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Women Warriors

Lifting of military ban grants opportunities for female cadets

Published: Friday, February 1, 2013

Updated: Friday, February 1, 2013 01:02

combat women

Jade Bedell

(Right to Left) Mariah Stanley, Judith Crews, and Azalea Toney stand at attention Wednesday afternoon in front of the quad arches.

Since Judith Crews was nine years old, she has asked her parents why women weren’t allowed to serve in combat roles in the military.

Now a member of the Corps of Cadets’ Squadron 6, Crews, sophomore international studies major, was pleased to hear that Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta had lifted of the 19-year-old Pentagon rule that restricted women from serving in the artillery, armory, infantry and other such combat roles— a ban she saw as an offense to womens’ potential.

“I think it’s insulting to the capabilities of women, by setting the physical training standards lower,” Crews said. “People just assume that [women] will not perform as well. I think that women who are interested in being in Special Forces should be able to prove themselves.”

Though the Pentagon did order the services to open combat jobs to women, the process of achieving gender neutrality will be a long process. In his first interview since the lifting of the ban, the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Amos said the opening of certain combat jobs to women might depend on the number of women that qualify for physical and other standards.

While women make up 15 percent of the forces, according to Panetta, the 200 women in the Corps make up almost 10 percent of A&M’s Corps of Cadets.

Considering that 35 percent of the 200 women in the Corps will continue in ROTC to receive a position in one of the military branches, according to the Corps of Cadets’ website, it is worth discussing the affect that this decision about womens’ roles in combat could have on the Corps.

Col. Sam Hawes, assistant commandant for the Corps of Cadets, said that he does not foresee the Pentagon’s ruling on women in combat changing the dynamics of the Corps.

“We are having huge success recruiting overall for the Corps, and our numbers of young women joining the corps are continuing to go up,” Hawes said. “The topic [of women in combat] has not come up in the recruiting process, it hasn’t been an issue.”

With this in mind, females in the Corps of Cadets voiced their opinions about what the recent lifting of the ban means for them as individuals, and for the military as a whole.

“They haven’t talked to us about [the ban being lifted],” said Mariah Stanley, sophomore international studies and anthropology double major in outfit S2, referring to the Corps administration. “But they don’t train the females very differently from the males here. In a way, they are already preparing us to be able to do a job like that if the opportunity presents itself.”

The opposing reactions in the news to Panetta’s decision speak to the subject’s relation to the issue of gender equality.

Many circulating opinions against women fighting alongside men in combat appeal to its potentially negative consequences on unit cohesion due to natural differences between males and females.

Some argue that the innate male tendency to protect women could create distracting tensions in a setting involving life and death decisions. While Stanley recognizes the grounds for this argument, she noted that precautions could be taken in regard to training to avoid such negative consequences.

“I think some of [these concerns] are valid because it’s in males’ natures to protect females,” Stanley said. “It has the potential to be a problem, but if they spend time training together, which they will, I think it will help smooth that over.”

Crews dismissed the argument that males’ natural tendencies could create tension, disapproving of its relevance to the issue at hand.

“I know that some people argue that men don’t like to see women get shot; it’s emotionally distressing for them,” Crews said. “But I honestly don’t think that women should be punished because the men can’t control how they feel.”

In response to similar projections that natural sexual tension between males and females could potentially decrease combat effectiveness, Stanley applied her experience in an outfit of males and females, saying she finds them as romantically attractive as “brothers” would be.

“Within our outfit – in the entire Corps – you can love your buddies, but you can’t love your buddies,” Stanley said. “That’s literally how we put it. It’s ‘incest’ to date someone in your outfit.”

Stanley noted that her male outfit members gave her the nickname “mom,” – a testament to the platonic relationship she and the males in her outfit maintain. She also continued to point out that natural male and female tensions would be no more common in combat settings than they are in any other workplace, stressing the military’s emphasis on professionalism.

Another matter of contention is physical abilities. Some have questioned females’ abilities to score as high on physical and strength training as those who are currently in combat roles have scored.

Sophomore allied health major Azalea Toney considered the little emphasis that has been put on gender during her time in the Corps of Cadets, and she was encouraged by the impact that Panetta’s decision could potentially have on the widespread perception of womens’ capabilities.

“I think that this not only opens opportunities for things in the future,” Toney said. “This sends a better and more clear message as far as pushing the limits and expectations.”

While Toney said the recent ruling hasn’t necessarily changed her future career goals, she hopes to contract into the Air Force and to one day go to sniper school.

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