In a strange coincidence, just as a pair of females, a colonel and a sergeant major, are suing the Pentagon on the grounds their careers stalled because they weren’t able to hold combat positions, the first two women to volunteer for the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course washed out of the program.In one side, Col. Ellen Haring, a highly-decorated soldier, was told at the last minute, after three months of training at Fort Bragg, that she wasn’t qualified to lead a team of female soldiers who would search and interview Afghan women, according to the L.A. Times. Then she saw a lower-ranking, less qualified male take the position.
On the other, the first of the women to get dropped from the Marine course, which the Marine Times reports started with 109 students, was in the company of 30 men who also failed the introductory endurance test. The other female completed the test, but was later dropped for medical reasons.
Both cases leave the question of whether the US military is ready to put women in combat positions unanswered.
While I was in the Army, I was the public affairs specialist for an artillery brigade. We had a lot of women in charge, but mostly in fields that were already welcoming to females. But in my five years with them, we also had quite a few female officers come from the artillery officer course at Fort Sill and not get artillery platoons to lead.
One in particular placed fourth in her class at Sill. Her scores on the Army Physical Fitness Test were perfect by the male standards. But she was assigned to be our public affairs officer.
But she also got to be our colonel’s right-hand-man when we deployed shortly thereafter, and he made sure when we got back she got an artillery platoon to lead. Knowing that those opportunities would be few and far between, she switched to military intelligence after that position.
The lawsuit Haring, Sgt. Maj. Jane Baldwin, and the Molly Pitcher Project filed contends the exclusion policy holds women back in promotions, and therefore earnings and retirement benefits.
So far, none of the women who have fought to fill combat positions have asked for special preference–they just want to be judged by the same standards as their male counterparts. If the Army already paid to train someone, and the soldier aces everything that’s asked of her, it doesn’t make sense not to give them the job.
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