Ban lifted from women serving in combat
Though government officials announced male and female military services will be fully integrated, Penn ROTC branches will not see drastic changes
January 30, 2013, 11:13 pm·
While the soldiers on the front lines may soon change, Penn students’ military training probably won’t.
Last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey announced they would lift the ban on women serving in combat positions in the military. The move will fully integrate the services, which reflects what Panetta and Dempsey said has been the de facto reality of military life in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For female students training to be in the military, however, everyday reality will remain the same.
“I don’t think it’s going to have an immediate impact on the training the midshipmen receive,” said Lieutenant Matthew Comer, a spokesperson for the Naval Service Training Command, which oversees all Naval ROTC branches.
“The Navy is a pretty integrated service comparatively,” he said. Eighty-eight percent of Naval positions were open to both men and women before the announcement, he added.
In the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps — which is hosted at Penn and includes students from Penn, Temple and Drexel universities — men and women receive identical training up until at least the summer before their senior year. At that time, the cadets choose the summer training program that reflects the position they will have when they enter their required service.
Most summer training programs are already integrated. Navy SEAL training is the only summer training option not available to women.
On the Army side, which is hosted at Drexel, the situation is similar.
“The training is exactly the same [between men and women],” said a female Nursing junior in Army ROTC who wished to remain anonymous because she was not authorized to comment on the policy change. She added that while some physical fitness requirements are slightly less stringent for women, men and women did the same activities — and carried the same amount of weight in their backpacks on “ruck marches.”
She added that women are currently not allowed in the infantry, which will change with the announcement.
Students’ reactions to the policy were mostly positive.
A female College senior in NROTC, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was “very happy” with the decision. While she “saw it coming,” she didn’t expect the change to come so soon.
“I think it’s great that they’re trying to equalize the playing field,” said a female College sophomore who also wished to remain anonymous. She participates in Platoon Leaders Class, another officer training program. She added that she was “skeptical,” however, that the composition of combatants would change.
The move is the most recent in a long line of steps toward equality in the military.
“Despite its conservative reputation, the U.S. military has a history of being on the cutting edge of civil rights,” science, technology and society lecturer Matthew Hersch said in an email. “The exigencies of war leave little room for prejudice.”
While the announcement formally integrates the services, it may take time before women are accepted as equals in the military.
“Half the battle is legislation and law,” the female College senior said. “The other half of the battle is getting all the men in the military on board.”
“We’re halfway there,” she added. “It’ll take some more time to get the other half.”