As civilian women in ever greater numbers choose to arm themselves and to carry firearms for self-defense, it looks like there will be more women serving in combat roles for the U.S. military in the near future.
From 1994 to January of this year, the Pentagon followed what it called a “combat exclusion policy” which stated: “service members are eligible to be assigned to all positions for which they are qualified, except that women shall be excluded from assignment to units below the brigade level whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground.”
As of January 1, women have been allowed to apply for 220,000 combat positions, including elite units like the Army Rangers and Navy SEALs, however, relatively few women have been trained or deployed in these jobs, according to this story from kobi5.com.
Military leaders say applications for combat positions are being considered and training is being assessed, the story says.
Last year, the U.S. Army’s famed Rangers special operations school graduated its first-ever female candidates to much press attention: Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver. Griest is expected to become the Army’s first female infantry officer. In April, the Army approved 22 additional women as officers in armor and infantry units, the story says.
“I do hope that with our performance in Ranger school we’ve been able to inform that decision as to what they can expect from women in the military — that we can handle things physically and mentally on the same level as men and that we can deal with the same stresses in training that the men can,” Griest told reporters after passing her Ranger training.
The story says that, in typical military fashion, things are moving slowly, with every branch considering dozens of women who have applied to the newly opened positions.
Women in the Armed forces number about 205,000. By percentage, more women are serving than ever before: 15.5 percent, the story says.
But we must remember, just because the jobs weren’t open to them, doesn’t mean women haven’t fought for their country.
The story says that in the Civil War, more than 400 women fought on both sides by disguising themselves as men.
Though women were limited to non-combat roles, many served as field nurses and in other combat support capacities. In 1976, U.S. military academies began admitting female students. As of 1983, women were allowed to pilot helicopters in armed conflict. In 1989, a woman commanded U.S. combat troops for the first time. In 1993, Jeannie Leavitt became the first female Air Force fighter pilot.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, women have served in military patrol units or as communications specialists directly engaged with civilians. Female military casualties during the “global war on terror” as of October 2015 include more than 1,000 wounded and at least 161 killed in action.
Currently there are no women in the pipeline for the Navy’s Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training undergone by Navy SEALs—which is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s toughest training programs with an average of 75 percent of trainees failing to complete. But the story says experts claim it’s only a matter of time until a woman is accepted to BUD/S.
“It would be hard to be the first one,” says Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester in the story. Hester was part of a military police patrol that defended a convoy from an attack by more than 50 insurgents in 2005. For her actions she became the first woman to receive the Silver Star for direct combat actions.
“I think once one or two volunteers can go after it, then more will follow,” Hester continued, pointing out that there are plenty of male soldiers who wouldn’t be fit for infantry or special operations. “For women that are cut out for it, more power to them. If they’re able to do it, they should be able to (enter training).”