Front Line Ladies

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger

It was just a small news item on the blog site, but it had a big impact on me.  It was reported that two female soldiers have filed suit against the Defense Department in an attempt to force the military to allow women soldiers to fight on the front lines along with men.   They are alleging that women soldiers are being denied their Equal Protection rights under the Fifth Amendment by the military holding them back from fighting on the front lines in all military jobs.

“Two female soldiers filed a lawsuit yesterday charging that the military’s ban on women in combat is unconstitutional and violates their equal protection rights under the Fifth Amendment. Command Sergeant Major Jane Baldwin and Colonel Ellen Haring filed the suit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, naming Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Secretary John McHugh among the defendants. ” MS. Magazine  This news item really made me think.  Are women really equal if the military shields them from some of the hazardous duties that men are required to complete?  Are women able to fight in combat on an equal basis with their male counterparts?

The military brass in the Pentagon has recently allowed women into some of the previous male only job descriptions, but women are barred from over 200,000 positions in the military.  “According to the Pentagon, women comprise 14.5 percent of active-duty military personnel. There are 238,000 positions in the military that bar women, according to Vee Penrod, the deputy undersecretary of Defense for military personnel” MS. Magazine  It is hard to imagine that women are truly equal when that many jobs still ban women.

While the military has opened up thousands of positions to women, they are still far behind the men as suggested above.  I understand the old argument that women are not as physically strong as men, but in this modern military, many jobs require more skill than brute strength.  The type of jobs that these two reservists are trying to open up to women will also positively impact on their career advancement and future pensions.

‘ “The linear battlefield no longer exists,” the women said in the complaint, describing as “arbitrary and irrational” the combat restrictions for women.  “Woman are currently engaged in direct combat, even when it is not part of their formally assigned role,” the reservists said. Furthermore, the Army has “deliberately circumvented”its own policies by “attaching” women to ground combat units. “There is no practical difference, in terms of the work that servicewomen do, between ‘assigning’ women to a ground combat unit and ‘attaching’ women to a ground combat unit,” the women said in the complaint.  More than 200 women reported to brigade combat teams as of last week as the Army begins opening more than 13,000 positions to women that previously were restricted to men, General Raymond Odierno, the Army chief of staff, said at a May 16 Pentagon news conference.  The case is Baldwin v. Panetta, 12-00832, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia.”  Bloomberg

On this Memorial Day, it is refreshing to see women soldiers attempting to bring equality into the military when it comes to female personnel.  We tend to forget that women have been lost on the battlefield, just like their male counterparts. “At least 144 female troops have been killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and more than 860 have been wounded, according to the Pentagon. About 280,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since the wars began.” Bloomberg

Isn’t it time for the military to utilize the many strengths and talents that female military members can bring to the front lines?  Do you think the Pentagon should allow women on all the front line positions?  If not, how are their rights not being violated?  Is it a legal question or is it just something that “society” doesn’t want women to get involved in? How can society prevent women military personnel from being truly equal?  What do you think?

On this Memorial Day, I want to honor all members of our military, past and present, male or female.  Your sacrifices are truly appreciated!

Additional Sources:  Huffington Post

59 thoughts on “Front Line Ladies”

  1. When I was a Coast Guard Recruit, our Base Chaplain was a Navy Lieutenant Commander. Unfamiliar with unique Coast Guard jargon, he was baffled to hear his congregants burst into laughter after we understood him to say, “When the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked, he spent the night clinging to a SPAR.”

  2. Noah1, May 28, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    “Does this suit include a petition for the right to register for the draft?”

    rafflaw1, May 28, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    “Noah, these ladies are already reservists.”


    Rafflaw, the point of my question was: once women are cleared for combat positions, should 18-year-old women join the draft line with 18-year-old men at the Post Office? In not, why not?

  3. Malisha,

    Number 1 and number 2 don’t really go together, do they?

    Jokingly I could say that sexual abuse leads to one big happy “family” cohesive unit which is battle-ready above the norm. In other words if you are a woman that digs abusive fucking then this is the work and life for you.

    Just for the record, I did a WAC in my car. She needed it more than I did, but it was a lark for me. Stupid huh. Could have gotten courtmartialed for fraternizing below my rank, ie using power to get laid.

  4. Bob,
    The military personnel(soldiers) are employees of their respective military department. This suit is not an attempt to tell the Pentagon how to run their wars. It is merely suggesting that women are legal equals to men in the workplace. Or at least they are supposed to be equal.

  5. Bob

    last i heard the u.s. has civilian control of the military. at least in theory.

  6. I have met and spoken with American women soldiers and several Israeli women soldiers. One of the Americans, although not in a front-line combat position, did end up in a typical “front-line combat position” type situation. She responded to it pretty much the way I thought most of the men I had known who were in those kinds of situations also had responded. But did I know how well she performed at that time in that place? No. The Israeli women soldiers I have spoken with have all been pretty much like the men Israeli soldiers I have spoken with, except that some of them object less to the orders they are given.

    One man Israeli soldier who is now a well known author gave a presentation in Portland, Oregon about some of his short stories. He commented that his relationships with women were changed after he did his military service. He said, “You’re in the Army; you have a girlfriend; your girlfriend decides not to see you that night; OK. You learn all sorts of things in the Army. You learn how to break down a door if you have to search a house, and you learn how to subdue the enemy quickly. Then you get out of the Army. You have a girlfriend. She decides not to see you that night. OK, but you STILL KNOW HOW TO BREAK A DOOR DOWN and how to subdue someone quickly. It’s a problem!”

    My question was always to the gay men in the US who were fighting for the right to serve (back in the day), “It’s one of the worst things you can possibly ever do in your life; but here you are fighting for it. Wouldn’t it be better, as a practical matter, to fight for something that isn’t quite as horrible?

    What do I know? I wouldn’t even like to carry a loaded gun when hunting down burglars in a gated community.

    But I believe that the Division of Army Psychiatry has learned, in some of its research, that:

    1. Combat units that have women in them are more cohesive and battle-ready than those without;

    2. The prevalence of sexual abuse of women in the military is insanely high, much higher than in civilian workplaces; and

    3. Domestic abuse in the families of soldiers is higher than it is in the civilian world, too. In fact, considering both the “more extreme levels” of domestic abuse and the “less extreme levels,” it turns out that among the enlisted soldiers, domestic abuse is present in a MAJORITY of military families!

    Back in the late 1980s I remember hearing Gloria Steinem speak at a NOW conference in New York. She was actually speaking about this subject, front-line combat for women. She said fewer men would try to abuse women if they thought the women were combat-trained. She said it in a humorous way and everyone laughed, but I felt uncomfortable. I felt like it really meant, “The way to deal with violence is to be capable of equal or greater violence,” and whereas you can’t argue with that, it still felt very uncomfortable.

    I don’t know what all this says about the issue and I don’t know how to take a position on the issue, just kicking in what I have learned.

  7. Rafflaw,

    It’s not a playing field, it’s a battle field and they’re not employees they’re soldiers.

  8. Bob, Esq.,
    This action isn’t trying to run the war. It is merely attempting to even the playing field for its employees. I will make a point of watching how this case ends up.

  9. Rafflaw,

    While your intent may be noble, I simply do not think the federal court has jurisdictional power to tell the military how to run its wars. No, I’m sure of it.

    Furthermore, on a more sophistic note, if ‘war is merely the continuation of politics by other means’ then the issue is twice non-justiciable as a political question and a decision reserved solely for the military charged with the duty of preserving the safety of the country as well as itself.

    N.B. I’m well aware that some of the best marksmen in the Soviet Red Army during WWII were women; but again, the employment of women on the front line is a tactical decision solely reserved for the folks running the war.

  10. Excuse my jackin’ the thread. Felt the issue was, as usual, wider than addressed. How many woman pilots can dance on our nickel? Just jokin’ Rafflaw. Good idea, yours. How big will this war machine grow? We got JROTC. When do the Boy Scouts learn some contra skills?

    Remind me to tell you the story of the Danish woman Pipercubbist, who flew over the stuff into Kabul, to teach a young girl she had read about how to fly. Got that. Amazing.
    She and her plane got freighted back to Europe in one of our monsters, photos to prove it.
    The surprise comes in the next installment.

  11. Oro Lee,
    I defer to better knowledge. I dig the war propaganda as long as no one gets killed.
    As for dust, much better than optics. But sandstorms with large sand corns, maybe not. Sounds like you’ve counted camels.

    I never will forget the TOT and nuclear drop from tactic air using vertical upward release. they sure know how to impress the ones who pay for their shows at Fort Bragg.

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