Murrells Inlet, S.C. — The war may be just beginning over women in combat. While some women have greeted a decision by the Pentagon to lift the official ban on women serving in combat, back home, some women and many men oppose the move.
“The brutality of war is no place for a woman,” said Evans Kayser, a Vietnam combat veteran. “Their emotional mindset is not the same, no matter how well trained they are. And if she hesitates to shoot a child, it could cost her comrades.”
Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has told the military – primarily the Army, although some Marine units are in Afghanistan – to come up with implementation plans to integrate women into combat roles by May 15.
All branches of the military have until January 2016 to identify areas, primarily in special forces, where the exclusion should remain and to show why those units should stay male-only.
The reality is that women serving in Afghanistan have routinely found themselves in combat roles, but have been denied combat pay and the opportunity for advancement that leads through infantry divisions.
The lifting of the prohibition is a “political decision, not a military decision,” Kayser said.
“Women are already serving in combat,” said Stephen Stevens, who runs the Student Veterans Organization at Horry Georgetown Technical College. “They are coming back with injuries, with PTSD and with a need for services.”
“I was brought up to treat a woman with respect, and I don’t think you can change that just because you’re in a combat situation,” said Dan, a Vietnam veteran who would not give his last name while having a drink at the VFW post in Murrells Inlet.
“I think that upbringing would be a problem. I’d want to protect the woman, no matter how well trained she was.”
“If they are willing to go and they can do the job, then I don’t have a problem with it, said Karen Watson of Murrells Inlet.
“But I don’t think you should lower your standards. She should be able to meet those standards first.”
Already the military has different physical fitness and pt standards for women and for service members by age. The initial decision did not indicate whether standards would be altered, although top officials did indicate that the combat roles require more upper body strength than many women have.
Ruth Higson, whose twin daughters served in Iraq, said she was torn about the recent move.
“There’s no reason why women can’t pilot drones or things like that,” she said from her Conway home.
“But men in the military are trained to be courteous to women. That training might make it difficult in combat. They’d be wanting to protect women. On the other hand, women need the chance to do what they think they can do. If they can do the job without lessening standards, then I’m all for it.”
By Anita Crone
For the Times
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