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Blog: Women were already in combat, but now it’s official
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The After-Action Review: A Military Blog

Blog: Women were already in combat, but now it’s official

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In futuristic sci-fi movies like "Starship Troopers" and "Aliens," infantry units are fully co-ed, with men fighting alongside women.

Well guess what, we live in an age of Roombas and hoverboards. We've got Star Trek-like Apple Watches. You can drink all your veggies and summon transportation with the flick of a finger. The future is now.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter made the monumental decision Thursday to open all combat jobs to women, marking a sea change for the Pentagon, an institution that's surely been described as hidebound at some point.

Of course, he's just making it official. Ninety percent of military jobs were already open to women, though infantry is a greater portal to career advancement for officers because – let's face it – seizing a town from insurgents or whatever will always be seen as more of an accomplishment than running an armory efficiently. In the military, kicking in doors will always have more cache than financial management or JAG.

Here's the thing: In the Iraq War, in which I served as an infantryman, anyone who wasn't a "Fobbit" and left the Forward Operating Base potentially could face combat at any time, regardless of what their Military Occupational Specialty technically was. No one checks to make sure if you're infantry before taking a potshot at you, or setting off an IED. Female soldiers engaged the enemy in convoys, at checkpoints and so on. They were wounded and died on the battlefield.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, and in any wars we would realistically fight in the foreseeable future, there's scant distinction between infantry and non-combat jobs. All soldiers are supposed to be infantry at heart anyway, and any soldier can end up in a combat role at any moment.

I served in the Army, which isn't anywhere near as hardcore as the Marines or the Navy Seals or even the Air Force Pararescuemen or whoever, but I have to laugh at claims women aren't as physically capable to serve in the infantry, as though the average soldier is Arnold Schwarzenegger. I routinely aced Physical Training tests, cranking out hundreds of push-ups and sit-ups, but the crowing achievement of my athletic career was probably pitching an entire college intramural softball game in a tie and khakis, after rushing over from my student newspaper job.

America, don't believe the Hollywood movies you've seen. You send gangly pimply teenagers to fight your wars for you.

Rigorous training is the blast furnace that forges recruits into iron, and it's not as though the outcomes would be any different for women. Camaraderie and cohesion come over time as units train together. The type of people who would even be interested in the infantry as opposed to cushy pogue jobs generally tend to be people who can hack it in the infantry. 

If you doubt women's ability to walk a patrol or pull a trigger, see how long it would take Ronda Rousey to pound the snot out of you.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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