06 December 2012
Whether it is as enlisted personnel or as a commissioned officer, everyday more women are signing up for the military. Women want to serve their country as much as men do, despite all of the hardships and roadblocks they will face on their chosen career paths. Women in any job face harassment and denials for certain job positions but especially in the military. Women in the military get denied for combat positions and because they can’t get these types of jobs, they sometimes can’t be promoted past certain ranks. Women in the military also have to face the risk of rape and other sexual harassments, not just from their male counterparts but from the enemy as well. In one case study conducted on West Point cadets and non-military students, attitudes of women in combat positions were studied to determine where their views lay on whether women can handle the physical and physiological stresses of combat.
It has been over thirty years since the first class of women cadets entered the United States service academies (Matthews 242). A lot of changes have occurred since then. The U.S. military has eased some of the restrictions that have kept women from the more dangerous operations and now allow them to be in the more perilous support roles (Ablow 1). At the end of 2005, only 15% of active duty military members were women (Matthews 241-242). Currently, women can be pilots, military police, and maintenance crews, and although women are no longer restricted to nursing or administrative positions, members are still not allowed in combat. Military students more than the non-military students from the study seemed more likely to agree that the presence of women in combat would be detrimental to combat effectiveness (Matthews 243). Of course, not everyone will agree with this view and many have lobbied congress for a change to the current policy.
The history of women in the U.S. armed forces goes back as far as the Revolutionary war where they were nurses, cooks, and laundresses (Vaught 1). If women wanted to have a more active role in the wars of the past, they had to dress-up as men to do so or stand beside their husbands (“Early” 1). Women bound their breasts, padded their trousers, and cropped their hair to pass the inspection at the recruiting stations during the Civil War (“Early” 2). To this day, only one woman has ever been awarded the Medal of Honor (“Early” 2). President Andrew Johnson awarded Dr. Mary E. Walker, the Medal of Honor, for the work she did during the Civil War as a doctor (“Early” 2). After the Civil War, women gained a contract from the Army Surgeon General to be paid nurses in battle. The first of these all came from the Daughters of the American Revolution (Vaught 1). During WWI more than 35,000 women served in a variety of noncombat position such as radio electricians and draftsmen to free up more combat ready men (“Early” 3). The end of World War 1 granted women officer status, but not full rights and privileges, with the Army Reorganization Act of 1920 (Vaught 2). During WWII, women were still serving as nurses but were deploying with units to make field hospitals (Vaught 2). It was during WWII that our first military female was captured as a POW (Vaught 2). By the end of WWII, over 80 women were held as POWs and some were held as long as two and a half years (Vaught 2). It wasn’t until 1969 that women were granted the right to join U.S. military academies but it wasn’t until 1972 that they were allowed into positions other than nursing and administration (Vaught 4). In 1983, women were finally deployed with men to Grenada on Operation Urgent Fury, yet they were still confined to MOS’s as military police, transportation specialist, and on few aircrews (Vaught 6). As time has gone on women have gained little ground for combat positions because of the Direct Ground Combat Rule made by congress in 1994 which...