Our View: Qualified women can fight

Jan. 29, 2013 @ 01:06 AM

It was not really “Stop the presses!” news last week when it was announced the U.S. Defense Department was expected to end a long-standing ban on woman serving in military combat.
Reaction to the news for many likely was: You mean they’re not allowed to do that?
Over the years we’ve read the newspaper reports, we’ve seen and heard the TV and radio news stories about women in the military being involved in battle and being hurt, and even killed. The reality has been for years that woman in the military were subject to harm on the battlefield.
Women in the military have been serving vital roles in behind-the-lines assignments for decades since the military’s ranks began being filled by women. But in recent years, in Afghanistan and Iraq, we’ve seen women serve in the front lines as medics, intelligence officers and military police, in transportation services and in other positions. Many of these supposedly “non-combat” assignments have put women in combat situations with frequency.
So in order to bring regulations into congruency with reality, it is a proper action by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to remove the ban on women participating in combat and serving in frontline combat units.
However, removing the ban on women serving in combat does not equate to removing — or lowering — requirements and training necessary to qualify for assignment to combat units. Women and men alike must meet rigorous standards set for combat-unit participation, and certainly not every woman — or man — is capable of achieving them.
This also is not a discussion about equal representation. Certainly, it would be foolish to now legislate a 50-50 gender mix in the military’s combat units.
This is a matter of providing equal opportunity. Any woman in the military should have the same chance as a man to meet the standards set for  combat-unit participation. The Enterprise said as much years ago when the issue of women serving in combat first arose. We still believe that now.