By David Jenkins
Women have been in combat situations in the past. In the last two decades, women were part of many military operations that would move across cities and sometimes they would take fire from enemies subjecting them to a combat environment. Granted, the combat environment may not be “on the front lines with an infantry unit”, but it is a combat environment nonetheless. Just like non-infantry men who only received initial combat training in boot camp, women must rely on the sole warfare training they receive in boot camp as well should they be subject to a combat environment.
One should also consider the fact that preparing for a combat situation is what the military is all about. Take the United States Marine Corps for instance. Marine Corps Basic training prepares recruits for combat situations regardless of gender. During basic training one is taught and must master many things such as when and how to use a weapon for combat and instructed in first aid for self and others during combat situations. Although the standards are a little different for women, they are actually given combat training like their male counterparts. So the logic dictates that if we are training women for combat, then we are preparing for women to be in combat sometime in the future regardless of public opinion and or policy. Since the military trains and prepares women for combat, the subject of whether women should be in combat is dubiously misguided as we already have had women in combat situations, some who have survived and others how haven’t.
One point of view that should be given grave consideration is the idea of relationships that could potentially develop if women were on the front lines. Granted, additional provisions could be put into place like policies that prohibit infantry women and men from developing a relationship, but as with anything people tend to and will develop workarounds. Although it might not be a high percentage of relationships, anything that could be detrimental to the mission should be highly scrutinized. Let us dig a little further on this issue with a hypothetical. Two Marines, a man and a woman develop an intimate relationship under the radar that lasts for years. They are with the same infantry ground unit that deploys to a war type scenario and end up “in theater” or “on the rock” in a combat environment. Let’s say the Marine’s squads are given a mission and the couple end up close to each other on the front line taking fire and things get lit up. Depending on the depth of the relationship, the human psyche and or feelings between each other could jeopardize the mission if the couple was put in a compromising situation. Although the military trains people to put the mission before them self, our embedded instincts sometimes make us weak to this training. Consequently, this is why not everyone is in or can be in the military. When ambiguous things such as love develop between two people, there are variables that are difficult to control which brings me to another issue that could be of a concern if women were on the front line with their male counterparts.
Another hypothetical is in order again dealing with relationships. A staff sergeant woman Marine ends up on the front line in combat due to mission dictation and is next to her newly enlisted fresh out of school of infantry private son. Or the same situation but the roles are reversed and a man ends up next to his daughter. In either case, they could be in an increased compromising situation. For example if they are taken prisoners of war and the enemy finds out that they are related a compromising situation could ensue that could have been avoided. Although it might be a rarity, the situation could and probably has happened in the past. A good way to gauge the happenstance of this would be to research (which I am sure it has been done) the instances when men and sons were in the same infantry command and situations in the past.
Although there are many other issues that could be reviewed in terms of women in combat, the idea of human relationships in the military should be further researched in order to ensure the best possible outcomes are inevitable. Because human relationships in the military is at the forefront of developing teams of people readying themselves for military missions, it is imperative that this issue continue to earnestly be looked at on a macro and micro level prior to initiating change in military policy or practices.
* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and are not necessarily shared by the rest of the Veteran Journal staff.
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