I’m sure Catherine Ross was a fine soldier, but civil affairs, even in a combat zone, does not fit the definition of direct ground combat: deliberate offensive action, attacking the enemy under fire. Her comment on the New York Times website about the fireman’s-carry issue, which she dismisses as not a matter of gender, misses the point. Women on average do not have the physical capability to lift a fully loaded male soldier who has been wounded under fire, in order to save his life. Even average-sized men have that capability; no one should have to die because women do not.
Matters of privacy and matters related to sex, including harassment/fraternization and pregnancy, directly affect morale, discipline, deployability, and readiness in our armed forces. Vacancies cause hardships for everyone else. It’s nice to know that Ross’s experience was a positive one, but forcing women into situations much worse, without authorization in policy or law, would not be right. If Army officials think this is a good idea, they should make their case before Congress, instead of changing rules without giving formal notice in advance (as is required by law).
The experience of Israel, a small country that conscripts forces and does not require long deployments away from home, is not comparable to that of the United States. Female soldiers are serving in some border areas, but their missions do not fit the definition of direct ground combat. There are some jobs involving women, such as security checks of female civilians, that should be reclassified, even though they do not fit the definition of offensive direct ground combat. The Army, unfortunately, has let women down by failing to comply with the notification law that applies.
Again, I respect and thank Ms. Ross for her courageous service, but her personal experiences do not justify an end to all regulations regarding women in or near direct ground combat, much less repeal of the 1993 law regarding gays in the military.
– Elaine Donnelly is president of the Center for Military Readiness.