The U.S. Military made waves last week by announcing that women will be eligible to serve in combat positions throughout all branches of the armed forces starting in 2016. This news comes as a game-changer for an institution that started out only letting women serve as nurses. Now, if women can meet the same standards as men, they will be able to work on the front lines as well.
The latest opening of military positions to women is one in a line of changes along the same trajectory that has happened over the past few years. Recently, three women graduated from the grueling U.S. Army Ranger School, which some believe to have been the impetus for this announcement of broader inclusion.
There have been skeptics along the way who question whether allowing women into combat positions might be weakening the strength of the military. The Marine branch in particular has spoken out against including women in front-line ranks, citing concerns related to strength capabilities and the smooth functioning of their units. At least one former Marine has mentioned concerns over sexual tension. But given that openly LGBT members have already been integrated into the armed forces, the argument to ban gender-integrated troops based on raging hormones seems simplistic.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made it clear that he sees the move as a step in the right direction: “We cannot afford to cut ourselves off from half the country's talent and skills.” If women meet the same qualifications as men, why shouldn’t they be allowed to serve in the same military capacities?
It’s unclear how the changes will affect any future draft or the requirements that men face to register for the selective service. There is already a court case working its way through the system with that very same question. Likely, the 2016 implementation will usher in some intriguing questions and challenges in integrating troops, but as with most things in life, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Stefani is a writer and urban planner based in Oakland, CA. She holds a master’s in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley and a bachelor’s in Human Biology from Stanford University. In her free time she is often found reading diverse literature, writing stories, or enjoying the outdoors. Follow her on Twitter: @stefanicox