The Right To Fight

Dec 4 2012 @ 7:22pm

Major Mary Jennings Hegar, a decorated Air Force veteran, explains why she is suing the government for excluding women from combat units:

If there is one thing I’ve learned about the differences between us all throughout my years of service, it’s this: putting the right person in the right job has very little to do with one’s gender, race, religion, or other demographic descriptor. It has everything to do with one’s heart, character, ability, determination and dedication.

That’s the problem with the military’s combat exclusion policy. It makes it that much harder for people to see someone’s abilities, and instead reinforces stereotypes about gender. The policy creates the pervasive way of thinking in military and civilian populations that women can’t serve in combat roles, even in the face of the reality that servicewomen in all branches of the military are already fighting for their country alongside their male counterparts. They shoot, they return fire, they drag wounded comrades to safety, they engage the enemy, and they have been doing these heroic deeds since the Revolutionary War. They risk their lives for their country, and the combat exclusion policy does them a great disservice.

Adam Cohen presents Hegar's case:

Many military women — who are 14% of the 1.4 million active military — object to the policy because it blocks them from applying for some 238,000 jobs and excludes them from certain promotions. This is particularly unfair because the ban doesn’t actually protect women in service.

Fully 85% of women who have served since Sept. 11, 2001 report having served in a combat zone or an area where they received combat or imminent danger pay, according to the lawsuit, and half reported being involved in combat operations. At least 860 female troops have been wounded and 144 killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In fact, as Major Mary Jennings Hagar’s suit argues, the ban on putting women in official ground combat positions actually puts them in greater danger. In many cases, women fight alongside men in "female engagement teams" that endure the same conditions — but, because they are deemed not to be combat-eligible, they may not have received proper training.