What Would Rosie the Riveter Do?


Women serving in the military face high rates of sexual abuse and higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder than their male counterparts. The military today is still seen as a man’s world and this has impacted women serving in the military, in turn the level of respect they receive in combat.

Since 1994, women have been banned from serving in battalion and direct combat roles. Given the nature of the Iraq and Afghanistan war, the need for women in direct combat has increased. They are able to search insurgent females and they are better equipped to handle field artillery. The directive that was outlined in 1994 by the government stated that women are not allowed to be “assigned” to direct combat rather they are allowed to be “attached” to such units. Despite lifting restrictions on women to serve on combat aircraft and ships, women are still not allowed to be assigned to direct combat; in fact that military is doing women a huge disservice by allowing them to be attached instead of assigned.

            The need for more people on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan is what has led to more and more women being attached to direct combat. When a troop is attached to a unit it is not noted in their service record, thus making it difficult for them to receive credit for their combat service as well as receive treatment for combat related conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

             Female troops are doing the same job as their male counterparts and not getting the credit. These restrictions and loop holes is what, in my opinion, leads to the lack of respect that they receive from their male counterparts despite doing the same job. If the military finally recognizes the value of women to military service and provides them with the same resources and duties as men, only then will the culture within military units begin to change. What is even more disconcerting to me is that organizations are fighting to hold women back in military roles. The Center for Military Readiness is a non-profit organization that is working to keep women and men separate in combat. However, they state their mission as being advocating for equal opportunity that puts the needs of the military first. They also advocate for strong unit cohesion and insist that women are a hindrance to that cohesion. They also emphasize the lack of troops and squadrons; which is the exact reason why more women have been attached to direct combat. Even those who see the needs of the military as their number one priority don’t see that women and the roles they take on are essential to the success of our military. Colonel Baumann quoted in the New York Times stated, “We have crossed that line in Iraq. Debate it all you want folks, but the military is going to do what the military needs to do. And they are needing to put women in combat.”

 By: Sapna Khatri

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  • gwmchstudents

    How interesting. Not having a military background, or following military politics beyond Don’t Ask Don’t Tell well, I was amazed that this was an issue and honestly, a little surprised women were fighting for equal combat rights…although now that I think about it, it makes perfect sense. I was unaware of the “attached” requirements and wonder if there are any statistics on the actual hinderance this has caused. It would be an incredibly important public health issue if women were indeed being denied PTSD services if there was not sufficient proof of service. What is the reasoning behind the non-profit groups working to maintain separation of roles? Do other countries allow women to serve in direct combat? I know that military women are denied access to abortions overseas due to a funding ban, unless it is a direct threat to their own health under TRICARE. They are not allowed to even use their own money to fund an abortion at a military hospital. For the 200,000 some women serving our country, it sounds like we are doing a great job of providing more than one disservice.