Today, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that he was lifting the ban on female soldiers in combat units. Now, females can serve in just about any position they wish.
Ironically (perhaps), Rep. Mike Turner sent constituents an email regarding sexual assault in the military. Turner opened the message by detailing his work on the issue, dating back to 2007 after Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach was sexually assaulted and murdered.
Last year, Turner helped create the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus with Massachusetts Democrat Niki Tsongas. The caucus is designed to educate the Congress about sexual assault in the military. They sponsored a screening of a related film, The Invisible War, and held an on-site Congressional hearing at Lackland Air Force Base.
In the message, Turner also credited Panetta with aiding Congress in addressing the issue, focusing on “increased access to legal counsel” and a pilot program in the US Air Force. Turner concluded, “For far too long, the issue of sexual assault had gone unchecked.” The goal: “ending the crime of sexual assault in our military.”
This comes on the very day Leon Panetta announced a policy shift that would seemingly put more women at risk of such sexual assault.
Whether or not Turner’s message is complementary of the change or a siren in opposition, coincidence seems unlikely. Sexually integrating combat units has long been a goal of the left. The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars both provided examples of women serving in combat (Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester of Kentucky National Guard back in 2005). After all, in asymmetrical war, everywhere is a combat zone.
One of the key counterpoints to the new policy has always been potential sexual tension. It would then seem that Rep. Turner is trumpeting this point front-and-center today. If a sexual assault problem already exists, would not this policy only exacerbate its severity?
At this point, it is unknown how many female troops will opt to join the infantry, cavalry, or other combat arms elements. Regardless, it appears that both the left and right will get to see whose predictions were correct.