Text Browser Navigation Bar: Main Site Navigation and Search | Current Page Navigation | Current Page Content

U.S. Army War College >> Strategic Studies Institute >> Publications >> Women in Combat Compendium >> Summary

Login to "My SSI" Contact About SSI Cart: 0 items

Women in Combat Compendium

Edited by Colonel Michele M. Putko, Dr. Douglas V. Johnson II. | January 2008

Share | |   Print   Email

INTRODUCTION

This compendium resulted from a request by Colonel Michele Putko for sponsorship of a "Women in Combat Study" as a multistudent elective alternative. Dr. Douglas Johnson agreed to sponsor the project on the condition that the perspectives of male officers who had commanded units with women in them be specifically included, as their views might provide a different evaluation of performance. As the editing of the original papers extended into the following student year, Colonel Mark Lindon's paper filled an obvious gap, that of documenting the progressive change in public opinion. It has, therefore, been included.

The topic of Women in Combat has been one of great emotion, but uncertain factual content until recently. The rules created to deal with the fact that women want to serve in the armed forces have ranged from silly to serious, but the factual bases have changed and the plea of all the contributors is to review the entire issue with objectivity and attention to the facts as they exist. These facts are: Women comprise approximately 15 percent of the U.S. Army today; as of this writing (September 2007), 70 Army women (including three Department of the Army Civilian women) have been killed and a significantly larger number wounded; [icasualties.org/oif/Female.aspx]this state of affairs and has raised no outcry. The nature of the current battlefield makes it impossible to apply strictly the existing rules for excluding women from combat without serious reduction in combat capabilities, degrading the professional development and thus status of women, and producing a potentially serious reduction in overall readiness. The sections that follow are edited extracts of U.S. Army War College (USAWC) Class of 2006 (except as noted) Personal Experience Monographs, Strategy Research Papers, or Directed Study: Writing Option papers. These papers are available in full through the USAWC Library Reference or Interlibrary Loan Section. The editors included major portions of several papers in order to emphasize the context within which these observations were made. The reader should take away two major points--the nature of combat for the U.S. Army has changed, and the existing rules overning the employment of women do not fit this new situation; and there is not the slightest doubt that women can perform their assigned duties in the combat zone, including engaging in combat actions essential to their personal and unit's self-defense, with skill and valor equal to their male comrades. From the Survey, the reader should note continuing ambivalence about assignment to direct combat units, but strong support for revising the existing employment rules. No attempt has been made to examine Post-Traumatic Stress in women combat veterans, pregnancy rates, or any of the host of other gender-related issues. These officers asked simply, "Did the women do their jobs?" the American public is vaguely aware of this state of affairs and has raised no outcry. The nature of the current battlefield makes it impossible to apply strictly the existing rules for excluding women from combat without serious reduction in combat capabilities, degrading the professional development and thus status of women, and producing a potentially serious reduction in overall readiness. The sections that follow are edited extracts of U.S. Army War College (USAWC) Class of 2006 (except as noted) Personal Experience Monographs, Strategy Research Papers, or Directed Study: Writing Option papers. These papers are available in full through the USAWC Library Reference or Interlibrary Loan Section. The editors included major portions of several papers in order to emphasize the context within which these observations were made. The reader should take away two major points--the nature of combat for the U.S. Army has changed, and the existing rules governing the employment of women do not fit this new situation; and there is not the slightest doubt that women can perform their assigned duties in the combat zone, including engaging in combat actions essential to their personal and unit?s self-defense, with skill and valor equal to their male comrades. From the Survey, the reader should note continuing ambivalence about assignment to direct combat units, but strong support for revising the existing employment rules. No attempt has been made to examine Post-Traumatic Stress in women combat veterans, pregnancy rates, or any of the host of other gender-related issues. These officers asked simply, ?Did the women do their jobs??

There is some redundancy in the material covered, but each version adds a slightly different perspective or picks up additional information. Were this a formal study, the material would be rationalized, but since we have chosen the compendium format, we have accepted this duplication for coherence of the individual papers. Likewise, what are offered here are "observations" rather than defensible conclusions that would have resulted from a formal study, and we would like to make that clear to the reader at the outset. Observations from this compendium and the material gathered by the contributors may be summarized as follows:

  • The Combat Exclusion Policy with its attendant "collocation" restriction is incompatible with the nature of the war in which the U.S. Army is currently engaged and the forms of conflict it is likely to be engaged in for the foreseeable future;
  • The Combat Exclusion Policy and the associated "collocation" restriction is likewise incompatible with the Army's transformation to a modularized force;
  • The U.S. Army today cannot be manned adequately without the broad participation of women;
  • While serious ambivalence remains toward the integration of women into infantry, special operations, and armor/cavalry units, obstacles to career development through other branches should be removed--ability should be the measure of merit--period.
  • Perhaps the most important conclusion this effort brings to light is the almost complete reversal of attitude by the American public toward women in military service--the American public accepts female casualties as part of the price of war.

The Compendium begins with the results of the survey of the USAWC Class of 2006. The extracts that follow were written specifically to support this effort, although other student papers have addressed the topic.