining and enduring the physical demands and the strength that direct combat roles require. Those physical facts don’t make women any less capable of serving in other capacities in the armed forces, but there are reservations about just anyone being involved in training for specialized combat positions in infantry, artillery and armor units. Even men are subject to extreme scrutiny in these types of combat roles. Men, and particularly women, must understand the difficulties involved in training phases and later real-life combat situations.

Training regimens are pretty much designed with males in mind because of the physical demands involved. Their body weight, muscle mass, body fat index, thicker bone density and ability to lift, carry, run and transport are all necessary for participation in any combat unit. Extensive endurance training is also part of any elite combat team and with specific parameters to follow, women may have difficulty meeting those set standards. If concessions are made and standards lowered, the results are less effective combat training, which causes problems in training and combat areas.

If there are women that are capable of not only making it through combat training courses and are also able to interact and get along within an all male ground combat unit, the process of identifying such women may entail a high attrition rate before the right combinations are found. In the meantime, a unit’s effectiveness is weakened and there may be significant injuries of young women and men. When the cohesiveness of a unit is compromised by those weaker and less prepared for combat, what is the value of a diversified unit only to say that it is a politically correct experiment gone wrong at the expense of those who know the ropes of combat?

Today’s ground combat interaction with a barbarous and relentless enemy in ISIS and others is one that cannot be involved in trial runs. Enemy combatants won’t play favorites or have sympathy for a unit that has men and a smattering of women. They will only take advantage of any perceived or real weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and exploit them. Political correctness means nothing to them nor does taking prisoners of any persuasion.

There will continue to be women that push the bar for inclusion in combat units, and there may be outstanding candidates among the many who will meet the physical, social and psychological requirements, but they will likely be the exception. The safety and cohesiveness of a combat unit are the most important aspects to consider when placing women in combat capacities and if there are any misgivings or high risk factors concerning placement, they need to be weighed in favor of the total unit as opposed to any politically correct inclusion agenda.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent- Back when the U.S. armed forces were first created, combat was a completely different environment than it is today. The lack of long-range, rapid-firing weapons made fighting in close quarters an inevitability, and physical prowess was a critical component in a soldier’s success in defeating his enemy.

While hand-to-hand combat does still take place in today’s military, it is far less prevalent than in ages past. Every soldier carries a weapon capable of fully automatic fire, and upgrades like body armor and superhardened helmets have made today’s infantry grunts into mini-tanks on two legs.

Far more important in today’s combat is hand-eye coordination, cardiovascular fitness and an ability to multi-task and handle stress. Women are actually better fitted genetically to tackle these tasks than men, and their ability to handle combat roles is high.

So much of war fighting today is based on computer operation and pushing buttons, rather than physical combat or bayonet charges, that the brawny soldier icon of the past no longer holds. There is still, especially in specialized units such as SEAL teams, a definite need for big guys who can go into a fray and knock heads, but the role is not nearly as common as decades past.

On another point: Today’s urban battlegrounds don’t have the “front lines” that wars did in the past. Much as we saw in the Vietnam conflict, the enemy can show up anywhere. The shopkeeper putting his wares out in stalls on the street side might pull an IED or rifle out from his crates and attack. The young man innocently pedaling his bicycle up to the checkpoint might have a bomb vest strapped on. No matter where they are stationed, women in today’s armed forces have a high likelihood of facing combat, and in fact many already have.

Let the women fight alongside the men. Our armed forces will be more balanced, and the women will excel alongside their brothers in arms.

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