Effects of Enrollment of Women into Direct Combat Positions in the U.S. Military


  1. Introduction
    1. Gender socialization leads to the prescription of behavior and roles considered appropriate for women and men.
    2. Women service in combat positions is not allowed out of the perception that they cannot play such “masculine roles” effectively.
    3. Societal changes leading to women assuming roles traditionally considered to be masculine implies that able women are able and should be allowed to serve in combat positions (Goldstein, 2001).
    4. Thesis statement: The enrollment of women into combat positions in the military would benefit the military since it would provide a wide source of capable individuals to choose from, thus avoiding forceful recruitment of males who may not remain committed to the Military’s vision, values and ideals.
  2. Arguments in support of recruiting women into combat positions in the military
    1. Women are already facing harmful situations similar to the ones facing combat units in their roles in support units collocated with combat units in war zones (DOD statistics quoted in Bohon, 2011 & Burelli, 2012).
    2. Depriving able women the opportunity to serve in combat positions is tantamount to discrimination since such experience is necessary for progression into higher responsibilities in the military (Bohon, 2011).
    3. Restricting able women from combat positions deprives the military an adequate source of voluntary manpower who would remain committed to the military’s ideals and vision (Burelli, 2012).
    4. Since women remain committed to post-war mental-health treatment programs more than men (Blain, Galovski & Robinson, 2010), they could recover faster from trauma thus return to active duty more readily hence improving retention in the military.
    5. The nature of the modern battlefield has changed requiring employment of women in aspects such as intelligence gathering, which may be the core determinant of success.

  • Arguments in support of the counter thesis; i.e. enrollment of women in combat positions would have adverse effects on the military.
    1. Inclusion of women into combat positions would reduce unit cohesion, morale and readiness thus affecting military efficiency.
    2. Sex differences in favor of men (e.g. women falling pregnant) make an all-men combat unit more ready for long-term deployment compared to a gender inclusive unit (Harrell & Mille, 1997).
    3. Women are more prone to developing adverse mental health conditions when faced with traumatic experiences (Tolin & Foa, 2008), a factor that could affect a combat unit’s effectiveness.
    4. Admitting women into combat positions could imply lowering training standards thus result into ill-prepared combat units.
      1. Canadian experience indicates that not many women would meet the training standards placed for men thus implying that recruitment of women trainees would largely be a waste of resources (cited in Bohon, 2011).
      2. Women are less likely to be fit for deployment compared to men as evident in Desert Shield/ Desert storm operation (Presidential Commision, 1992 as cited in Bohon, 2011).
    5. Despite the changing nature of modern wars, combat situations still involve physical engagement that favors an all-male combat unit.
      1. Short stature, lean muscle mass and lower weight imply that women may not be able to carry injured unit members leading to loss of members.
      2. The risk of debilitating injury to women is higher than that of men thus presenting vulnerability for combat units comprised of mixed gender (Bohon, 2011; Evans, Reynolds, Creedon & Murphy, 2005).
  • Lower aerobic capacity in women compared to men predisposes them to more injuries thus affecting unit readiness (Bohon, 2011; Evans, Reynolds, Creedon & Murphy, 2005).
  1. Conclusion
    1. Arguments on both sides mainly focus on unit effectiveness following enrollment of women into combat positions.
    2. Allowing women into combat positions needs to be on the basis of ability to meet and adhere to uniform standards rather than offering equal opportunity for everyone.
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