EDITORIAL: Women march forward
Jan 26, 2013 (The Fresno Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The announcement that the Pentagon will lift its ban on women in combat is momentous. It is also coming to terms with the reality on the ground, and of our all-volunteer military.
With no clear front lines on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, female service members in "non-combat" roles already have been fighting and dying. They have proved themselves with professionalism and, sometimes, heroism. They have disproved the tired arguments that women would be distracting and couldn't pull their weight.
The nearly 290,000 women who have served in those war zones were essential to completing the mission. To get around the ban, some women were temporarily "attached" to combat units.
If women are already in combat, don't they deserve the full opportunity for advancement awarded to their male colleagues Official combat experience is a prerequisite to rise in the ranks.
Yet, this is not a change to take lightly. Many Americans are wary of the social consequences of women, especially mothers, going to war. For some, it is still unnerving to see a female soldier come home in a body bag. This shift reinforces the need for the military to deal with the shameful number of sexual assaults of female service members.
But we should be reassured that our military leaders are the ones pushing the new policy, and that we have been moving successfully in this direction for a generation.
For years, female pilots and sailors have served in combat zones. Last year, the Pentagon opened 14,000 combat-related jobs to women. Under a 1994 policy, however, women were still barred from nearly 240,000 positions, mostly in the Army and Marines, including infantry, combat tank units and special forces.
The military needs to be smart about the transition. The Army and Marines are to present their plans by May 15 to open most jobs to women. Senior commanders have until January 2016 to seek exemptions. There may still be a few specialties with physical demands that many women can't meet, but some men can't, either.
Even with planned force reductions, the fact is that without women, the armed services can't maintain recruiting standards in the all-volunteer military. Women now constitute about 15% of the 1.4 million on active duty.
Along with ending the ban on openly gay service members in 2011, opening combat roles to women will make the military more inclusive. Our military, and our nation, will be better and stronger for it.
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Calif.) at www.fresnobee.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
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