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Should women serve in combat positions? The Combat Exclusion Law has dealt with this question since the 1940’s. As time continues, the question remains. The military has increased the percentage of females allowed to be enlisted and commissioned in the services as well as increasing the positions allotted to them (Matthews, Ender, Laurence, & Rohall, 2009). Keenan posits “women have served with distinction in … the Revolutionary War…as volunteer nurses and were only occasionally in the direct line of fire…four nurses evacuating 42 patients while the Germans bombed their field hospital…” (the DoD Combat Exclusion Policy) pg. 21.
The most recent debate questions a women’s engagement in combat. What distinguishes some positions as being acceptable while others are not? Who has the authority to approve exceptions, and what exceptions have been made? On May 13, 2011, a bill placed before the House of Representatives addressed the issues to “repeal the ground combat exclusion policy for female members” (HR 1928).
Political Issues or Influences
In 1973, women began to grow in numbers in the All-Volunteer Force implemented under President Nixon. “In February 1988, Department of Defense (DoD) codified the Combat Exclusion Policy by adopting the ‘Risk Rule’”, (the DoD Combat Exclusion Policy) pg. 21, 22. The change of the feminine role in the civilian population has forced a review of their presence in the Armed Forces. These roles reviewed after the onset of the Exclusion Law in “1967 when the statutory strengths and grade limitations were lifted” (…GOA, pg 4) as well as in 1978 when positions available to women were expanded (…GOA). In 1992 and 1993 when the “Defense Authorization Acts were implemented, congress revoked the prohibition of women’s assignments to combat aircraft… and in January 1994 the ‘Risk Rule’ was rescinded” (the DoD Combat Exclusion Policy) pg 22. With the 1994 change in the “Risk Rule”, assignments were available for females in all services to participate in all available positions. Exceptions of “assignments to units below the brigade level whose primary mission is direct ground combat” (the DoD Combat Exclusion Policy) pg 22(ibid) were put in place.
H.R. 1928 sought to title their bill “Women’s Fair and Equal right to Military Service Act” (HR. 1928), as greater than 250,000 females had already been deployed to combat zones in the Middle East and at that time 137 females had lost their lives while in combat (HR 1928). As women continue to work side by side with men, the case of equal placement continues. Contrary to that argument is the power to care for family members, specifically the children and how they are affected when their mother goes into battle.