Sistah Soldiers

Christopher Lynn | Staff Writer

On Jan. 24, a new chapter was opened for female soldiers.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared that the military would rescind its ban against women participating in front-line combat roles. This repeal will make more than 230,000 combat positions available to women that had previously been limited to men. Among the numerous fans of this change, including members of Congress and female soldiers, is President Barack Obama.

President Obama said Panetta’s decision “reflects the courageous and patriotic service of women through more than two centuries of American history and the indispensable role of women in today’s military.”

In speech given at the Pentagon Thursday, Panetta said, “If they can meet the qualifications for the job then they should have the right to serve.” He continued,“They’re fighting and dying together, and the time has come for our policies to recognize that reality.”

According to the Defense Department there have been 152 female casualties in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Effective immediately, women can now be initiated into small-to-medium-sized combat forces as pilots and medics. Other line combat platoons will not feature women until commanders can suggest certain units that could be left open to only men, such as Navy SEALs or Delta Force commandos.

Christine Cole, a University Housing Community Assistant Coordinator and member of the ROTC, discussed with the Nubian Message her stance on the rescinding of the ban on women in combat.

Nubian Message (NM):  Before this, did you think women were limited in their duties?

Cole: Most definitely. Granted, women had the opportunity to serve on air and gun crews, they were unable to serve in infantry, armor, or (field) artillery. Many women strongly believe that it is their duty to serve on the front lines.

 NM:  Do you want to fight in active combat, or was that never an issue for you?

Cole: If I received such orders, I would not have a problem fulfilling my duties.

 NM:  How do you think your family will handle the thought of you fighting?

Cole: Well, considering that I am the first in my family to serve in the armed forces, I know for a fact that my family, particularly my mother would be against the idea.

 NM:  How do you think women with children will be affected?

Cole: Having a family in the military is hard alone, and with both parents serving, it makes it that much more difficult. However, I definitely agree that children at younger ages may not understand exactly what is going on, but it seems like as children grow older, they develop an appreciation for their parent’s contributions.

 NM:  How do you think this will affect the draft, if any?

Cole: I personally do not foresee a draft-taking place in the near future. I strongly believe that the draft will only remain functional if it is composed of those who really want to serve. What many individuals do not know is that up until the 1960’s, ROTC was mandatory for all students. Personally, I am glad this compulsory ROTC was abolished. Forcing students to do something lowers the overall morale of the unit. I would much rather participate in a program in which I was surrounded by individuals who wanted the same thing as I do.

NM:  Do you think this will interest more women to join the armed forces, or the opposite?

Cole: I do not know for certain if I would say that I believe this will interest or encourage more women to join; however, I can say with confidence that I do not believe that it would deter women to join.

 NM:  What do you think of those who say women aren’t as physically capable as men, or those who say they aren’t as strong leaders?

Cole: I believe this statement is false. It takes a strong woman to be in the military, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I personally know women that can out perform men in any sector. And for those who say that women are not strong leaders, I pose a challenge: Ask several enlisted Marines about any of their female Drill Instructors (DIs). I guarantee they will speak very highly of them.

NM:  Do you think there will be people who oppose this?

Cole: Of course, there is always going to be a counter argument. What people who oppose this fail to realize is that this integration is something that is scheduled to happen over a certain period of time. This process is not scheduled to happen over night. Although we are taking baby steps, I am grateful that we are taking steps in the right direction; it’s all about progressing.

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