On Dec. 4, 2015, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made the historic announcement that he is opening all military occupations and units to women; “no exceptions.” He directed the services to provide new integration plans that would open positions no later than April 1, 2016.
At a recent Republican debate, Ted Cruz said that it would be “immoral” to draft our daughters. He went on to make it very personal saying, “I’m the father of two little girls, and I love those girls with all of my heart.” When I heard his comments my immediate response was, “Well I have two sons whom I love with all my heart.”
On Sept. 14, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus told an audience in Cleveland that the Navy and Marines would open all ground combat specialties to qualified service members regardless of gender, including positions as Marine infantry officers and Navy SEALS. However, Mabus’ statement did not sit well with the former Marine commandant and newly appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joe Dunford. Dunford reportedly met with Mabus days later to request that infantry positions remain off limits to women.
A couple of months ago, I read a prepublication copy of “Ashley’s War,” by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon; the story of a team of female soldiers who were embedded with Army Rangers in 2011. The book, which was released last month, is named in honor of Lt. Ashley White, who was killed in action with two Rangers during a night raid in Afghanistan on Oct. 22, 2011. I wrote the author and asked her if it was possible to replace the word “girl” with “women” throughout the book before it was published. I told her that many of us in the military have worked hard to get men and women to stop calling us girls.
Ellen Haring made a number of good points in her recent piece, “That Valor Isn’t Yours To Defend,” published here on Task & Purpose. I would not and could not defend the actions of the Rangers physically assaulting someone just for wearing a uniform he did not earn the privilege to wear. We have to be careful as a society not to overindulge the egos of those in uniform and I am always quick to remind my soldiers that they're not special; the gratitude of society does not give them the right to break the laws they've sworn to defend. And “valor” is probably the wrong word to use when we talk about what’s stolen from veterans and actively serving military members whenever someone wears our uniform without having earned that right.
Recently, Task & Purpose published a piece that highlighted the actions of some purported Army Rangers who called out a man for claiming that he was a Navy SEAL. He clearly wasn’t, but the Rangers filmed the incident, during which they slapped the man in the face, twice, and then posted the video on the Internet. It went viral.