Women of war (continued)

Kelley Macek | guest writer

PSU vets weigh in on lifting ban on women in combat; To deny a unit the force multiplying effect of a soldier who may have a unique skill only because the soldier is female is an antiquated notion

Fully integrating women into all military occupational specialties is absolutely the right thing to do. Women have been serving alongside their combat arms counterparts for quite some time. They bring additional talents and points of view that provide a full 360-degree range of skills and capabilities. This enables leaders the flexibility to leverage a diverse team in today’s contemporary operational environment. In other words, there are no front lines and if you are stopped long enough to dig a foxhole, then you’ve already got problems that have nothing to do with whether there are “girls” in there with you.
We need to move beyond gender stereotypes that have somehow elevated women’s bodies as being more precious than men. We relegate women to ‘feminine’ pursuits with some strange idea that a powerful woman is somehow trying to be a man. This attitude permeates sports, corporate business and consumer advertising. Women are depicted as objects and caricatures, which can diminish them in our eyes. We tout equality for all, yet continue to place women beneath men in so many ways. She is elevated only in traditional gender roles: mother, sister, daughter, caretaker, provider and homemaker. When she excels and moves into a male-dominated environment, she is frowned upon at best, ridiculed and harassed at worst.
As a former senior noncommissioned officer in the Army, I had the honor of serving alongside some of the best leaders in combat arms specialties. Every deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan, I worked right next to my brothers. The mission and the team were always the most important considerations. When you are out there doing your job, no one cared that you looked, sounded, moved or thought differently. The only thing anyone cared about was if you were really there; that you were doing what you needed to do without fail. In my case, it was language proficiency. Did I expect someone to carry my bags? What if I had to fire my weapon? Did I even think of those things? No. I just did my job. I wasn’t a translator. I was a soldier first, and an intelligence professional second to none. My team relied on me and did not need to do their job and then mine as well. They counted on me to pull my weight and ensure the mission succeeded. I worked for that level of respect. What I am telling you is that these women serving now are no different. They know that it is upon them to either do it – or not.

Cadet Kristina Willis, junior in international studies, works through a wired obstacle during Ranger Challenge on Saturday, Oct. 6.

Cadet Kristina Willis, junior in international studies, works through a wired obstacle during Ranger Challenge on Saturday, Oct. 6.

To deny a unit the force multiplying effect of a soldier who may have a unique skill – such as foreign language fluency or superior marksmanship – only because the soldier is female is an antiquated notion. I don’t think it occurs to the person who has never been in combat that there are men who struggle physically, mentally and emotionally as well as women. They survive and adapt, are reclassed to another job and transferred, or they are discharged from service.
Whether Americans like it or not, the military is changing. There will be leadership challenges as well as opportunities for both commissioned and noncommissioned officers. Leaders will be responsible for ensuring mission accomplishment and securing the safety of their subordinates as it has been for centuries. Now, women will finally be officially assigned and able to receive the recognition and promotions commensurate with their contributions. If a woman is capable of meeting the standards for a specific occupational specialty or functional area, then why should she be denied the opportunity to succeed?

Justin Newman | guest writer

‘The mental strength and physical strength it takes to engage in combat is not something everyone can undertake.’

There is much debate going on about the combat ban being lifted for women serving in the U.S. armed services. Not unlike “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” being lifted, this decision is controversial and in some ways quite polarizing. Many have already given their opinions for or against. As an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and a Pitt State student I was asked to give my opinion on this issue.
When I was in the Army and deployed, I served with great soldiers both male and female. We were not part of a combat unit or an elite fighting force. We served in support roles, but the real threat of harm and enemy contact was always there. We were all trained as infantry first. However, our specialty was not fighting. Each soldier was trained to do a specific job. Some are trained as engineers, others linguists, pilots, cooks, clerks, mechanics, truck drivers or any number of other necessary jobs. There are still others trained in combat roles.
This brings us to the question, “Are women capable of being effective combat soldiers?” I believe that without a doubt they are. Women are just as disciplined, determined, skilled and as able as men. Not all women are capable in the same way some men are not capable. The mental strength and physical strength it takes to engage in combat is not something everyone can undertake.
However, I think there are some drawbacks. Physical strength is always going be the first question. Can a woman pull a 250-pound person out of harm’s way? Maybe, maybe not … But not all men can, either. The way to get around this is to create equal physical strength standards. Problem solved, right? Not so fast.
In combat, soldiers live, work, sleep, shower and survive together. The bigger problem I see with women in combat is not actually women; it is the men. The truth is men are going to be more protective of women and in such close quarters there is bound to be some some emotional attachments formed. Maybe not even romantic, but like a brother that is protective of his sister. If romantic feelings do happen, this can create animosity between the male soldiers vying for her attention. When you have to trust each other with your lives, this is not a good situation to be in.
Even though I believe women are more than able combat soldiers, I think the cons outweigh the pros. The U.S. military has some of the most elite fighting forces the world has ever seen, and I don’t think that messing with that chemistry is a good idea.
So for now women are allowed in combat, the success of such “progress” has yet to be determined. My wish above all else is that every soldier, both male and female, serve proudly and come home safe.

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