First Lt. Nalise Gaither, leader of a female engagement team with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, hands out candy to children during a patrol May 8, 2012, Ghazni province, Afghanistan. (Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod / Army)
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Soldiers have mixed feelings on the decision to open all combat fields to women. But one theme is constant: Fair standards must be set that do not compromise capabilities.
Here is a sample of messages from our readers:
I have personally believed for a long time that women should be allowed in combat [military occupational specialties]. But I also believe we should have to meet the same physical standards as the men. If I can't do that, then I shouldn't be allowed in a combat MOS. It's a matter of safety for your team.
— Shannon Baylor, Davenport, Iowa
We were frowned upon for wanting to vote, wear pants and manage our own money and now we are officially allowed in combat units! I'm not surprised. Women are strong, determined and persistent. We fight for what we want and deserve. I don't believe all women are capable of combat missions. Nor are all men. We each have our weaknesses. I'm just glad we have been given the opportunity. Men will continue to put us down, but in the end we all die the same and have the same objective, to serve our country.
Women have died in combat just like men. We are part of the military and are here to stay. Men just have to deal with it.
— Sgt. D. Jacquez, Albuquerque, N.M.
If females want to be placed in combat, I would ask them the following questions:
• Can a female road march 25 miles with 35 pounds of armor plus a 45-pound rucksack and maintain the same pace as males?
• If the United States went to war, can they live outside the wire for 30 days on wet wipes alone?
• If a female went hand to hand, can they handle themselves against larger males?
• If privacy cannot be accommodated, can the female conduct personal hygiene to include showering in front of a male?
• If the female became pregnant in the field, do I risk and divert a medevac to conduct an extract?
• Can a female pass the male APFT requirements? If not, can males reduce their APFT requirements to be like the females?
• If a female was captured by the enemy, is she willing to accept the fact she may be sexually assaulted?
• Is she willing to be treated like one of the guys without filing a sexual harassment complaint?
Females must understand that Afghanistan and Iraq were a luxury. U.S. soldiers were rarely outside the wire for more than 72 hours. The Army is holistically easier than prior to 9/11. Females cannot use the current war environment as the benchmark for their argument.
— Capt. Francis Karpinski, Afghanistan
As long as all of the standards are the same such as Army Physical Fitness Test, living arrangements, promotions, etc., I'm all for it. After 18 years and being both an infantryman and a [military policeman] I have seen just as many men that can't cut it as I have women who can.
— Sgt. 1st Class Dwight E. Cross, Operations sergeant, 551st Military Police Co., "Hooligans"
While I understand that many females are not in an MOS that is considered "combat arms," I have seen them hit by [improvised explosive devices] in northern Iraq (2003), run convoys in east Baghdad (2006), and conduct patrols on the Pakistan border (2008). What MOS are they? Everything from medics to cooks to wheeled mechanics and military police. As a force multiplier, we trained and used females to help our undermanned mortar pit, with exceptional results.
Several female soldiers I have served with most certainly have seen more direct combat time than a majority of the male brass that run these wars.
— Former Sgt. 1st Class Richard Taylor, Wasilla, Alaska
While women in the military have always wanted fair treatment, opportunity and respect by their counterparts, before you even think of sending women into combat, the military branches must address and resolve the inherent culture of sexual assault. You wonder why the suicides in all the branches are rising at such dramatic levels? Our military personnel must be protected within the military. Are you willing to take this challenge on?
— Former Sgt. Pam Young, Seattle
I support the move — decades too long. The Israeli Army and others are way ahead of us.
— Ret. Sgt. Maj. Robert Lindley, Henderson, Nev.
The only sensible way to approach this situation is to make the standards the same. They should be able to achieve the same as the male infantry soldiers. This would help to ensure that they could carry the same size rucks, weapons and other equipment. I have personally seen soldiers carrying in excess of 75 to 90 pounds of equipment. Could a 95-pound, 5-foot-nothing female do that? Maybe, maybe not. Many males can't make the standards.
— Sgt. 1st Class Michael Nash (ret.), Huntsville, Ala.
As a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, I can say that there is a big difference between being in the infantry day in and day out, and just being able to return fire in a firefight. It's about being able to carry the load of a deployed infantryman.
— Former Spc. Dylan Williams, Knoxville, Tenn.