US Army Considers Including Women in New Combat Structure
The United States Army is currently in discussions with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's staff about formally including women in the new brigade combat team structure the Army plans to implement early next year. The new structure, comprised of “self-contained and self-reliant” combat units called “units of action,” would replace larger divisions that are more unwieldy, according to the Stars and Stripes. The US Army would like to have the ability to assign women to Forward Support Companies that would be permanently attached to the new units of action. Currently in both Iraq and Afghanistan, women are already active in units that support combat units, with the difference being that they are temporarily “attached” and not permanently assigned, the Stars and Stripes reports.
While opponents of women in combat roles decry this proposal, insisting that it violates the ten-year-old ban barring women from combat units, Lt. Col. Chris Rodney, a spokesman for the US Army, has said that in modern war, there are no “front lines,” and that due to this any position in the Army can quickly become a combat role, the Washington Times reports. “The artificial designation of a combat zone has no reality in modern warfare, and it has only served to restrict women’s advancement in the military,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
According to the Women’s Research and Education Institute, roughly 10 percent of the US military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are women. Since the United States invaded Iraq in March of 2003, 793 of the more than 1,000 US soldiers who have been killed were delineated as “combat deaths.” Twenty-four of those combat deaths were women, the Stars and Stripes reports.