Overdue: Why It’s Time to End the U.S. Military’s Female Combat Ban
The military was the first major American institution to integrate African Americans. It’s now open to gay and lesbian soldiers. It’s time to let women serve in combat, writes Megan H. MacKenzie.
Today, 214,098 women serve in the U.S. military, representing 14.6 percent of total service members. Hundreds of female soldiers have received a Combat Action Badge, awarded for actively engaging with a hostile enemy. Two women, Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester and Specialist Monica Lin Brown, have been awarded Silver Stars—one of the highest military decorations awarded for valor in combat—for their service in Afghanistan and Iraq.
|U.S. Marine Sgt. Michelle Hill from the first battalion 7th Marines Regiment takes part in a patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan, Helmand province on June 6, 2012. (Adek Berry, AFP / Getty Images)|
Yet the U.S. military, at least officially, still bans women from serving in direct combat positions. As irregular warfare has become increasingly common in the last few decades, the difference on the ground between front line and support roles is no longer clear. Numerous policy changes have also eroded the division between combat and noncombat positions. More and more military officials recognize the contributions made by female soldiers. Politicians, veterans, and military experts have begun actively lobbying Washington to drop the ban. And a 2011 survey conducted by ABC News and The Washington Post found that 73 percent of Americans support allowing women in combat. But Congress has not budged.