Combat is all about effectiveness. When bullets start flying, I don’t care if you’re gay, straight, black, white, male, or female. If you have the abilities to engage the enemy, cover my six and I will cover yours, and pick up the slack when the slack needs to be picked up, I want you on my team. Folks, like it or not, a bullet has no prejudice, bias, or sexual flavor.
I know many are outraged over Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s decision to remove a ban on women serving in combat roles. Like it or not, since the start of the war in Afghanistan and even some time prior, many women have served in combat. So let’s get off the soapbox and swallow some reality.
First and foremost, I understand how the US military maintains different standards for physical fitness. I don’t agree having standards differ for anyone. Standards are standards and if the enemy doesn’t differentiate then nor should we.
With that said, I know of many women who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. They fulfilled roles that placed them in incredibly grave situations. They faced the enemy just as gallantly as any man. They were shot at, injured, and some have been killed.
In today’s day and age, there is no true frontline. The enemy we face is like a ghost—one minute they are their right before our eyes and the next minute they disappear. Welcome to counterinsurgency warfare.
We have created all-women units known as Female Engagement Teams (FET). While their successes are subjective, aren’t most unit’s success rates subjective these days? These women warriors stand out among their peers and have earned the respect from many.
The women serving in these FET teams go out and about and engage the local populations placing themselves in extreme danger as fewer and fewer conventional troops actually engage with villagers these days. This brings me to risk aversion within conventional military wisdom.
Not only have we become a risk adverse nation, our military too is becoming more and more risk adverse. Less than 1% of the entire US population ever enters military service. Some estimates claim less than 40% of our entire military force ever deploy to combat zones. Conflicting reports demonstrate, on average, less than 10% of all deployed service members ever see combat.
Many wonder why we rely so heavily on a civilian contractual force assisting in the fight against our enemies. If you still wonder, revisit those numbers provided one more time. Simply put, our nation does not have the bodies to fulfill all the mission essential tasks needed to defeat the enemy. If bringing women into the fight will mitigate some of that need, then by all means, let’s do it so long as those women meet identical standards men serving in combat must maintain.
The more I am home living in the states, the more disgruntled I become. I thought the days of equal rights movements were long ago tucked away in our past. I was wrong. More and more Americans are complaining about wanting more and getting more. Well, allow our military to lead by example.
If you want more in this world and wish to be treated as an equal, be careful what you wish for. Women serving our nation have requested for a long period they wanted a chance to serve on the front lines. Well, their wish seems like it’s going to happen. And personally, I am happy for them.
I am happy because now, the military can show the rest of America a bit of reality when it comes to equality. You want respect, prestige, and honor? Work for it! Our girls serving in uniform have a desire to work and gain some respect proving they are not only capable but will equally contribute to mission effectiveness.
God bless you, ladies. It’s not easy so be prepared for some changes you may not have realized or wished for. But at least you’re getting what you wanted for a very long time. Prove the rest of America who oppose such actions wrong.
Kerry Patton, a combat disabled veteran, is author of Contracted: America’s Secret Warriors.