Over the last 38 years I have had the opportunity to witness women Soldiers jump out of airplanes, hike 10 miles, lead men and women, even under the toughest circumstances, and over the last 11 years I’ve had the honor to serve with many of the 250,000 women who have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan on battlefields where there are no clear lines, battlefields where every man and woman had to be a rifleman first. And today, women are in combat, that is just a reality. Thousands of women have been decorated for valor and 146 have given their lives. Today, what was once a band of brothers has truly become a band of brothers and sisters. – General Ann Dunwoody
The remaining laws prohibiting women from serving in air and naval combat units were repealed in the early 1990s. However, until recently, it has been Department of Defense (DOD) policy to restrict women from certain combat-related units and military occupations, especially ground combat units. Despite the official policies barring women from ground combat positions, many female servicemembers have served in combat environments for much of the recent history of the U.S. military.
As of October 2015, 161 women have lost their lives and 1,016 had been wounded in action as part of Global War on Terror (GWOT) operations. In addition, in modern combat operations, over 9,000 women have received Army Combat Action Badges for “actively engaging or being engaged by the enemy,” and two have received Silver Stars for “gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.”
A 1994 Department of Defense (DOD) policy prevented women from being assigned to units below brigade level where the unit’s primary mission was to engage directly in ground combat. This policy barred women from serving in infantry, artillery, armor, combat engineers, and special operations units of battalion size or smaller. However as mentioned in The Rules of Game post from two weeks ago, current Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, ordered the military to open all combat jobs to women with no exceptions.
In the summer of 2015, two women made history when they were the first females to graduate from Ranger School. Captain Kristen M. Griest and 1st Lieutenant Shaye Haver, an Apache helicopter pilot, made news everywhere when they successfully completed the grueling training, however unlike their male counterparts they were unable to apply to the 75th Ranger Regiment as that is a combat position and was closed to women, at the time of their graduation.
After the opening of all combat jobs to women, Captain Griest once again made history by becoming the first female infantry officer in the spring of 2016. She transferred from military police to infantry. In April of 2016, the Army announced that it approved requests from nine female cadets to join the infantry and 13 to join the armor branch, which was also opened to women for the first time this year. Thirteen female officers are among the 65 lieutenants who graduated from the Army’s first integrated Armor Basic Officer Leader Course this year in 2016.
Currently, no female has been able to complete the Marine Infantry Officer Course and there are currently no females enrolled in the course. Some male Marines have expressed reservations about the physical capabilities of female Marines, but Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has stressed that he will never lower the demanding physical standards that Marines have to pass in order to serve in combat jobs.
After much push back and debate all combat roles are officially open to women and the ball is in our court. It is up to us to meet the physical standards, complete the training, and serve to the best of our abilities in order to show those that doubt whether or not women should be in combat that we are just as capable and qualified.