By Brittany Hanson/Garden Grove Journal
Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Sanchez) said on Saturday that not all men and not all women are cut out for combat operations in the military. However, Sanchez also said that there are both men and women who can serve in that capacity and should both have equal access to those positions.
On May 16 Sanchez introduced the Women’s Fair and Equal Right to Military Service Act. The act aims to provide women with the same opportunities to be a part of combat units in the various branches of the military, something they are currently barred from.
“Women are already in combat situations, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be given the formal opportunity to do so,” said Sanchez.
According to Department of Defense numbers from 2010, provided by The Women’s Memorial, women comprise 14.5 percent of active duty personnel in the armed forces. Sanchez’s press release about the act states that 60 women have been killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In an article published on May 7 by the Department of Defense it was said that, “the Military Leadership Diversity Commission recommends that the department and the services eliminate combat exclusion policies for women, as well as other ‘barriers and inconsistencies, to create a level playing field for all qualified service members.”
In an interview, Sanchez did not state a path for implementation of the act or directly comment on the differences in physical requirements for men and women in basic training programs.
Presently, the basic physical requirements for men and women are significantly different throughout all the branches of the military. The requirements are notably reduced for women, with shorter distance requirements for running and fewer pull-ups.
Sanchez did not say whether or not she would seek to equalize those basic requirements.
“Nobody is denying that men and women are different,” said Sanchez, “Men generally have better upper body strength, but women often have more endurance.”
Sanchez went on to say that not all men are suited for the job of combat operations, but that not all women are either, but that that those who are, should all be given a fair opportunity to compete to the positions.
Another one of the reasons Sanchez gave for the act was that military careers can require combat experience for promotion, something that can hinder the career of a military woman if she is prevented from ever participating.
Women serving in combat environments are being shot at, killed and maimed, said Retired Air Force Gen. Lester L. Lyles, in a DoD article. Lyles chaired the commission. “But they’re not getting the credit for being in combat arms “[and] that’s important for their consideration for the most senior flag ranks — three stars and four stars, primarily.”
The article stated that in the commission’s outreach to military leaders, Lyles said at least a couple of service leaders thought there would be little interest among women to serve in combat.
“I didn’t hear, ‘Rah, rah, we want to be in combat,’” he said, “but I also didn’t hear, ‘We don’t want to be in combat.’ What they want is an equal opportunity to serve where their skills allow them to serve. Removing the barriers for that, and removing the barriers to them getting credit for that, was our number one focus.”
An argument that often surfaces in the women in combat debate is issues with fraternization and rape within the ranks.
Sanchez said that issues with rape and fraternization within the ranks needed to be addressed here in the United States.