Image Michael Kamber
Dying at the front lines of war–whether those wars are justified or not–has traditionally been a gendered equation. Men go to die, be maimed, and come home with PTSD while women support them at home and in the field. The reality is that the bright line has already been blurred as plenty of women have paid the ultimate price in our most recent endeavors in the Middle East. But the Pentagon is switching its policy to allow women to serve in an actual fighting battalion while maintaining the all-male roles of infantry and special ops.
So the question is whether this is a good thing or not? Is the Pentagon just acknowledging what in practice is already going on? Should women be allowed in all functions in the military? What, if any, impact will the formal entry of women into before all-male battalions have on discipline and effectiveness? Is there an argument to be made that these units will actually be more effective?
Pentagon rules are catching up a bit with reality after a decade when women in the U.S. military have served, fought and died on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Thursday, the Pentagon is recommending to Congress that women be allowed to serve in more jobs closer to the front lines.
According to defense officials, the new rules are expected to continue the long-held prohibition that prevents women from serving as infantry, armor and special operations forces. But they will formally allow women to serve in other jobs at the battalion level, which until now had been considered too close to combat.
In reality, however, the necessities of war have already propelled women to the front lines — often as medics, military police or intelligence officers. So, while a woman couldn’t be assigned as an infantryman in a battalion or in a company going out on patrol, she could fly the helicopter supporting the unit, or move in to provide medical aid if troops were injured.
The officials said the new rules will formally allow women to be assigned to a battalion and serve in jobs such as medics, intelligence officers, police or communications officers. The changes would have the greatest effect on the Army and Marine Corps, which ban women from more jobs than the Navy and Air Force do, largely because of the infantry positions.