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House Subcommittee Approves Ban on Women in Combat

In an effort to keep women from "direct ground combat," the House Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel approved a measure to ban women from some combat support units. The legislation was proposed as an amendment to the 2006 defense authorization bill, according to the Washington Post, and would require that the Army bar women from serving “in any company-size unit that provides support to combat battalions or their subordinate companies.”

The amendment passed along party lines, 9-7, led by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter who claimed that “the American people have never wanted to have women in combat and this reaffirms this policy,” according to the Washington Times. The Army Times reports that the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, Representative Vic Snyder (AR), opposed the measure because “no reports have been brought to our attention citing evidence that having women in these roles is currently causing a problem for our military,” and the measure could block women from thousands of posts that are now open to them. Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) told the Post that with this amendment, “you are sending a message that women can’t do this job.”

The amendment passed over the objections of Army personnel. In Iraq and Afghanistan, women have engaged in battle, been killed or wounded, and the Toledo Blade reports that over 60,000 women have been deployed in support of the Iraq war since 2002. “The Army has to understand the regulation that says women’s can’t be placed in direct fire situations is archaic and not attainable,” Lt. Col. Cheri Provancha told the Post. “You can’t tell me I’m not being shot at. You can’t tell me I can’t handle combat.” The Post quotes a letter from Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army’s Vice Chief of Staff, in which he said “the proposed amendment will cause confusion in the ranks and will send the wrong signal to the brave young men and women fighting the Global War on Terrorism.” According to the Post, Jennifer Guay, the first woman to be assigned as an infantry combat medic, emailed her thoughts on the amendment, saying “I refuse to have my right as a soldier taken from me because of my gender. It is my right to defend my country… I am well aware of the danger… Let me (us) do our job.”

Media Resources: Army Times 5/12/05; Toledo Blade 5/15/05; Washington Times 5/16/05; Washington Post 5/12/05; Washington Post 5/13/05

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