The Military Leadership Diversity Commission said the military should gradually eliminate the ban [of women from combat roles] in order to create a "level playing field for all qualified service members."Of course, it is not just that the kinds of wars we are fighting have changed. Our attitudes about women and what they can do have also changed. Much has already changed, with women flying attack aircraft, not just cargo planes, and women now (or soon) serving in submarines. The really big exclusion is from serving in infantry, armor or artillery. Which meant that I was surprised in 2001-02 to see the Pentagon guarded by females wearing the berets of the Airborne because women can be Military Police in pretty much any unit.
The commission, comprised of senior military officers, businessmen and academics, must now release a final report. Its findings would then need to be sent to Congress and President Obama before any changes to policy would be implemented.
The draft report said the military's "combat exclusion policies" do not reflect the realities of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and create institutional barriers to women, who are prevented from getting key assignments that could lead to career advancement.
"Service policies that bar women from gaining entry to certain combat-related career fields, specialties, units, and assignments are based on standards of conventional warfare, with well-defined, linear battlefields," the report said. "However, the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have been anything but conventional."
Moreover, we are already doing some gymnastics in terminology and behavior when not using women on the battlefield becomes a competitive disadvantage.
But this will take some time, as folks in Congress are slow to recognize that we are living in the 21st century with 21st century wars and 21st century attitudes towards women. Much progress has been made, but we still need to go the last mile.