Allowing women into combat roles within all branches of the U.S. military is certain to happen at this point following the announcement of Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December 2015. Carter expounded on his new policy to incorporate women into their new roles, “This means that as long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before. They’ll be able to drive tanks, give orders, lead infantry soldiers into combat.”
As a woman who served in the military, I am not writing this article to stand up for women’s rights or to stand behind their physical and mental capabilities to fight alongside their male counterparts. My personal feelings on the matter are similar to that of Secretary Carter. If they qualify and want the job then allow them to serve their country in that capacity. However, as the new policy from this announcement catches up to actually being implemented not later than April 1, 2016 there will be unintended consequences that have not been discussed.
As a former company level officer, I have to tell you that Soldiers in garrison and those deployed overseas keep their leadership busy from general shenanigans and fuckery to serious criminal activity. If you can imagine it, it probably has happened. The military is already plagued with prostitution rings, sex tapes, pornography, and sexual assaults and rape before allowing women in traditional male roles.
When women start to complete their MOS training and are assigned to their prospective units, I anticipate seeing more of this type of behavior. I am primarily talking about the targeting of the newly enlisted E1-E4s and impressionable females filling the ranks of combat units. Commanders and platoon leaders will have to deal with an increased amount of disciplinary actions for inappropriate behavior such as sex tapes and other inappropriate media amongst the ranks. They may also see increased pregnancies which will result in a temporary loss of force during deployments.
The biggest unintended consequence will be the increased opportunities for sexual assault and rape. Female combat arms Soldiers will have to protect themselves just as all females do in the military. However, joining a combat arms unit will only increase opportunities and add risk for predatory type behavior within a unit that in not accustomed to women. The military is not lacking when it comes to sexual predators. For example, the latest incident to make the news was when a non-commissioned officer sent to prison for recruiting lower enlisted female Soldiers into his prostitution ring on Fort Hood.
This staff sergeant was the unit’s representative in the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) unit. (Nestel, 2015) As ironic as that may seem, the Army has a habit of not vetting those individuals in sensitive roles meant to protect Soldiers but rather blindly assigns them into these roles. According to the Washington Post, in 2014 “the service fired or reassigned 588 people from their jobs as victim counselors, military recruiters and “positions of trust” after background checks revealed a history of sex crimes, child abuse, drunken driving and other offenses.” The numbers for 2015 have not been release yet by the pentagon but in 2014 there were 6,131 sexual assaults. (Whitlock, 2015) This is trend has dramatically been climbing for the past decade.
The potential risk for an increase in criminal behavior may subvert and undermine the intentions behind incorporating women into these new roles. In addition to the new policies to incorporate women into traditional male positions, I hope the military will relook at the ways to prevent these unintended consequences.
Nestel, M. (2015, March 13). Inside Fort Hood’s Prostitution Ring. Retrieved January 10, 2016, from The Daily Beast: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/13/inside-ft-hood-s-prostitution-ring.html
Whitlock, C. (2015, December 19). In the war against sexual assault, the Army keeps shooting itself in the foot. Retrieved January 10, 2016, from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2015/12/19/in-the-war-against-sexual-assault-the-army-keeps-shooting-itself-in-the-foot/