Thursday, August 20, 2009

Women in Combat

Far outside the view of the American public, women in uniform are now breaking the "combat barrier" and fighting side by side with male soldiers. As The New York Times reports, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have changed the way American troops go into combat. Before 2001, very few American women ever saw action in battle, except when taken by surprise. Now, women are now routinely deployed in combat situations in both Iraq and Afghanistan -- and all this in defiance of established policy.

As reporter Lizette Alvarez explains, "Women are barred from joining combat branches like the infantry, armor, Special Forces and most field artillery units and from doing support jobs while living with those smaller units. Women can lead some male troops into combat as officers, but they cannot serve with them in battle."

At least, that is the established policy. Nevertheless, "Army commanders have resorted to bureaucratic trickery when they needed more soldiers for crucial jobs, like bomb disposal and intelligence." In order to circumvent the policy, women are said to be "attached" to combat units rather than "assigned."

There is more. Alvarez explains that "as soldiers in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, women have done nearly as much in battle as their male counterparts: patrolled streets with machine guns, served as gunners on vehicles, disposed of explosives, and driven trucks down bomb-ridden roads." Women have even been involved in combat raids, she explains, "engaging the enemy directly in total disregard of existing policies." The policies themselves are often confusing, and appear "contradictory or muddled." Nevertheless, there is now an open acknowledgment that the policy is routinely circumvented.

Read it all here.

No comments: