Women in Combat
Finally the Pentagon has decided to recognize that women should be and have been in combat. Actually they’ve been on the front lines for a long time. If gun-toting female soldiers along side gun-toting male soldiers kicking in Afghan doors to find Taliban isn’t front line combat, what is? And what do you call women flying helicopters into war zones?
During my youth, I would have been one of the first to sign up. I was a good athlete. At 5′, 5 1/2″, 106 pounds, I took on all of my brother’s friends and beat them at basketball and track. Maybe not football, but they never let me play anyway.
I loved the movie G.I.Jane with Demi Moore. I wanted to be her. I know I could have out-trained all those tough guys, could have rung the bell. But I have a problem concerning women in combat.
All during my growing up years I was lucky enough never to feel threatened with harm by my male-friend competitors. Still there is much to fear. Tough as we are, we have trouble avoiding sexual assaults.
According to the Defense Department, 19,000 sexual assaults occurred in the armed services last year, some 56 of them during the summer at Lackland Air force Base.
Representative Buck McKeon, Republican Chairman of the Armed Services Committee said he would schedule hearings into that matter on January 23rd,2013, but so far, they haven’t taken place. I wonder why not.
It appears that the armed service higher ups are in a quandary. Women who are assaulted go unheard and untreated while male perpetrators are excused and promoted. Apparently reprimands are determined by the ‘chain of command’ generals who still believe boys will be boys. That must change.
Representative Jane Harman stated, “a female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.”
Here are five things we can do to help remedy the situation.
- Raise awareness of gender violence
- Work to prevent conflict-related rape
- Address institutionalized discrimination
- Change the population mindset concerning violence and women
- Re-define the concept of masculinity from power and violence to equal and peaceful
Congresswoman Jackie Speier authored a bill in 2011 to make sure rape and sexual assault in the military were no longer tolerated. The bill, H.R. 3435, The Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act—the STOP Act—would “take the reporting, oversight, investigation, and victim care of sexual assaults out of the hands of the military’s normal chain of command and place jurisdiction in a newly created office comprised of civilian and military experts.”
But guess what happened to H.R. 3435. It was referred to the House Armed Services Committee where Chairman Buck McKeon allowed it to die.
If 15% of the armed services are now women and the chain of command can’t even protect them, how do we expect the military to protect the rest of us? I agree with Congresswoman Speier. Investigations must be taken out of the chain of command. Furthermore, convictions must include jail time, fines, and dishonorable discharges. Maybe severe punishment will be incentive to deter these shameful acts.
And oh, by the way, I shudder to think what will happen if first line combat women are captured by the enemy.