Four military servicewomen, all of whom have served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, have filed a federal lawsuit that aims to end the Pentagon’s ban of women serving in position of direct combat, according to The New York Times Tuesday.
Many women, the filers claim, have been in combat while serving their tours. But as a result of the combat ban, they are not given the same opportunities for career advancement that combat experience allows men, according to the Times. Although women have fought alongside men, they are still prevented from attending combat leadership schools — and in the Army, 80 percent of general officers come from combat arms positions, according to the Times.
The ban on direct combat is archaic and unfair. About 14 percent of the 1.4 million troops in the active-duty military are women, and 280,000 women were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the Times. These women are risking their lives fighting overseas, but because of the direct combat ban, they are prevented from climbing the ladder of military leadership status. If a woman desires to serve her country by subjecting herself to the harsh conditions of combat training and service, it should be in her right to do so — assuming she is able to cope with the physical demands as well as her male counterparts.
Of course, there are factors that might deter military officials from wholly integrating women into the infantry. In some cases, women are not as strong, physically, as men. Combat might be exceedingly demanding, in which case a female could slow a unit down. Some captains are concerned about women’s health: “I am confident that should the Marine Corps attempt to fully integrate women into the infantry, we as an institution are going to experience a colossal increase in crippling and career-ending medical conditions for females,” said Captain Katie Petronio, according to the Times.
These efforts to protect the “fairer sex” are kind, but we will not know a woman’s potential if she is not given the chance to prove herself equipped. A woman — if sufficiently strong and dexterous in combat — could be a boon to the infantry.
To deny a female her fighting rights is to deny her of her right to choose — if indeed she has a right to choose in a hierarchical institution such as the Army, in which she serves under her military superiors. Career-ending medical conditions are a risk she might deem worthy of taking for the protection of her country and the honor of serving in the military. Military leaders should honor this patriotism by allowing women equal opportunity and the possibility to advance their careers.