Women have been fighting for equality in many areas for years, and now a major milestone is occurring for women in combat. The US military must open all combat positions to women by January 2016, and reported Tuesday they have started to move into Army platoon artillery jobs.
This controversial and monumental shift gives females the opportunity to serve on the front lines for the first time. Although this move is a pivotal point for women, not too many want to take advantage of the opportunity.
A recent Army survey of approximately 170,000 women in combat revealed that a small fraction of women---approximately 8 percent---wanted a front line position. Men and women alike were apprehensive and nervous about the shift, and men also voiced concerns that "women issues" like pregnancy and menstrual cycles would lower a unit's readiness.
An issue of ongoing debate regarding the matter includes concern about the physical demands of combat and whether women will be able to keep up with their male counterparts.
A study conducted in March at Fort Stewart is helping the Army assess this topic. The Army's Physical Demands Study tested 89 male and 58 female soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division who voluntarily took part in the survey that assessed strength, endurance, and power required to do combat arms tasks.
Some of the tasks included moving a "casualty" out of a vehicle, dragging a 270-pound dummy for 15 meters, and loading a TOW-2B Aero Missile into a ground mounted weapon system. The soldiers also wore oxygen masks and heart-rate monitors before certain tasks in order for Army technicians to record the data.
Regardless of the animosity, several women are excited about the change and assuming new roles. Women like 1st Lt. Kelly Requa are making history. She leads a cannon platoon field artillery unit at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.