The Army is not making a fuss about it, but this is one of those moments in history that is a big deal: the first eighteen women, out of forty-four accepted for Army infantry training, recently completed the grueling boot camp and graduated. These are the first women to complete infantry training in two hundred years. Dave Philipps of the New York Times writes that the Army is not making a fuss because it has taken great pains to develop “gender-neutral performance standards to ensure that recruits entering the infantry were all treated the same.”
The announcement by the Obama administration at the end of 2015 that all combat roles in the military will be open to women is indeed a victory for women. This opens 220,000 jobs previously closed to women. While I wish we lived in a world without war where we did not need a military, that is not the world we are in, and I am happy that the women who want combat roles and military careers are now able to have access to them.
Two million US women are now veterans. During the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the United States military attempted the integration of women into the military in unprecedented numbers (15 percent of service members during these conflicts were women), opening combat and leadership roles to women for the first time. Yet, although women distinguished themselves as leaders and soldiers, Emily King of the Minnesota Women’s Press noted that “service women often feel disrespected and devalued, and many face discrimination.” Benedict Carey of the New York Times and King agree on two of the main factors that make life in the military so hard for women: