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Published:November 5th, 2009 10:39 EST
Modern Women in Modern Combat

Modern Women in Modern Combat

By Kerri Peek

Female Soldiers in Combat Women make up approximately 15% of the United States Armed Forces. It is estimated that over 53% of women have been in combat related situations since 1994. Yet, it wasn`t until PVT Jessica Lynch became a POW did the thought of a female in the war, bring the United States to strict attention.

With the propaganda that followed the dramatic rescue of Lynch, the American public`s outcry over a female in combat was all to keening to the DoD`s ear. Therefore, the non-policy policy of hiding the fact that women are in combat has continued unchallenged. The Army has been co-ed for a long time now. The women have been going head-to-head with the men for at least two decades.

There is some degree of what is called gender norming" in the Physical Training (PT) parts of Basic Training. Women tend to do more sit-ups than push-ups in the PT tests, and have a little over a minute more to run the two-mile, than do their male counterparts. On the other hand, the men are required to do more push-ups, than sit-ups and have less time to run the two-mile. In Basic Training, women do PT alongside the male trainees.

Women do muscle failure and cardiovascular, they are expected to keep up and suck it up alongside the male trainees. For weapons qualifications, there is no gender norming. A woman is expected to shoot 40 out of 40 for expert marksmanship and qualify on the grenade and bayonet courses just like a male trainee.

If a woman qualifies on any of the aforementioned, (which she must to pass Basic Training) then she is a warrior. A female warrior is no less than or greater than a male warrior in the United States Armed Forces. Upon graduation a woman must be able to be qualified on the M16A2 with at least a marksmanship qualification, which is 24 out of 40 on a range. A female soldier must also qualify on bayonets and grenades.

She must be able to set up and fire a claymore mine and have at least fired a SAW and grenade launcher. Women are also tested on the same things as males, from NBC training to hand-to-hand combat. In fact, most women are paired up with a male on the hand-to-hand combat training and are expected to win, just like the male trainees. There is no order to take it easy in training on females, the training is equal as are the real combat situations. In the Iraq war and Post-War Iraq, there is no front line.

There are presumably red, yellow and green zones. There are no immediately identifiable enemies, so delineation of the zones are in a near constant state of flux. While women cannot train to be infantry, they are in support of the war, such as driving in the mechanized infantry.

A decided lack of human resources in the war, has also led females to be cross-assigned and/or detached to infantry units to fill the void with much needed manpower. One has only to read the casualty list, to see that women are seeing combat. For the battle that women fight in the war, the battle has just begun at home.

For one, the American public has adopted a paradigm of ignorance to the very idea that women could be in combat in the Middle East. Therefore, women have not received the public recognition they deserve for their courage and sacrifice in the face of the battle.

Instead their wounds, mentally and/or physically have been negated by the idea that women in the Armed Forces are secretaries or nurses. Not that the brave women who do have nursing or administrative experience in the Middle East are lesser than the other female soldiers. But to suggest that women are limited to only being a secretary or nurse is sexism at its wretched worst.

Women have proven that they are capable of doing anything in any field, but an American public who only regards women in what has been traditionally female occupations, is an outdated worldview. The ancient patriarchal paradigm has a negative affect on the brave women in uniform.

The other battle is that the Department of Veterans Affairs is ill equipped to handle the needs of female veterans. Women are biologically different than men, and therefore their needs as veterans are not going to fit into the 1940s model for male soldiers. On the home front women are not only fighting for recognition of being combat soldiers and having combat connected injuries, but also to receive proper medical care.

In some cases ignorance is bliss and perhaps the American public is not ready to accept the fact that women are in combat. However, the public-at-large in keeping with patriarchal values, has placed brave women in a nearly untenable situation. It`s time to open our eyes America: women are in combat. Women are facing not only the same hell that their male counterpart`s battle, but also the ugly battle of sexism and ignorance back at home.

Women who have served with honor and bravery deserve to be treated as the heroes they are: draped in the red, white and blue and not hidden behind the pink curtain of sexism.