Women in Combat Debate

What Are the Combat Trades?

The combat trades are the most physically and mentally demanding in the military. Combat soldiers work outdoors, exposed to extreme environmental conditions for extended periods without rest or shelter. The Infantry, Combat Engineers, Armour and Field Artillery contribute to the main objective of engaging and overcoming the enemy in combat. They are responsible for ensuring battlefield mobility and denying the same to the enemy. These jobs are stressful and the risk of physical injury or death is always present.

Debate Overview

Source: PBS

Common arguments made about allowing women into combat are whether or not women can perform as well as men and if integration of both sexes will have a negative effect.

An increasing number of reports support the integration of women into the combat arms.  The U.S. Army Institute of Environmental Medicine at Natick, MA, concluded that “when a woman is correctly trained, she can be as tough as any man.” And furthermore,  ” You don’t need testosterone to get strong.”

Still, there are those who are in opposition to women fighting in wars. The Virginia-based Independent Women’s Forum has denounced initiatives to allow women to serve in combat units. The IWF cited a number of possible reasons why women should not be allowed to serve, ranging from the danger of the mixing both sexes in close quarters to women endangering men’s fighting in combat and morale.

Of the more than twenty nations who have expanded their roles for women to positions where they might see combat, none of them have repealed their orders. Regardless of the issues about whether women are as well-suited to combat as men, they are clearly good enough that many countries rely on their services.

Women are already Fighting in Combat

Source: PBS

While Canada has fully integrated women into the combat arms, the U.S. and Australia recently lifted their bans, but the U.K. and most other nations have not.

Similar to the arguments presented in the 1980s legal challenge against Canadian Military policy, the pros and cons haven’t really changed.

One big difference is the way in which the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are being fought that diminish the debate. Everyone in the military knows that women are already in combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the media and some groups continue to insist that women are somehow marginalized by not being allowed “in combat.”

When the media speaks about “combat” it actually means “combat arms.” The distinction is critical. While there is real discussion about women in combat as support soldiers  attached to an infantry battalion, the real debate is whether or not women should be allowed to join the trades that train to fight in ground combat – the combat arms.

Links to articles on this topic:

GI Jane Breaks the Combat Barrier
Ban on Women in Combat is Discriminatory
Rescind Policy on Women in Combat