About 70 % of Army positions and 62% of Marine positions are
open to women. About 259,000 of
the 2.2 million troops that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are women. Although most jobs are open to women
they are excluded from combat positions. Specifically tactical and operational career fields.
A USAToday.com story points out that
female soldiers like Conger, 21 of Seymour, Iowa runs through combat to perform
her duties as a medic and Redinbaugh, 25 of Neola, Iowa drives daily her
armored truck down Taliban surrounded roads.
But the U.S policy still prevents women from taking on
'real' combat jobs. Women receive
the same training as men. But like
all standardized trainings seen in the police or fire department, the military
also has different standards for women to meet for push ups, sit ups, and 2
According to the Army Gender Integrated Basic Training
(GIBT), "A close look at data and
testimony gathered by this and other recent studies indicate that there are no
significant benefits from gender integrated basic training, but many problems
and complications that detract from the primary purpose of GIBT." It goes on to quote various studies
that support the position that women are not physically capable to handle an
integrated or combined physical training which carries tremendous weight when evaluating
whether women can be assigned combat positions (see below). Where this may cause difficulty with
the current wars in Afghanistan is that local Afghan women will not speak with
men. Mandatory efforts to seek vital information,
communicate with locals and maintain a peaceful presence will
require female soldiers in front-line type positions (although unofficial combat positions).
Soldiers like Conger and
Redinbaugh are not the exception overseas right now. There are women in so many positions that are peripheral to
combat and because they are not assigned to infantry, they continue to risk
their lives in many of the same positions causing peril to their survival.
Without having a better understanding of how often women in their non-combat positions face almost he same dangers as infantry or combat trained male soldiers; I will not declare whether I agree or not with U.S. policy. But if the reality of today's war conditions places women in 'front-line' type stresses, which may be better handled with specific training found in infantry or combat programs, I have serious concerns.
Questions to Ponder?
Are women less equiped than male solidiers who are trained for combat to handle and manage the stress, dangers and dynamic of basic soldiering in the Middle East?
Do you feel that although
women are not as strong and fast as men, that they should be excluded from
better data that can be collected that will demonstrate that women can develop
the abilities for combat like fighting, marksmanship and war management? The GIBT was written 10 years ago and
it was compiled based on some data that is even older.
- fNumerous American studies have confirmed that in
general, women are shorter, weigh less and have less muscle mass and greater relative
fat content than men. Women are at a distinct disadvantage because dynamic
upper torso muscular strength is approximately 50-60% that of males, and
aerobic capacity (important for endurance) is approximately 70-75% that of
- A test of Army recruits found that women had a
2.13 times greater risk for lower extremity injuries and a 4.71 times greater
risk for stress fractures. Men sustained 99 days of limited duty due to injury
while women incurred 481 days of limited duty.
- In the United Kingdom, major studies were
ordered in 1998 to ascertain the feasibility of co-ed basic training. Army
doctors found that eight times as many women as men were being discharged
during basic training, due to injury rates that doubled following the
introduction of identical training programs for both sexes. Differences in
strength, bone mass, stride length and lower body bone structure caused women
to suffer disproportionately from Achilles tendon problems, knee, back and leg
pain, and fractures of the tibia, foot, and hip.
- The "gender-free" system was ended in January
2002 because stress fractures for women rose from 4.6% to 11.1%, compared to
less than 1.5% for male trainees.
Filed under: women in military