The imagery of front line combat brings up a band of brothers. Men living in harsh conditions, pushing themselves to the limit they quickly bond with one another. It is a place where boys can be boys and the harsh reality of war is thrown upon them daily. From the front lines comes stories of slinging gunshots and dragging one another to safety. It is a world where it will soon change due to Panetta revoking the Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment rule for females. Panetta, in January, felt that the most capable soldiers should be on the front lines, regardless of gender.
The outcome has raised both eyebrows and concerns throughout the military community. Ground combat areas such as infantry, which was exclusive to men, now is open for females to serve. Physical standards, hygiene, mental strength and feminine issues have all opened the debate for this new ruling.
The military, in most cases, holds different standards for physical fitness. Pull-ups, sit-ups and run times are different for both genders. Which brings this question. If a female is to serve along side a male on the front line, should she be held to the same standard? Quite often, deployed soldiers serving on the front lines carry heavy weight each day. The protective vest alone can weigh up to 40 pounds. Add in the helmet, other protective gear, ammunition, supplies and guns; totaling almost 70 pounds. This is what deployed soldiers on the infantry line carry each day on patrol. A female who plans to deploy to the front line should be able to carry this much weight and keep up with the rest of the troops. In addition to this, soldiers who become injured during a firefight may need to be dragged to safety. A female will have to be able to carry all of her gear, the injured soldier and his gear. Physical fitness tests will need to change to reflect this.
Units who deploy to the front lines often endure months of living in undesirable locations. While there are FOBs that have shower facilities and such, infantry units generally do not stay there. They live in fields, abandoned buildings or makeshift bases. These areas often do not have restrooms or showers. Quite often these soldiers go for months without any shower and use the restroom out in the open. Which brings up the issue of feminine hygiene. How will a female deal with her monthly period? Lack of restroom privacy? Where will she change her clothes? These questions will have to be dealt with as the military moves into allowing females in infantry combat.
Mentally, front line combat is one of the toughest places to be. Contact with families is limited, often not hearing from them for weeks at a time. Mail is slow and everyday luxuries are unheard of. Females who serve the front lines will need to be prepared mentally, prepared to not speak to their children and face the cruelty of war. Death and bodily injury can be a common sight and emotions must be kept in check as to not distract others. The physical demands of being deployed to the front lines can also wear on a soldier mentally, it can easily burn a soldier out. A common female trait, nurturing, is not welcomed on the front lines. Instead, a tough resolve and intense focus is needed.
While Panetta wanted to make this a non gender issue, unfortunately it is. Women will now be in close personal contact with males. While the military frowns upon sexual relations during deployment, they still need a plan. If a woman becomes pregnant during deployment, it could be weeks before she is able to return to the states. Missing much need prenatal care. STDs can cause a unit to have to stop missions until all are treated properly. Long months away from home may bring about affairs, a point many wives are worried about.
Societal concerns will need to be addressed, both in America and overseas. If a large amount of females move to the front lines, we may see more female deaths. The American society may not be able to accept this, recent surveys have shown that the American public will not tolerate large numbers of female soldier deaths. It is just something America has not had to deal with. In Afghanistan, females will have to work with the religious beliefs there. There, women are regarded as property and have very little rights. Female soldiers will have to overcome this to be taken seriously by male citizens there.
Allowing women on the front lines has opened up the door for gender equality. Yet it will be a long road. Questions will have to be answered and policies will have to be made.