Women given equal opportunity with combat roles
BY World's Editorials Writers
Thursday, January 31, 2013
1/31/13 at 7:19 AM
The debate over whether women ought to be in combat roles comes down to the question: Is a woman's life more important than a man's?
That debate was rendered all but moot - although it no doubt will persist - when Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, supported unanimously by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, overturned the age-old ban against women in combat.
As far as combat roles, the ban might come as a surprise to many women in the armed forces who have been serving in what most people would consider combat roles.
Women have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade. Of the 280,000 deployed in those two war zones, hundreds have been injured and more than 150 have been killed. Until now, sadly, those wounds and deaths were considered non-combat related.
In today's military, women serve on armed patrols and in fighter jets. However, they cannot serve in official "combat." That deprives them of higher pay and the chance of better promotions. This resolution finally brings an end to that prejudice.
Women make up almost 15 percent of the U.S. military. That number might seem small, but it has been instrumental in allowing the country to switch to an all-voluntary military.
Women have earned this opportunity. Tammy Duckworth, the newly elected U.S. representative from Illinois, lost both her legs when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq. Shoshana Johnson, a single mother, was shot in both ankles, taken captive and held for 22 days after her unit was separated from a convoy in Iraq. Lori Piestewa, also a single mother, was killed in a crash while steering her Humvee through mortar fire.
There are hundreds of similar stories.
Despite the critics, this is likely to be a seamless transition.
The Pentagon has opened an important door to women who have served with honor and often heroically. This is a triumph for equality.
Original Print Headline: It's time