COLUMN: Women in combat: Acknowledging reality?
Do you know the story of Margaret Corbin?
She fought alongside her husband, a cannoneer, in the Revolutionary War. She helped to defend Fort Washington from Hessian troops. In that 1776 battle, her husband was wounded, and she replaced him at the cannon. She was wounded, too. Corbin was the first woman in U.S. history to receive a military pension.
This story is featured on the U.S. Army’s website, and it illustrates a reality: Women have always served in the U.S. military, and many of them have been in close combat situations. Indeed, in the wake of Defense Secretary Panetta’s announcement about ending the ban on women in combat, there has been a spate of news articles and blogs that say the DOD decision is mainly acknowledging the harsh truth about women in combat:
They’re already in combat.
On Monday, we discussed that most Americans support the end of the official ban, and we also discuseed that other nations already allow women in combat, opposition to DOD’s decision from some ex-military, and whether women make better military leaders. Today, we conclude the series with the acknowledgement of reality.
As Senator John McCain put it: “I respect and support Secretary Panetta’s decision to lift the ban on women serving in combat. The fact is that American women are already serving in harm’s way today all over the world and in every branch of our armed forces. Many have made the ultimate sacrifice, and our nation owes them a deep debt of gratitude.”
A good example is Brig. Gen. Rhonda L. Cornum, Ph.D., M.D. She was surgeon with a helicopter attack battalion during Desert Storm. Her helicopter was shot down, and she was one of three survivors. Five crew members died. The Iraqi Republication Guard captured her and she became a Prisoner of War. (You can read her story and other profiles of women soldiers here.)
Will more women in combat improve their opportunities for advancement?
Will it strengthen — or weaken — the military?