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Friday, September 25, 2009

Women in Combat

Growing up in a society that told little girls we could be "anything" when we grew up, such inspiration was often diminished by the reality that there were significant limits to what we could actually be. One of the big limits has always been not allowing women in combat. It's only a recent development that women were allowed to attend West Point and other all-male military schools, but still the policy stands. However, the policy is undermined by the realities of the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Particularly in Afghanistan, where the whole country is a combat zone, keeping women from combat is logistically impossible. Also, the reality of a military stretched to its limits is using the resources it has, namely women soldiers. It's amazing that a country that loves to beat the freedom drum, has remained so backwards in integrating women into many facets of the military, but we're finally making progress.

Adm. Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to our graduate program back in 2008. At the time, another woman had just been awarded a combat medal for valor. (Back in 2005, two women from our state won the Silver Star and Bronze Star, respectively.) Although Adm. Mullen did not at the time enthusiastically speak in support of integrating women into traditional combat roles, he did acknowledge that it was becoming increasingly impossible to keep women from combat situations (although they apparently try to remove women from those areas when it becomes evident that the situation is one of "combat.") So, I was pleased to read about Adm. Mullen's statements to the Senate Armed Services Committee in support of women serving on submarines. When the highest ranking member of the military, a Navy guy, is advocating for women to serve on nuclear subs, I think that's a big push in the right direction.

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