Kirsten Gillibrand Might Get Military Ladies The Recognition They Deserve
2:00 pm, May 26th | by Lilly ODonnell
In February, the Department of Defense revised its position on which military jobs women are suited for — updating the 1994 ban on women in combat. But it was mostly a symbolic revision because, while the DoD conceded that women should be allowed nearer the fray, it also recommended they still be kept from directly fighting on the front lines.
“I’ve heard from women all across New York who want nothing more than to take a leadership role on the frontlines defending our country,” said Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Just like it was wrong to discriminate against service members because of who they love, it is also wrong to deny combat roles to qualified women solely because of their gender.”
The proposed change is really more about recognition than about getting women physically closer to combat. Women in the armed forces are already putting their lives on the line, but in addition to fighting the war they signed up for, they’re also fighting for equal recognition of their contributions. At least 144 female soldiers have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, according to Bloomberg. Yet there’s still a misconception that female soldiers aren’t really in danger, so they don’t get as much credit. This misconception is only furthered by the legal restrictions on female soldiers’ duties.
As the law stands now, female soldiers are allowed in units that “co-locate” with ground combat forces, meaning they’re just as close to enemy fire, but not technically directly engaged. It’s a semantic distinction which even the DoD recognizes as meaningless in modern warfare, according to Army Times and Ms. Magazine.
Critics of the 1994 ban note that it was designed for a different era of warfare. “The issue of women in battle is coming to a head now because there’s no demarcation between combat and non-combat in the Middle East today,” former House Armed Services Committee Member Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.) told Ms. this fall. “As it stands, there no longer is an official front line.”
While I’ll never personally understand the desire to be as close to deadly combat as possible, if these women are already in danger of being blown up for what they believe in they definitely deserve recognition and opportunity of promotion equal to their male counterparts. The remnants of the old restrictions are no longer relevant, and wouldn’t be even if it was accepted that women aren’t up to the physical demands of direct combat, so the only purpose they serve now is to deprive female soldiers of the honor they risk their lives for.