Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Friday, January 25, 2013

Valor Knows No Gender

Slowly, slowly, slowly, the revolution is quietly but surely happening. 

Women are now officially allowed in combat roles - on the front lines of the battle.

That's because the lines are changing - or, perhaps, blurring.

Truth is that women have long been "in harms way," laying down their lives for their country.

 Truth is that, active-duty female personnel make up roughly 15 percent -- or 207,308 members of the more than 1.4 million members -- of the armed forces.  Since 2001, 280,000 women have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Of that number, 152 women have been killed in combat in the two wars, and 946 were wounded, according to the latest Defense data.

Veterans such as U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) — the purple heart recipient and the first woman injured in combat to be elected to national office in November — applauded the move as a broadening of opportunities for women and said it will improve the nation's armed forces.

But several older veterans said most women are not physically strong enough to participate directly in combat.

To reassure them, Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, said,  "If members of our military can meet the qualifications for a job -- and let me be clear, we are not reducing qualifications -- then they should have the right to serve."

He says that like this is a new concept. 

General Dempsy said that the ban was a "technical correction" that, "may help stem sexual assault."

I get the first part. It is a "technical correction," especially in face of the facts about women serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. I honestly don't see the new rules stemming sexual assault.

The "corrective," I fear, doesn't get that "technical".

I'm not sure, exactly, what the good General means, except that I think it's important that he raised that particular flag. It's an admission of the truth that, while women have been keeping the country safe, the military has not done much to keep women safe.

That was an unintended, additional benefit of the announcement. 

I confess that I am decidedly ambivalent about women in combat. I confess that I don't understand why a woman - or, for that matter, a man - would want to be in combat. That being said, I support equal access to employment, even if it's work in the midst of combat.

Of course, the new order doesn't go into effect until January, 2016, but it will open up hundreds of thousands of jobs for women.

Although the Defense Department opened 14,325 jobs to women in May 2012, some 237,854 (roughly 19 percent) of the 1.2 million positions available throughout the military remained closed to women.

Of these, 53,000 are jobs for which women would qualify -- as medics or mechanics or intelligence specialists -- but for the fact that the openings are in combat units, such as special operations forces and small infantry units.

Another 184,000 jobs involve specialties, such as tank crewman, that have also been closed to women.

All these jobs will officially open up to women January 2016.

Women who qualify - mentally and physically.

The standards have not been lowered, the qualifications have not been reduced and the requirements have not changed. 

Because valor knows no gender.


Sextant said...

Objectively I want to say great! Women should have all the same opportunities as men. But emotionally, I hate flag draped coffins for our sons, but our daughters? It rips my old sexist heart out. Try as I may to be pro-feminist, the notion of a young woman in a body bag brings tears to my old eyes.

Sexist pig? Guilty as charged in this case. I won't protest the decision, but may I weep?

My other concern with women in combat, male POWs are subject to a lot of abuse but gang rape is generally not one of them. As you say though, if we are going to worry about rape, perhaps we should concern ourselves with friendly fire. The military has been rather lax in that regard.

CL Thomas said...

Tank Crewman is a particularly dirty job. I was a tank crewman in Vietnam and I doubt it has changed that much. If you are deployed in the field, you get dirty and stay dirty, in about a week you don't even know what clean is. When we were lucky enough to bivouac on the beach, we all just ran naked into the South China Sea and rinsed off, considering ourselves clean. Your potty is the jungle, just don't get your ass shot off. Sometimes we got hot food helicoptered in, otherwise it was c-rations, my favorite was baked lima beans with bacon. We had all the 3.2 beer we wanted, just no ice. You know you're having a bad day when you have a warm beer with c-rations for breakfast. I was 20 years old. I had been drafted. It was a great adventure.

What good came of it? For me, 2 things. First, I came back and went to college on the GI bill. Second, we were a team, literally fighting for each other's life. I've rarely experienced such team spirit since. And we were successful.

I do not write in praise of war. President Obama is right using more drones. But anyone who wants the adventure of soldiering should go for it.

Anonymous said...

Glad you are writing again.

We have had an unlimited war since the Civil War. Men, women, and children have been on the front lines. Just ask anyone about the Oklahoma City bombing or the 9/11 attacks.

I love the bit about meeting the qualifications. I ponder how many big men could have been tunnel rats in the Vietnam War- scratch that-Vietnam conflict. Yes, I dare say a 6 foot 7 inch man would have to enlarge those tunnels to do the job. My point is that military qualifications differ for the job. But, why did he need to state the qualifier? To calm the other men that disagree with permitting women to actually serve on the alleged front line?

Glad you are back.

Marthe said...

“Valor has no gender.”
True, but personal bravery has never been acknowledged or rewarded equally.
And “valor” is often assumed to be the exclusive province of the masculine, of the particular form of conflict that is war with swords and guns and weapons of destruction, not the courage to say “no” to violence, “no” to the words and actions that kill the spirit while leaving the body intact. War has too often been THE proof of manhood, THE opportunity to test, to experience life on some exhilarating precipice of loss that defines one for life; aggression, adrenaline rush, purpose all rolled into one package attractive by those who profit from conflict. I met a whole lot of wounded soldiers many years ago. None of them still believed a word of the hawks & arms industry propaganda or the glories of war literature. None of them wanted anything more than an end to the whole ugly business.
No doubt some men will freak out about women in combat, not out of any “protective” concern for the vulnerabilities of women they love, but because they will see the competition from women as threatening to their manhood. No doubt the howling fringe will claim the “feminazis” are on the march to castrate the last “real men” on the planet.
But what is truly sad is that our language is so soaked in the verbiage of war, images of conflict resolved only by might smashing to silence any opposition, that even essentially peaceful and thoughtful individuals accept as normal and necessary the maintenance of the appearance of “strength” through military means to deter any serious challenge to “our” way of life. Our way of life seems to require death on a regular basis, the “sacrifice” of our young whenever (mostly) old (mostly) men are too proud or stubborn or ambitious or greedy to remember that peace is the best predictor of extended life expectancy … the same who loudly claim to defend freedom, god, guns and apple pie, but are clearly not actual followers of any Prince of Peace.
Good for those women who serve and deserve every opportunity available in their chosen profession and to be rewarded equally for their work. Sad, that somehow it seems that the new “freedom” is to be just as deluded about power via armaments as the only meaningful measure of the value of a life as some of their male counterparts.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Sextant - I agree: I don't want to see a flag-draped coffin of a man or woman.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

CL Thomas - I think most of the young men and women who go into the service for the same reasons you articulate: Adventure. Being part of a noble venture. Getting financial assistance (and experience) for higher education.

The military has always played on the altruism and dreams of the youth.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Maria - I'm taking this new venture in writing very slowly. I'm more convinced that it was more "blog block' than "writer's block".

More on that later.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Marthe - I couldn't agree more.