Women in Combat

As an honorably-discharged US Navy veteran (6 years, active duty) and an avowed feminist, I find myself reacting to the announcement about women in combat with mixed emotions, and conflicting opinions.

While I am certain that women can serve as bravely, as effectively and as honorably in combat as men have over the centuries, I do wonder about a couple things.

I married and gave birth to my 2 children while on active duty, and was grateful at that time to not have to worry about combat duty when I returned from my maternity leave of 30 days.

I wonder how this new rule will apply to women with babies, or small children. I think back to the many women I knew (and know) who were wonderful, dedicated mothers who just happened to have procreated with someone wholly unfit to take care of himself, never mind a child. What happens to the children when this active duty (or reservist in today’s reality) woman gets activated for combat?

Yes, I realize that the answer to that question is “the same thing that happens to the kids today when Mom is activated to go to Afghanistan in a non-combatant billet”, but it seems different, somehow.

Yes, I know that the Israeli Army has utilized men and women equally since its independence, but the same people who would hold this up as an example would not be so quick to adopt the other Israeli requirements, so before you comment – make sure you know the whole story.

The other, perhaps more frightening reality about this is the potential I see for an increase in sexual violence against women, especially when small combatant outfits are deployed in remote areas for extended periods of time.

History tells us a few things: that sexual violence against women is (unfortunately) a reality and that the military is especially poor at recognizing it, preventing it and dealing with it.

I’m pleased that women’s capability as warriors and full participants in the military is being recognized and addressed; now, let’s make sure that the commitment to women (and their children) is given as much time, attention, consideration and news coverage. Otherwise, this will mark not the history of progress, but a turning point that we will look back on with regret.

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