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Chloe Page

Ms. Gigliello

AP Literature

1 January 2017

The Effects of Women in Combat

Should women be allowed in combat jobs? Is seeing a woman raped or killed

in combat too intense for soldiers? Does combat impact women more severely than

men? The recent decision to integrate women into all aspects of the military has

been challenged and questioned by people who see there only being negative

consequences. Although it is a huge advance in gender equality, there are many

positive and negative outcomes that need to be considered. Women who are

involved in any branch of the United States Armed Forces struggle with mental

health needs that outweigh men and women from the general public. The need for

readily available support and education on mental health post combat deployment

is essential for the success of the careers of the women in the military. Sexual

assault, fraternization, physical capabilities, and equal treatment are all topics for

consideration when deciding whether women should be involved in frontline

combat. Recently, women have been involved in wars and combat scenarios just as

often as men resulting in frequent and increasing reports of females suffering from
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posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, suicidal thoughts, and many other mental

health struggles. Although there are differences between military men and women

that are physical and mental, their overall reasons for serving are similar.

Despite the physical and psychological challenges combat military women

will encounter, military women are not different from military men: they are just as

likely to be officers, they joined the armed services for similar reasons, and veterans

of both sexes experience similar struggles and rewards upon returning to civilian

life. Women can enhance the combat capabilities of the military due to the

possibility for diverse problem solving and critical thinking without directly causing

cohesion to suffer. Cohesion is not just linked to common traits such as race,

ethnicity, or gender but is based on similar collective goals and mindsets. Task

cohesion is far more important to a unit than social cohesion. Social cohesion can

cause decisions to be made to please everyone as a group rather than focusing on

the purpose of the mission and making the sacrifices needed. Women have shown to

have success throughout other jobs within the military, but upfront combat has no

room for any sort of set back or mistake. A weak link will become the difference

between life or death in up front combat.

One positive aspect to having women in combat is the general statistic that

women may have cultural differences that give advantages. As explained by the,

Sisters in Arms Foundation, Women are more effective in some circumstances

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than men. Allowing women to serve doubles the talent pool for delicate and

sensitive jobs that require interpersonal skills not every soldier has. Having a wider

personnel base allows militaries to have the best and most diplomatic soldiers

working to end conflict quickly(Women). The diversity that many women will bring

to the military with the opening of all jobs, is one of the main things that is argued as

the strengthening aspect. Cultural change needs to start in the training base to set

the conditions for successful future service for females entering these combat jobs.

If women are allowed to have the opportunity to complete whatever job that is fit

for them, this will allow head officers to be able to make the best choice when

choosing the most capable person for specific jobs.

Military women have played many different roles within the United States

armed forces. Women have been a part of the military since the Revolutionary War,

but the term military women has developed a different meaning over the years.

Women were used as nurses and were usually correlated with being a wife to

someone in the military, they were not thought of upfront combat soldiers.

Recently, around the time of Desert Storms in the early 1990s, women were then

given the right to fight in combat and have few restrictions on their job choices. This

does also depend on the branch that the woman is apart of. According to the San

Diego Union-Tribune, The marines for example, have the most restrictions on

women involvement compared to all other branches. This then affects how a
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womans health status may be post deployment due to the smaller chance of combat

exposure. Overall, it is imperative for social workers in the community to be aware

of these military womens experiences and unique mental health challenges in order

to effectively treat their needs.

Current arguments regarding women serving in direct combat focus on a few

general issues: physiological differences between men and women, psychological

differences between men and women, and the success women are experiencing in

other physically and mentally stressful occupations. Due to the fact that women do

not meet the same physical fitness levels as the majority of men, when a woman

takes on a leadership role her authority and success may suffer. Success in the

military starts with physical fitness and if a woman who is leading is asking her

soldiers to complete a task that she herself could not even do, it may be hard for

them to trust and look up to her leadership. This will dilute the development of

assurance, relatable experiences, and then essentially weaken group bonding.

Women make a large percentage of the military compared to previous

numbers. According to recent data from the the online magazine, Time Labs,

Currently, women account for 15.3% of active-duty personnel in the U.S. military

(Johnson). In addition, 200,000 out of the 1.6 million that have deployed to

Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001, have been women. Although, men do also suffer

from PTSD and other mental struggles, women do not have as much support due to
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how new their part in combat is. Women who enter the military life already have a

disadvantage mentally according to data. For example, nearly twice as many civilian

women report PTSD than civilian men, according to research published in

Psychological Bulletin (Munsey). There are many reasons why women seem to

struggle with mental health issues more than men. According to the U.S. Department

of Veterans Affairs, Women with PTSD are more likely to feel depressed and

anxious, while men with PTSD are more likely to have problems with alcohol or

drugs (Trauma). Men will find ways to avoid and cope with their struggles, while

the majority of women let it consume their minds causing more mental issues. Jobs

and ranks within the military have now been made available to women. Despite

stereotypes and assumptions, military women do in fact see upfront combat, which

is something that not many people realize. With society and technological advances

in many different aspects, the military is advancing as well in those areas and on

gender stereotypes and standards. In result from how new the presence of women

in certain occupations are, there are many flaws that have occurred.

Women who deploy with the reserves or national guard, are at a disadvantage

and at more of a risk due to the lack of attention and resources post deployment.

Active duty women that are enlisted and officers, usually go back to their unit full

time post deployment, allowing them to be surrounded around resources and

people to support them. Women and even men who do not return to a unit or
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military setting are not surrounded with the support that is helpful for someone

who may be experiencing PTSD. There is little research that has been done to

investigate the impact military service has on women specifically in the reserves or

National guard. The situation needs to be invested into and proactively dealt with.

Everyday veterans suffer from PTSD and do not receive the help they need.

Military sexual trauma is a traumatic experience that is becoming terrifyingly

more common due to the increase in female deployment to combat zones. Female

soldiers may experience challenges when it comes to reporting incidents and getting

the proper legal and emotional support. It is also important to realize many times in

military setting, the offender may out rank the victim, leaving the offender with

more control and equity in the situation. That may be another fear that the female

faces, is losing her career due to being attacked by someone who is in charge of her.

The offender can range from a citizen of the deployment zone, a colleague, or even

an out ranking officer. Also, there have been scenarios when women have said they

did not know how to report the incident. One of the major reasons why it is an issue

for women serving in some roles is the need for separate sleeping quarters, and

particularly the worries about women being subject to sexual crimes. Unfortunately,

these worries do occur. Many times when a female reports an incident, she is not

given the opportunity to leave her duty station. In some cases her offender may or

may not be removed from the scene as well. It has been shown that the amount of
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PTSD from sexual trauma for women is equal in amount to PTSD for men with

combat exposure. Recent reports show ranges of sexual assault from 4.2% to 7.3%

for active duty women and 11% to 48% for female veterans; sexual harassment

rates ranged from 55% to 79%, based on reported events (Batuman). For military

women, sexual trauma can result in many disorders such as, depression, anxiety,

and substance abuse.

Men deploy for many months at a time, and live in extremely tight conditions,

while being involved in violent attacks. Sexual intimacy is not appropriate for that

type of environment, but when there is women around and possible gay people, sex

will be found. Another issue will be the fact that rape is known to be used as

psychological warfare.

The top concerns listed by female Marines were enemy forces targeting

them as potential prisoners of war, the risk of sexual assault or

harassment and intimate relationships becoming a problem. (Lamothe)

The enemy would take full advantage of capturing female soldiers in combat to use

this method of warfare. When these events take place, soldiers that are affected

mentally or physically, cannot just quit their job like a civilian job. The chain of

command is what controls where and when you go somewhere. A huge issue and

flaw in the military system is these people of authority could also be the people who

are doing the abusing when it comes to scenarios such as sexual harassment.
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One realistic and debatable issue with women being a part of critical

deployments and missions is allowing human nature to take over priorities. There is

always the possibility of a man and woman being attracted to each other, which

could be a huge distraction in a life or death situation. According to the Washington

Post, Sexual tension is a most delightful distraction in civilian life. But in close

quarters, where men likely would vastly outnumber the few women who qualify for

combat, other human emotions envy, jealousy and resentment enter into a

fray thats already complicated enough(Parker). This is not necessarily a womans

fault that a man is attracted to her, but it is something that may become an issue

with women being in certain units. In combat units sleeping quarters may be tight

and there will be a lack of gender separation because that is not the priority at hand

in combat. In human nature men naturally feel protective over women. An argument

that many have brought up is would men end up putting themselves or their fellow

soldiers in unnecessary danger in order to protect a woman who has been captured

or killed? This is a valid argument that may be resolved by possibly changing certain

initial training in order to prepare men for these scenarios. Disruption in a unit, in

combat, can cost lives and prevent the completion of the mission at hand.

Training will not completely change the genetic makeup of a human so there

is not a way around completely avoiding these issues that will arise. To help avoid

some of these conflicts units discourage having relations that are sexual due to the
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chances of pregnancy and distractions. Despite these set standards, due to human

nature and the fact that women are now apart of combat units full of men who have

been away from freedom for a long time, women are getting pregnant during

deployments. For example, according to Western Journalism, the Navy has

experienced issues with women getting pregnant from other men on the ship which

ends up causing the ship to completely change route in order to get the woman off

the ship. (Eden) Although being on a Navy ship is not a combat job, it reassures that

there is time and money wasted due to these scenarios regarding sexual relations.

One of the main concerns that is voiced by many civilians and military

personal, is that standards will be altered or changed in order to accommodate for

women attempting to qualify for these jobs. With the change of allowing women to

be in combat comes with the negative opinions on the idea and people who do not

agree with it. An honest and common outlook opinion on the topic of women in

combat is shown in an article by the National Review, an online magazine:

Putting women into close combat roles isnt fair to the men who will be

relying on them, and isnt fair to the women who will find themselves

continuously at a deadly disadvantage. When we send our soldiers into

combat we should be giving them the best possible chance of succeeding and

surviving. While women are equal to or better than men at many tasks, they

simply arent when it comes to combat. Substituting men with far less
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combat-capable women is profoundly unfair, immoral, and utterly


On the opposite side of this argument, many feel as though if women do meet these

standards, they should be allowed to be apart of the combat job. People now believe

that the military is becoming something else due to womens newly extensive

involvement. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus argued that lifting the ban is not

going to make the U.S. military any less fighting effective. In fact I think they will be a

stronger force, because a more diverse force is a stronger force. There have been

many arguments that show there will be some positive and negative outcomes due

to the involvement of women. It is a debate that has many aspects that need to be

considered. Women will most likely struggle with combat missions that entail

rigorous physical demands such as carrying a hundred pounds of ammunition while

marching many miles. Although that is not a set standard, it is a possible task these

women may face while completing a combat mission. The biggest aspect to consider

is, they may be able to complete it, but the real consequence may be that they will

not be as efficient as men. There will be women that will be able to add positive

aspects to the military, but there will also be women who will not be able to keep up.

This can be prevented by making sure the standards do not change just because

women are now involved in combat. According to Elaine Donnelly, president of the

Center for Military Readiness, There is no way women can be accommodated in the
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combat arms without a number of negative consequences that really cant be

justified. Theres no trade-off. Many people are concerned that Congress is not

asking enough questions or having qualitative hearing to really justify this choice.

According to the Ledger Enquirer, The eight women remaining in the first

U.S. Army Ranger School class to accept females were dropped on Friday after

failing to pass the Camp Darby phase for a second time, according to the Army. The

is an extensive schooling that has requirements that not many men can even

complete. There have been some women recently that have completed Ranger

school, but there have also been many that have failed. This shows that there are

requirements and standards and not all women are being allowed to just make their

way through.

It requires intense work that will weed out the female soldiers that will not be

suited for certain positions. These requirements help to make sure these women

who want to be in combat jobs can uphold their physical responsibilities.

One interesting perspective is taken by a female combat veteran. She brings

the truth to her experience and takes a stand against women in combat. Women are

often great shooters but cant run in 50-80 lbs of gear as long, hard, or fast as men.

Military training is hard enough on mens bodies; its harder on womens. And until

women stop menstruating, there will always be an uphill battle for staying level and

strong at all times (Eden). Something that is not spoken of much is the fact that
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women have different needs that do become an inconvenience in combat zones. It is

said by Womens Running, that many women report that days before their

menstrual cycle begins they experience fatigue and are not feeling like they are able

to perform their best. 5 to 7 days before you begin to bleed that female athletes are

most affected by their cycles and thus may underperform in races and workouts

(Lauretta). Women are put at an undeniable disadvantage due to the makeup and

nature of their bodies.

When women menstruate it is not only an inconvenience and distraction in

the field, but their body does become fragile and is put at risk for possible injury.

Women will be more susceptible to acute short term injury than men, which is

supported by recent research done by the Army.

In the Armys current predominantly single sex initial military training,

women have a twofold higher risk of musculoskeletal (MSK) injury.

The roles that require individuals to carry weight for prolonged

periods are likely to be the most damaging. Screening and testing may

identify those women who, with the right preconditioning and

continuation training, would be less prone to this acute short term

injury. The current physical training regime for ground close combat

roles is optimised for a male cohort; the training has been proven to be
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effective in the most demanding of operational environments.


To have the most successful outcome for females in combat, research will need to

be continued in order to identify the most effective ways to achieve the same

physicality that men tolerate, but in a way that will not put a female at risk for

injury. As supported by the research that was conducted by the Army, women have

a higher rate of hip and stress fracture injury due to the biological makeup if their

bone strength (WOMEN). Women need more nutrients and attention in order to

maintain a quality physical health. Many of these needs will most likely become

inconveniences in the field due to the raw living conditions. The current physical

training programs for combat is designed for a male soldier. Although, changing

regulations would be unfair and possibly damaging to unit proficiency. Research

may be able to identify a program that results in the same physical outcome but

with an approach that considers the female soldier's health.

When restrictions are put on the jobs and skills that women are willing to get,

it also restricts their ability to advance and get the most out of their career. When it

comes to awards and promotions, women are put at a set back when they do not

have the opportunities to advance their careers. If a woman deserves a certain title

or opportunity and it is fairly earned and given, then this should be acceptable. In

order to fully move away from limitations on genders, there needs to be willingness
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to be adaptable to negative and positive outcomes. There will be very few women

within these physically rigorous positions if the military stays true to old standards.

The old standards should be kept in order to keep the men and women in combat

zones safe. Training requirements are the way they are for a reason and to change

them is possibly putting the lives of others in danger.

While moving through this research, a debate topic that is making a strong

stand for both opinions is, should women be allowed in combat jobs at all. The

average military woman may fall short of combat skills and generally all male units

perform proficiently due to the lack of problems that occur. Most people may agree

to the fact that a woman would not have a fitness level that is comparable to a fit

man due to uncontrollable biological makeup. Despite the physical back sets a

woman in combat will encounter, being blocked from combat jobs does prevent

women from being able to attain higher ranks. A solution that many people have

suggested would be rather change the rules of promotion, than put the effectiveness

of a combat military unit at risk.

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Works Cited

Batuman, F. Health Effects of Military Service on Women Veterans. NCBI, May

2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56371/. Accessed 13 Nov. 2016.

Eden, Jude. "The Problems of Women in Combat - From a Female Combat Vet."

Western Journalism. N.p., 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.

Johnson, David. See Womens Progress in the U.S. Military. 8 Sept. 2015. Time Labs,

labs.time.com/story/women-in-military/. Accessed 13 Nov. 2016.

Kovach, Gretchel. Why Marines Have a Problem With Women in Combat. The San

Diego Union,


te-germano-profile-2015sep19-story.html. Accessed 1 Dec. 2016.

Lamothe, Dan. How big is opposition to women in combat units among Marines? This

report explains. 10 Mar. 2016. The Washington Post,



utm_term=.f90a587984f1. Accessed 6 Jan. 2017.

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Lauretta, Ashley. Does your Period Really effect your Performance? Womens Running,


d-really-affect-your-performance_37543#x6GS960dGMoLP4v9.97. Accessed

1 Dec. 2016.

Munsey, Christopher. Women and War. American Psychological Association,

www.apa.org/monitor/2009/09/women-war.aspx. Accessed 13 Nov. 2016.

"Putting Women in Combat Is an Even Worse Idea Than Youd Think." National

Review. N.p., 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.

Parker, Kathleen. Women in Combat will Put Men at Greater Risk. The Washington




fa5fbb9780f. Accessed 1 Dec. 2016.

Williams, Chuck. Remaining eight Women Wash out of Ranger School.


www.ledger-enquirer.com/news/local/article29456032.html. Accessed 1

Dec. 2016.

Women in Combat Pros and Cons. S isters In Arms,

sistersinarms.ca/history/women-in-combat-pros-and-cons/. Accessed 1 Dec.

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89575/20141218_WGCC_Findings_Paper_Final.pdf. Accessed 6 Jan. 2017.

Women, Trauma, and PTSD. Washington, DC, 13 Aug. 2015. U.S. Department of

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sp. Accessed 6 Jan. 2017.