The media has been in a frenzy todayy over the recent Pentagon announcement ending the combat exclusion policy barring women from certain combat positions:
Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta plans to announce Thursday a lifting of the ban on female service members in combat roles, a watershed policy change that was informed by women’s valor in Iraq and Afghanistan and that removes the remaining barrier to a fully inclusive military, defense officials said.
Panetta made the decision “upon the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” a senior defense official said Wednesday, an assertion that stunned female veteran activists who said they assumed that the brass was still uneasy about opening the most physically arduous positions to women. The Army and the Marines, which make up the bulk of the military’s ground combat force, will present plans to open most jobs to women by May 15. [Washington Post]
You can read the rest at the link, but listening to the media rhetoric the past couple of days shows how little these people know about the military. Especially those claiming this change allows women to serve in combat. Women have served in combat for a long time, all the policy change does is allow women to serve in units and MOSs such as armor, infantry, and special forces that they were not allowed to serve in before. Then there are those in the media that claim that women can handle these jobs because they are already in combat. Once again this shows ignorance because there is a big difference from someone driving a truck down the road and getting engaged by the enemy and going out on patrol every day carrying all your gear and engaging the enemy like the infantry does. These are two very different forms of combat and one does not equal the other which unfortunately way too many talking heads in the media do not understand.
With that all said I support the policy change, but I think many people in the media are going to be shocked when they see how few women even try out for these positions. We have discussed this before on the ROK Drop, but there is very little demand from female servicemembers to join the infantry. For example when the Marines opened their Infantry Officer’s Course to females last year they had two volunteers for the first course. The next course had no volunteers. Since the Army is so big there will be a few more volunteers than what the Marines had but it will still be an extremely small number. The next problem for those who volunteer will be fitness. Both female Marines who volunteered for IOC failed for physical reasons. So unless the standards are dropped there are going to be few volunteers and even fewer who can pass the necessary courses. This may lead to outside groups like SWAN looking for a reason to exist to claim the military is still discriminating against women because of so few women who volunteer and pass these courses. The only way a sizable number of women will be in the infantry and special forces is if physical standards are dropped or someone invents a robotic exo-skeleton that makes physical strength irrelevant.
As long as the military stays firm on keeping standards equal for infantrymen and other direct combat MOSs I think the vast majority of servicemembers will have no issue with the change. However, if joining the infantry becomes like the current unequal Army Physical Fitness Test where a male recruit has one standard and the female a lesser standard for the same job than I can see issues coming from this policy change.
I highly recommend everyone read what Michael Yon has to say about this issue.