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Women at arms

Photo by: Henoc Kivuye


On Jan. 24, United States military leaders lifted the 1994 ban that prohibited women in the military from being in combat units.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey signed the document that will allow active-duty females in the military to fight on the front lines of battle. In an article on the subject by Fox News, Panetta said this ban has been lifted because women are now an integral part of the armed forces. He also said that women are entitled to the opportunity of serving the military in every way that men are.

Fox News’ article stated that removal of the ban would potentially offer 14,500 new positions to women in combat, primarily in the Army. Lifting the ban could create more than 230,000 jobs in various branches of the military for women.

Some positions will be open to women on the front lines within the next year. Other special forces will undergo assessments before making changes and could take longer to see new positions made available. Panetta has given military branches two years to make any requests or exceptions pertaining to the issue if they think women should be excluded from any positions.

Thessali Teague, 2012 Oklahoma Christian University alumna said she has been anticipating a similar move from the armed forces since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Teague is the daughter of an Army colonel and is familiar with Army policies.

“Whether or not I think it’s wise to consider women the same as men in a combat setting, I think that women deserve the chance to prove themselves,” Teague said. “The way I see it, if you’re willing to put yourself on the front lines out of your love for your country, I see no logical reason to bar you from that right.”

Panetta said in the Fox News article that only those who meet the qualifications of a combat soldier will be accepted, but the opportunity should be made available to everyone.

Teague said the reason for the change might originate from personal desires.

“There is speculation that Panetta and President Barack Obama are lifting the ban under guise of heroism and equality, while in reality they’re doing it for their image,” Teague said. “Personally I don’t care what they’re motives are… To a certain extent, I’m an equal opportunist and so I agree with Panetta’s decision.”

Assistant track and field coach Jeff Bennett, who served in the Army for two years and the National Guard for 32 years, said lifting the ban is a sign of changing times.

“For years it was a ban on women in combat on the front lines simply because of the brutality and some of the things soldiers were subject to on the front lines,” Bennett said. “Women play a more prominent role in society than they did in the past… I would prefer that women not be on the front lines simply because it is brutal, and if we can spare [women] from that, we should, but that’s not the general thought of the younger generation.”

Though women account for nearly fifteen percent of the armed forces, some have argued that women do not have the necessary physical abilities to be assets in combat.

“I have nothing against women being in the infantry or military in general,” senior Leo Flores said. “But [women’s] physical training tests will obviously [be] lower because they are females, which I understand, but in the infantry especially, they should set higher standards. Imagine a small woman trying to carry hundred pound shells or a backpack that would probably be twice the size of her. If [women] are tough enough to join, they are welcome to, but they have to be able to perform well.”

Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., was quoted in the article by Fox News and said he agrees with the decision to lift the ban but “ensure they maintain their rigorous physical standards.”

Panetta will leave his position as Defense Secretary later this year for Charles Hagel to step in under Obama’s second term.

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