Reaction ranges from 'overdue' to ill-timed 'social experiment'

By STARS AND STRIPES | | Published: January 24, 2013

The decision to allow women in combat roles in the military has drawn praise — and ire — from all sides. From active-duty soldiers to Congresswoman and combat veteran Tammy Duckworth, one theme is clear: The military will never be quite the same.

Some called the decision historic and said it was long overdue. Petty Officer Third Class Joel Davis, stationed at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, Korea, called the restriction on women in combat “archaic.”

“It’s about time we gave them the right [to fight in combat] if that’s what they want,” Davis said.

Several voiced concern over fitness standards.

“If they can uphold the standard, then why not” allow women into combat arms, said Spc. Jeremy Yavener, a member of 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery at Rhine Ordnance Barracks in Germany.

But according to Sgt. Shawna Phillips, leveling the physical standards could severely limit the number of women capable of meeting the requirements to serve in combat.

“I know out of my 150 soldier company, I would only trust two female soldiers in a combat-arms (job),” said Phillips, a member of Wiesbaden’s 66th Military Intelligence Brigade. “And sadly they are both [physical training] studs. But strength and endurance are a huge part of combat jobs.”

“I’m glad they finally opened it up,” she said, “but I feel very few females will actually be successful in these jobs.”

Arizona Sen. John McCain supports the decision, saying that American women are already serving in harm’s way. However, as this new rule is implemented, “it is critical that we maintain the same high standards that have made the American military the most feared and admired fighting force in the world – particularly the rigorous physical standards for our elite special forces units.”

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, Family Research Council’s executive vice president, voiced a different concern in a written statement, calling the move “a social experiment.”

“This decision to integrate the genders in these units places additional and unnecessary burdens on leaders at all levels. While their focus must remain on winning the battles and protecting their troops, they will now have the distraction of having to provide some separation of the genders during fast moving and deadly situations.”

A stateside female Marine captain, 28, said she was skeptical about how effectively the decision could be implemented.

“While most of the best bosses I’ve had in the Marines were women, and while I know some very capable women in uniform, I think the situations that arise in wartime would be a distraction to mission accomplishment,” she said.

Duckworth, D-Ill., an Army National Guard pilot who lost both her legs in a helicopter attack in Iraq, said the change will improve the military.

“This decision to allow women to serve in combat will allow the best man or woman on the front line to keep America safe,” she said in a written statement.

“As a combat veteran I know the inclusion of women in combat roles will make America safer and provide inspiration to women throughout our country. “

Mark Patton, Ashley Rowland, Matt Millham, Joyce Tsai, Leo Shane and Megan McCloskey contributed to this report.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., an Army National Guard pilot who lost both her legs in a helicopter attack in Iraq, said the allowing women in combat roles will improve the military.


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