Today marks the day that women are “officially” allowed in the maneuver battalions. I’m not going to re-hash the long trail of tears over how we got to this day: the short version is this is a good thing. But it’s not that big of a thing in the grand scheme of an army coming down off a decade at war and who is still fighting in one theater.
The arguments that people make about opening up the maneuver units to females is that women are not going to be able to reach the highest echelons of the army because the top echelons are reserved for maneuver combatant commanders. Mind you, America’s First Team the 1st Cavalry Division is about to have the first female Assistant Division Commander – Support I think in for the first time in army history. BG Richardson *is* a combatant commander. She lead a combat aviation battalion in combat during the Iraq war. If she’s successful as the S, she’ll continue to advance to higher levels in the army, just like any other successful assistant division commander.
The other argument about this being a big deal is that supposedly, women will now get the proper credit for serving in hostile environments. I really don’t know where this allegation has come from but in 17 years in the military, I’ve never had anyone say “oh you’re a female, you weren’t in combat” (I was a REMF but that’s another conversation). Now, if we want to talk about the perception of support folks vs maneuver folks, sure, there’s a significant difference in how we trained for the war AT THE OUTSET. But now at the end of the war? If you want to know how to conduct a doctrinally sound mounted patrol? Talk to the logistics folks who run in the Forward Support Companies. Talk to the logistics folks who were the last folks out of Iraq and were running the longest sustainment runs in country by the end of the war. There were men AND women on those operations and I assure you, not one NCOER or OER did not accurately reflect contributions because someone was or was not a male soldier.
We make too big of a deal about women in the army and to be sure, there are some real challenges that disproportionately women must overcome. But they are nowhere near close to the portrayal in the media. The vast majority of men in the army have treated women in the army as they are: sisters in arms.
Putting women in the maneuver units does not change that. The only thing it changes is the legality of the assignment.