Talk about a culture shift! For an institution long considered locked in a ‘good old boy’ mentality and resistant to any type of change, look what’s happened to our military lately. First came the repeal of DADT and now, women in combat. Breathe a sigh of relief Fort Bragg Officers’ Spouse Club, there’s a new topic making headlines.
As the spouse of an Infantryman, and the mother of an Infantryman and a daughter at West Point, I find myself very conflicted. Though I want her to have every opportunity to excel in her chosen profession of arms, I have to admit that this was a glass ceiling I didn’t want to see break. But my hesitancy as a mother is a little different than the responses this new policy shift is getting in the media. You can read a few here: http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/23/us/women-combat-readers-reaction/inde...
It is not that I have a naïve view of what my spouse and son (had) have to do in the Infantry. I know both are ready to head to the front line to serve, protect and defend. I realize that many women have already been serving in combat admirably and successfully these past 12 years of war, and many have lost their lives or returned as Wounded Warriors. Rep. Tammy Duckworth is a shining example of the strength, courage and resilience of our female fighters. It’s just hard for me, as it might be for many parents, to wrap my arms around the thought of my little girl as an Airborne Ranger. But I am proud because I know she’d be one of the first to try. We have tried to raise our girls to understand that there are no limits to their potential and what they can achieve.
Comments by non-military talking heads – women and men – calling for a gender-neutral military raise other concerns. Lowering standards and expectations to make room for people is not the way to successfully integrate. The movie ‘GI Jane’ is a far cry from the reality of the battlefield. Do women have the physical and mental stamina to be frontline Infantrymen?
The armies of New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Norway, Israel, Serbia, Sweden and Switzerland allow women to serve in active combat roles. I was surprised to learn that until 2001, women could only serve in medical units or bands in the German Bundeswehr.
“…After winning the right to serve in fighting units alongside men, 244 women joined the Bundeswehr in January 2001 -- on a voluntary basis. Compulsory military service for women is still prohibited by law…Today, women make up 6 percent of Bundeswehr soldiers. It will probably take another five years before a woman can become a company commander, and another 15 years before an entire battalion will be commanded by a woman. German army officials recognize that they've not yet exhausted the kind of contributions women can make to the Bundeswehr. Serving as an example of that are the 300 women currently taking part in foreign missions -- something that was considered unthinkable only a few short years ago.” http://www.dw.de/germany-marks-five-years-of-women-in-armed-forces/...
Maybe this change can work. As I have learned from my son and cadet daughter, this already is not the Army – military – my spouse and I were a part of for 32 years. Old beliefs, roles and expectations are shifting and evolving. They are ready for the changes, and that is the most important thing that matters.
It is interesting that this policy change has been announced just as new Army recruiting ads are once again appearing on TV. Haven’t seen any for awhile, right? The new ad shows parents of a young woman talking about her decision to sign up. Wonder what those kitchen table discussions will be now?