Military Bans on Military Members – Is there anything more perplexing?

Recently we wrote of women’s exclusion from the counterinsurgency discussions because, well, female service members do not have the requisite experience. Why? Because they are banned (yes, banned) from serving in the ground combat specialties that would afford them these skills.

The recent announcement that the Navy’s College of Cardinals (OK, there really isn’t one) has been considering assigning women to submarines has been met with mixed reviews. It is one of very few moves by the Boys in Blue (and khaki, thank you, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen) that cuts through the handwringing that is Washington. The topic of women in subs has been the clichéd “elephant in the room” since the Navy permetted (permitted!) female service members to serve on (gasp) combatant surface vessels.

Reportedly Navy officials are preparing to notify Congress of the change.

How is it that anyone can be banned from any specialty (in any service) because of gender or other reason unrelated to job qualifications? Either one is qualified or not. Gender is rarely a qualifying factor. Do the services discriminate based on familial status? Race? The combat exclusion “law,” this policy, trampled the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its later iterations long ago. We may be limb crawling, but we’ll say barring women from anything defies reason. Some current policies still nudge some female service members into what may be consider more traditionally female specialties effectively widening this gender gap and making full integration more of a perceived challenge. (This applies unevenly across the services.) Ever had your name tag snapped in half, tossing into a men’s urinal and soaked in urine? Just their way of saying, “Welcome aboard!” Great fun, but survivable. Females have accommodated and gotten along for what was to be the greater good, though the opposite seems to be true.

Though America has more pressing concerns, its mothers, fathers, sons and daughters should clamor for full equality in an institution that has long been hailed as the great equalizer. They should ask (demand) to end this arcane gender approach and say, “Enough already. Move the heck forward.”

The discussions over women crewing submarines are legitimate as well as weak and marginally relevant. Privacy. Close quarters. (Gasp.) Lavatory facilities. People adapt. People bond. Putting allegations of social experiment aside, why must the female service member relent for the convenience of … the handwringers? Adm. Mike Mullen is right in his push to move forward with women on subs as are Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. Here’s a flash: Change can be difficult, awkward, and frightening and the rewards normally eclipse the initial concerns.

At some point this female discussion will fade to black for good and all bans, bars, exclusions for women and others will be eradicated. It is good leadership, it is good policy, and it is good business.

An “issue” well past its expiration date?

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