In 2013, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made the move to lift the military’s ban on women serving in many combat and front-line positions, leading to hundreds of thousands of new potential positions opening up for women. Currently, the Pentagon has a goal of completing this monumental move, making every job and unit available to women by January 2016.
However, even though this decision was made by the Pentagon some time ago, service branches were given until Thursday to request exemptions for specific combat roles.
While the Army, Navy and Air Force are expected to not ask for exemptions to fully integrate women into the military, the Marines have expressed some hesitation to the new plan.
The Marine Corps released a study in September suggesting that women perform worse than men in combat training and that mixed-gender units are not as successful as all-male units. Recently, this study has become a topic of debate about whether women are capable of being on the front lines of combat.
This study, while it may rile up any feminist, does bring about legitimate concern for women entering the front lines.
Currently women in the military are held to different physical standards than men. Just by looking at a typical physical fitness test alone, there are significant disparities in the requirements men and women have to meet. Based on the minimum requirements for Army Basic Training, men ages 22 to 26 are required to do at minimum 31 push-ups, 43 sit-ups and a two-mile run in just over 17 minutes. Women in the same age group, on the other hand, are only required to do 11 pushups, 43 sit-ups and have just over 20 minutes for a two-mile run.
This pattern of women being held to a lower physical standard is uniform throughout the armed services and should be re-evaluated with women entering the front lines alongside male counterparts.
With the recent graduation of two women from the Army Ranger School earlier in August, it is evident women are in fact capable of meeting the same physical requirements as men and can be successful under the same conditions.
At the end of the day, both men and women should have equal opportunities to pursue all job positions in the military as long as certain standards can be met. But that’s the key: Set the same standards regardless of gender, and let all soldiers rise up to meet them.