On July 8, 2016 the United Kingdom lifted restrictions on women in combat roles. In a press release last Friday David Cameron declared it a “major step” that make armed forces “reflect the society we live in”. The head of British armed services Sir Nick Carter advised the prime minister about the physical and mental standards that are to be met by prospective combatants and the health risks that women face when choosing to serve in this particular role. The concerns for women include “three keys areas of potential risk to women on the front line: musculoskeletal injury, psychological issues and impaired reproductive health.” When this directive is implemented, prepared women will slowly enter into these positons and have the opportunity stand next to their male counterparts in the face of war.
Should women be allowed to proceed into these high-intensity roles, and if so, why? A clear and compelling answer does not simply respond: why not? Research is continuously being conducted on this topic and while a handful of world militaries permit women to be in combat, there are many that still do not.
Men and women are fundamentally, biologically different and are by their existence in nature designed to be complimentary. Both men and women have characteristics that the other does not. Men have more muscle mass than women and tend to have less fat in their bodies than women. Generally speaking, men and women have personality traits that differ from one another and this is especially true in emergency situations. Women tend to be more rational and seek to analyze a situation and only then aim for a solution while men tend to experience a burst of adrenaline and react however their nature allows them to. While the general statements apply to the majority of the population, certainly it is not the case for every woman or every man.
However, not all men enter the military at equal levels of strength and capability. It is only after intensive training and discipline that they are permitted to serve in combat roles. Acknowledging this is key and it allows the military to attempt to put both genders on the same playing field by asking the question: Will women pass the mental, physical, and emotional exams and testing required for service?
How well do men and women work together when placed in combat situations? The United States Marine Corps conducted a study where they placed two different squads into combat positions and tested their efficiency. One squad was only males while the other was made up of males and females. The results were that the squad only men completed their tasks better and faster than the squad with males and females. It is possible that men are simply not used to operating on a team with women and it is also very possible that once women have been serving in the armed forces for a period of normalization to occur that this gap between all male and inclusive squads will decrease and become insignificant.
On August 2015 in the United Sates, two women successfully completed the Army Ranger School: the toughest training in the U.S. military therefore proving that women who have a deep passion to serve our country’s military will do whatever is necessary to be in these kinds of positions. Military officials in the United States, both men and women, assert that the standards that have been applied to men should also be applied to women that desire to serve in combat roles. Women are evidently advancing in the ranks of the armed forces and as they begin to successfully complete these courses and requirements the next step in their careers as service members should be to combat.
Recognizing that men and women are in their nature different from one another but also complimentary benefits the military and also benefits combat positions. Women have proven that they are capable and those that show a deep, patriotic, self-sacrificing desire to serve their country in combat roles should be permitted to do so.