The Times West Virginian

February 3, 2013

Women in combat ‘recognition of the reality’?

Times West Virginian

— The thing about rights is that you gain them a little at a time, even though you fight the hard battles and you give your all to the movement. Small victories have to be celebrated, then, as the grand prize is a moving target.

Look at the right to vote, only granted to women by a constitutional amendment in 1920. But it took more than 70 years of hard work by women’s suffrage activists to get that amendment to be taken seriously.

But if you look at the whole picture, did granting women the right to vote make them completely equal with their male counterparts in the United States? No. But it was a victory.

Some say last month brought another victory in the women’s rights movement.

Even though more than 20,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan in harm’s way, they hadn’t been given the same opportunities for advancement as male soldiers. But last month, the Department of Defense lifted the ban on women serving in direct combat roles following a federal lawsuit filed by four servicewomen. These women say they served in combat roles but weren’t recognized for it.

"This is just an overdue recognition of the reality, which is that women for many years have already been out there in effect in combat, (but) not enjoying some of the career opportunities and opportunities to serve that they'd like to have,” Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University law professor and former Pentagon official, told Public Radio International.

The end goal is to open up leadership positions for women, which requires some specialized training and leadership experience they’ve never been able to have and preventing them from moving up in rank.

The branches of military services have until May 15 to let the Department of Defense know how they plan to implement the change, and until 2016 to ask for exemptions.

“Coming so soon after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, (it) demonstrates another landmark victory for equality in our military,” House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., told the Huffington Post.

“The announcement (from) Secretary Panetta ... will put us on a path to giving women the same access to the protections and benefits afforded the men they serve alongside. It will finally acknowledge the reality of the current nature of war, where the lines between combat and support personnel are not clearly drawn. And, most importantly, it will help us build a stronger armed forces.”

But while many hail the ruling, there are certainly those against it.

In a report published by the Center for Military Readiness, an independent organization, a study found that women are actually rising through the ranks faster than men. The excuse that they are denied advancement opportunities because of the ban isn’t holding much water, the group says, and combat roles are more about the “equal opportunity to survive,” not equal opportunities.

“Liberal media and feminists are trying to use the military as a laboratory for the testing of a controversial twentieth-century social science theory − that men and women are interchangeable in all roles, and any differences that do exist are primarily, if not exclusively, due to socialization,” the groups says.

Well, we thought we’d take this one to our readers out there who log on each week to to vote in our online poll. Last week, we asked “Do you support the Department of Defense’s lift on the ban on women serving in direct ground combat roles?”

And here’s what you had to say.

• No — 49.4 percent

• Yes — 43.37 percent

• Not sure — 7.23 percent

That’s a pretty close one. We’ll see how this issue progresses.

This week, we’ve heard what our furry little prognosticators have said about the duration of winter 2013. What do you think? Shots and flip flops by March or braving snow-covered roads through April?

Log on. Vote. Email me or respond online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor