Military now gives women chance to enter front lines

Carlye Thornton | Lariat Photographer
Carlye Thornton | Lariat Photographer

By Rebecca Fiedler
Staff Writer

Baylor women who have had involvement in the military have expressed differing opinions following the opening of more jobs for women in the U.S. Army.

On Jan. 24 the Army News Service announced the Army will open 33,000 positions to women that were previously exclusive to men.

Women may now hold positions in direct ground combat units not under Army Special Operations. Col. Linda Sheimo, chief of the command programs and policy division at the Directorate of Military Personnel Management, said she expects the change to take place in April, according to the Army’s website.

The Army still has 100,000 jobs closed to women in 14 of 400 occupational specialties.

“‘The Army has a plan to determine whether these Military Occupational Specialties should open to women,’ said Sheimo,” the Army’s website states. “Women soldiers may have the opportunity to serve in every position, unit, and MOS’s where a male soldier can currently serve.”

Waco graduate student Sgt. Dana Leeper serves with the Texas Army National Guard, and was deployed to Iraq as a specialist from 2009 to 2010. Leeper said she feels that women have been kept from certain positions in the Army because of tradition.

“Traditionally the Army has been made up of men,” she said. “And in society we look at men as breadwinners and providers of the family, and I think the same is thought of in the military. Men go out on the front lines.”

Leeper said she is happy the Army is opening up more positions for women but said she understands why women are withheld from some positions in the Army. She said she believes men are naturally stronger than women and feels there are physical issues that can arise with women in combat, including feminine health and reproductive hygeine issues.

“There are just aspects about a woman that just cannot be accommodated in all-male units,” she said.

Burleson senior Samantha Simpson is a former Baylor Army ROTC cadet and current member of the Baylor Feminists group. She said she likes the transition the Army is making.

“I think it’s a fantastic move,” Simpson said. “It opens a lot more room for advancement. Not only that, but it tells people that women are capable of doing these things and should not be excluded from these activities just because of their gender.”

Simpson said she feels women are kept from some combat positions because of the belief that women are weaker than men physically, as well as the fear that male soldiers would ignore their duties during an attack in order to instinctively protect a female soldier.

“I guess as a whole, in general, women are of smaller build than men,” she said. “But that’s not always the case. And when I was in ROTC, I was more than able to keep up with the guys physically. I was faster and could do more push-ups and carry the same 40 pound or 50 pound packs that the guys could. And I have a very small build.”

Leeper said she thinks opening up 33,000 positions at one time may be something the Army regrets.

She said she would prefer a few positions to be opened at a time so that the Army can observe the results of putting women in new positions. Leeper said, however, she approves of the overall statement the decision makes.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for women,” she said. “I think as a whole, women are still very left out of politics and corporate industry, and I think by the military stepping up and saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to give women this opportunity that we’ve taken from them,’ it will open up doors in other parts of society.”