The old argument about what jobs women can do in the military has been going on for as long as I can remember and not a minute of it has been pretty. Both sides have made some great points. Both sides have also made idiots of themselves more than once. Double standards have been alleged, good and bad historical examples have been brought up, and sides have been taken.
Not If, But Where
There are still a few dinosaurs that think women shouldn’t be in the military at all but no one listens to them anymore; the debate now is about what MOS they should be allowed to serve in. The US Army and the USMC are now both running trials to see if their female soldiers and Marines can be integrated into ground combat units – even the infantry. The Army is developing a fitness test for both sexes based on representative military tasks and the Marines want to form up an experimental mixed task force with women scattered through every subunit. Seeing as the Pentagon has ordered all jobs to be open to women by two years from now, this is the big test to see if women can serve on the “front line.”
Well, it’s a bit late to be worrying about front lines. The Pentagon can say what it likes, but that decision was made for them a long time ago. The fact is, modern war doesn’t have any front lines, and I don’t just mean the COIN ops we’re doing right now. As we’ve seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, attacks are as likely to hit a supply convoy or CIMIC team as an infantry patrol. Unless we’re going to listen to the dinosaurs and ban women from the ORBAT altogether, they’re all potentially in a combat role anyway, and if they can fight as part of a logistics convoy, they can fight as part of an infantry fire team.
Of course if women are going to be in the combat zone, they need to be just as ready for it as their male counterparts. That means an end to “gender fair” tests. There is nothing that destroys morale more than telling a male soldier he wasn’t fit enough because he did his mile and a half in 10:31, but the woman who did it in 12:45 was fine. That’s just wrong. The same goes for carrying weight. If a soldier needs to carry 90 pounds they need to carry 90 pounds. If 60 pounds is an acceptable load for a woman then it’s acceptable for a man, too. Forget “gender fair” – let’s make fitness standards gender free. It’s the only way to maintain combat effectiveness, because like it or not, women in combat roles is already reality and that’s not going to change.