This week, I sat at a bar with an Afghan-American translator who served alongside special operations soldiers on some of the most dangerous and sensitive combat missions in the Afghan War back in 2011. She had been injured in an improvised explosive device explosion during a night raid that year and was working to put her life back together and recover ever since. As we sat and talked about Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq, the television occupying the bar’s airspace displayed a graphic about Donald Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States.
This year may be banner year for women in the military. Women have now graduated from the Army’s famed Ranger School and the Navy has signaled that it will open the SEALs to women beginning Jan. 1, 2016. With the possible exception of the Marines, the services seem inclined to open all formerly excluded combat positions to women. Additionally, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James released a comprehensive plan in March to improve recruiting and retention for women in the Air Force, and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus released a similar plan in May. But despite all of this progress, there are worrying signs — including online harassment and the continuing drumbeat of military sexual assault — that women still aren’t considered full-fledged members of the profession of arms. A large part of the problem is that the services’ senior leaders still haven’t made a strong enough case for the value of women to the military.