Jack Simpson: Women in combat will take some getting used to



Let me begin by saying I'm glad Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently announced combat jobs will now be open to women. For much too long female soldiers have been kept in logistic and support roles and denied advancement opportunities as a result. Joining combat units will give women greater promotion opportunities and many will advance in their careers.

But, describe me as old-fashioned. I don't intend to discriminate, but having been there and done that, I feel protective of ladies. I just have a hard time imagining female members of my family being drafted or placed in combat units if they did not volunteer and would prefer serving in support roles.

Some of the ground fighting I witnessed first hand in World War II would have a drastic impact on the mental and emotional life of someone like my mother, for instance. Being an infantryman under fire is physically demanding, dirty, cruel, very stressful and dangerous.

I cannot believe this kind of service would appeal to many women. How many would like to be Rangers or SEALs? Even an old infantryman like me would probably find Ranger training too challenging. But, if there are females so inclined, God bless them and welcome to their new opportunities. Maybe they will be more mentally, physically and emotionally prepared for combat than expected. Give them a chance. Equal pay for equal work. Hopefully requirements will not be lowered to accommodate them. All volunteers welcome. Will women now face the draft?

Being female, women combat soldiers may face more sexual assaults than expected. If captured by terrorist soldiers, women may face torture and rape. Some of our enemies have little respect for and grant few rights to women in their culture.

Women in combat will face many more challenges than they did doing clerical work, flying aircraft, serving as nurses and giving logistical support. Some women will succeed. Others will not, even though Panetta has made a decision to provide new opportunities. Why? Because of physical capability, harassment, unintended pregnancy, to mention a few reasons why they will not be able to deploy when called. What will happen to a combat unit in the field if women members require maternity leave?

Statistics tell us 900 women could not deploy last year because unintended pregnancy interrupted their careers. Some 20 to 40 percent of servicewomen faced rape or attempted rape during their service.

So there are many unresolved issues and drawbacks. Rescinding existing rules may not be all that great even though thousands of females have already been deployed into combat without serious problems.

There are people like me who are not keen about placing women in greater jeopardy unless they volunteered. The new rules will take getting used to and our culture will have to adjust to them. If females seek the job, meet all physical requirements, do no harm to the common good, let them go for it.

The Army already has good soldiers and some of them are women. This new change will mean that now women can be assigned to combat even if they do not volunteer.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.