Women of war
Marcus Clem | copy editor
Kristina Willis was sure it was some kind of joke or incredible rumor.
“Honestly, I thought it was a tabloid thing,” Willis, a senior cadet in the Pittsburg State Reserve Officer Training Corps, said. “I didn’t think much of it until I heard it on several credible news stations.”
The news that women will now be permitted to serve in the military in any capacity that they qualify for was so unbelievable for a reason: The military is an entity of tradition, and does not adopt such fundamental change often, Willis says.
Until the new policy change is fully implemented and in force in 2016, the military’s policy has been to officially exclude women from “combat arms” roles, such as the infantry. In some ways, the change will be a formality.
In Afghanistan and Iraq today, there are many women who are trained and equipped exactly as their male counterparts are, and perform similar roles.
By extension, these two wars have seen the first sustained pattern of female combat casualties in American history: 28 women have died in Afghanistan, and 111 died in Iraq before the withdrawal of combat units from there in 2011, according to The New York Times.
However, the official recognition is important, and some remaining barriers that ought to be removed will be, Willis says.
“As long as women are held to the standards of males, meaning that no exception is given to them, if they are able to accomplish the job, they should be able to take that job,” she said.
A leading voice of opposition to the change has been Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican from Arizona, in a column written for the Washington, D.C. newspaper, Roll Call.
“It simply isn’t expected that a female soldier should be able to move as fast or carry as much weight … as her male counterparts,” Franks wrote. “This is especially important in life-threatening situations, as a unit can only move as quickly as its slowest member.”
Willis says that these concerns are too presumptuous.
“It is dependent on the female,” she said. “There are some women who can’t lift a 200-pound bag and there are some that are like, ‘Oh, hey, hop on my back.’ It is hard to stereotype.”
Stephen Cuff, a senior cadet, says that anyone who can meet the military’s standards should be allowed to serve in the capacity they choose.
“If there is someone who can do the same thing that I can do, I do not think it really matters,” he said. “If you can pass the test, then I just think that you’re pretty much just good to go.”
Cord Stanley, also a senior cadet, says that he is focused on doing his job properly, and that the issue of women in combat is not his to decide.
“It is not our job to question policy; our job is to make whatever policy that is handed down to us, work. We are an adaptive military and will continue to ensure its strength.”