On Thursday, U.S. military officials decided to lift the country's ban on women serving in combat, reversing a 1994 rule that prohibited women from such roles.
Recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta's decision allowing women to serve on the front lines and elite positions in combat will be historic for women's rights supporters. According to USA Today:
"The services will develop plans for allowing women to seek the combat positions. Some jobs may open as soon as this year. Assessments for others, such as special operations forces, including Navy SEALs and the Army's Delta Force, may take longer ...
The move expands the Pentagon's action - nearly a year ago - that opened about 14,500 combat positions to women, nearly all of them in the Army. This decision could open more than 230,000 jobs, many in Army and Marine infantry units, to women."
As expected, there was dissension as the announcement came. Quoted on usnews.nbcnews.com, Republican California Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Marine combat veteran, said that the question was whether the change would “actually make our military better at operating in combat and killing the enemy.”
“What needs to be explained is how this decision, when all is said and done, increases combat effectiveness rather than being a move done for political purposes,” Hunter said.
And Ryan Smith, a Marine infantryman in Iraq, wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal.
In 2003, his unit had gone more than a month without showering and then was lined up naked to be pressure-washed.
“It would be distracting and potentially traumatizing to be forced to be naked in front of the opposite sex, particularly when your body has been ravaged by lack of hygiene,” Smith wrote. “In the reverse, it would be painful to witness a member of the opposite sex in such an uncomfortable and awkward position."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and a former POW in Vietnam, voiced support for the decision. But he expressed caution, saying he wanted “to make sure that the standards, particularly the physical standards, are met so that the combat efficiency of the units are not degraded.”
And a CNN thread that quickly began included Twitter handle sallymae:
sallymae: I hate to tell you guys, but as a WOMAN VETERAN, we serve and do the same jobs as MEN and get the same pay OR HIGHER than men. Women outrank men, and there are more women officers than men. If you're too insecure to handle that, then prove it. Put on a pair of combat boots and grow some!
I can bet the trolls sitting at home with beer bellies and no jobs are the ones disrespecting the women who will be saving your butts! Enlist -- serve our country -- and then come talk to me! BTW -- I can kick you ass any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
What do you think? Is it time for women to head to the front lines? Will efficiency of military units be maintained? Is this a decision made by political correctness or practicality?
Tell us in your comments. Then vote in our poll.