During my service in Iraq as a Marine officer, I, like many other military women, found myself fighting on the front lines of America’s wars — yet was unacknowledged for doing so. Women are dying in combat, but Congress still officially bans us from serving in combat units that engage the enemy with deliberate, offensive action.
This antiquated policy may be seeing its final days. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) has prepared an amendment to the defense budget bill that would end the the ban. On Memorial Day weekend, let’s also end some revered stereotypes purporting to explain why women couldn’t possibly succeed in combat.
1. Women are too emotionally fragile for combat.
This myth is based on cultural stereotypes and Hollywood hype. There is no concrete evidence to suggest that women are any more susceptible to combat stress than their male counterparts.
Women in the Marine Corps, for example, go through training identical to what men get. While boot camp is segregated by gender, subsequent training is integrated, and women train for combat the same way as men. Gender-integrated units don’t exclude women from any activity. Women shoot, exercise, plan battles and conduct military maneuvers the same way as the men do. They become mentally conditioned the same way as their male counterparts and develop the same combat mind-set. Several studies, including one in 2009 by the Defense Department’s Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, have found that gender integration in noncombat units has no effect on overall unit cohesion.