A Federal lawsuit filed on Tuesday by four members of the armed forces seeks to put an end to the Pentagon’s longtime policy of barring women from serving in combat positions.
A 1994 policy bars women from being assigned to ground combat units. The units are smaller and considered more dangerous than those that currently allow female service members because they are often in heavy battle for longer periods of time than the other units.
Opponents of the ban say that women are already being killed or wounded in war, but are routinely not recognized for battleground experience taken into consideration for high pay and rank. It is also often unclear in modern warfare where the frontline in many military conflicts is, as suicide bombings and sniper ambushes are often the attacks of choice for America’s modern military foes. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 144 female troops have been killed and 860 wounded despite noncombat classification.
Opponents of the right of female troops to join ground combat units argue that women may lack some of the physical capabilities of their male counterparts in battle. Some military top brass also worry that lifting gender barriers in combat units could disrupt operations by providing distractions that otherwise would not exist for male or female soldiers.
From the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which helped the four service members file the discrimination suit: “Women make up more than 14 percent of the 1.4 million active military personnel, yet the rule categorically excludes them from more than 200,000 positions, as well as from entire career fields? Consequently, commanders are stymied in their ability to mobilize their troops effectively.”