Women in Combat! It’s 1779 all over again.

US Marine Sargeant Savanna E. Malendoski from 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines Regiment peers through her rifle scope during a patrol in Garmser, Helmand Province. (ADEK BERRY - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

US Marine Sargeant Savanna E. Malendoski from 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines Regiment peers through her rifle scope during a patrol in Garmser, Helmand Province. (ADEK BERRY – AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

From the Women in Military Service for American Memorial Foundation, Inc:

“Did you know…

“that for service in the American Revolution, Margaret Corbin, dubbed “Captain Molly,” became the first American woman to receive a military pension? At the defense of Ft. Washington, when her husband John Corbin was killed at the cannon, she assumed his post and was wounded. On July 6, 1779, the Continental Congress granted her money equal to one-half pay drawn by a soldier and one suit of clothes. Captain Molly is buried at West Point.” http://www.womensmemorial.org/Press/diduknow.html.

The service of women in America’s military has been long, large, and varied. Women have served in every American war and many “military actions.”

Over 400,000 women served in World War II. But women were not granted permanent status until President Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948. A little late–but still, THERE.

Thirteen women have earned Silver Stars. SGT Leigh Ann Hester was the first to earn hers for valor in combat. In 2005.

There are obvious issues with women admitted to combat roles, and there are hidden ones. An obvious issue is that a woman must be able to perform to the required standard of the position. In anticipation that a woman WON’T be able to serve in certain positions–or elite units–the Joint Chiefs have recommended that exemptions from the admission of women may be applied for and granted.

But then there’s Rep. Tammy Duckworth’s recommendation: that the military should open up every unit to women and see if they can complete the required training. Duckworth lost both legs when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq. As she has said about her prostheses: “Where do you think this happened, a bar fight?” (See the entry on Duckworth at August 31, 2012.) Duckworth’s recommendation is simple as well as obvious: “If the women can’t meet the standards, they don’t get to graduate from the program.”

Why isn’t the Joint Chiefs’ recommendation as simple as Duckworth’s? It’s a virtual certainty that certain positions and units–such as the Seals and Rangers–won’t be flooded with female applicants. Even the male applicants for such positions wash out at a high rate. Perhaps there is a hidden reason for the Joint Chiefs’ recommendation: that certain elite positions should remain forever a man’s club. Women may be recognized as good for the military–but not good enough.

Another “hidden” issue–because virtually no one is talking about it–is that when women are officially in “combat” positions, and more women are in combat zones, they will be eligible for combat awards and service benefits. That is something that the military, until now, has not had to recognize or fund. Service awards. Combat zone tax benefits. Military special pay benefits. Additional retirement benefits. The military has, in effect, been receiving the service of many women veterans at a discount rate.

And then there’s “the brass ceiling:” without combat assignments, women’s potential for promotion is severely restricted. Without combat assignments (even though they may serve in a combat zone), they may not receive combat training. Without official combat experience and leadership, a woman will never become…the Commandant of the Marine Corps, for example.

Or a member of the Joint Chiefs.

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This entry was posted in DOD, Other Military, Uncategorized, USMC, Veterans and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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