The role and involvement of women in the US armed forces has increased over time since World War 2. The role has changed from being mere supporters in nursing those injured during the war to taking senior positions in the military like General and Flag Officers. Initially women were not allowed to undertake combat missions but several acts have been enacted that have allowed them to get involved.
The changing involvement of women in the military affairs has also brought about some issues. Women have died in combat missions and others have been sexually molested and this might demoralize others and expose the victims to risks like diseases or unwanted pregnancies. The issues of pregnancy also may decline their performance because they may not be able to work normally. They will also spend most of time off-duty.
It is of great concern about the extent to which these issues are detrimental to the US armed forces with time. These issues are the center of concern in this research that is aimed at answering the question about “What type of impact would women have on the US Armed Forces in the next ten year?”
Women have become an integral part of the military in the world today. Statistics has it that women make up about twenty percent of the military squad in the world especially the US armed forces. Although they are not involved in many combat jobs, it can not be denied that women have a significant contribution in the armed forces.
There has been a great debate on whether the number of women in the military should be reduced or whether they will continue being excluded in some combat missions. The role of women in the military has been increasing and seems to continue to increase in future. The increasing role of women has been necessitated by some factors. Firstly, there is growing need for retention of enough number of qualified recruits in the armed forces.
This caused the US military service department to start recruiting women and increasing their numbers in order to fill the men target shortfall (Burrelli, 1996, 1). There has also been high growth of movements that are demanding equal opportunities for men and women. The military departments were not exceptional and therefore they had to recruit more women to fill some opportunities. The movements were fighting against women discrimination in the armed forces.
They demanded that equal opportunities be granted to men and women in both recruitment and levels of service. The age barrier and parental consent in recruitment of women in the armed forces were also removed. This made the US military service to recruit women in the Air Force, military and the naval wing which are the main US military academies.
More women were also recruited in the US coast Guard academy and other academies like marine academies. This greatly increased the number of women in the armed forces to about 20 percent.
In the US armed forces, the number of women has been increasing at a remarkable rate despite the fact that it is restricted by the lack of women involvement in the combat jobs. The current rate of growth of women in the US armed forces shows that, in the next ten years, the impact of women in the armed forces will be greater than it is today.
If the movements demanding for equal opportunities for both gender in the military continue getting stronger, women will even undertake combat missions. On the other hand, the impact is also likely to be affected by the harassment of women in the armed forces which may make women fear being involved in some risky missions that endanger their lives.
The objective of this research paper is to explore what will be the impact of women in the armed forces in the US in the next twenty years. The impact is deduced from the look of the current situation in the US armed forces.
Much has been written concerning women in the military or involvement in the armed forces. There is a lot of literature concerning the US armed forces stressing on the issue of women. The information presented in this research is gathered from different literatures that have been written about women in the US armed forces.
Different articles written by different authors are also used in this research. There is no formal research that was carried out. The secondary data sources concerning women in the US armed forces were used. The information was gathered from different sources and was consolidated for reporting purposes.
The scope of the research and the substantive assumptions
The research was carried out in the context of the United States. This is because the main objective of the research was to investigate the type of impact that women would have on the US Armed Forces in the next ten year. The literature materials used are therefore those related to the US women involvement in the armed forces. The research was also limited to secondary sources and secondary data was used for the analysis.
The major assumption made in this research is that, the secondary sources contains valid and up to date information and was considered relevant for this study. The current trend of the changing role and involvement of women in the US armed forces is also assumed to continue for a foreseeable future, that is, the next ten years.
The other assumption is that the Army-Navy Nurses Act that was effected in 1947, April and the Equal Rights Amendment Act that was passed by the US Congress in 1972 will continue being effective and fully enforced.
These acts are expected, for purposes of this study, to remain intact or change in favor of their initial intention. Any other Act to be instituted in future is expected to compliment the vision of the Army-Navy Nurses Act and Equal Rights Amendment Act.
History of Women in the Navy
According to Grassel (2010, 1), the history of women in the US Navy is quite extensive as they have been involved in different capacities of service. Their service rages from nursing the sick and the injured as they did during the early civil wars to clerical and administrative duties among others.
The need for more Navy servant during the Second World War created more opportunities for women to serve in the Navy. Initially, the navy recruited women to offer emergency service and they were regarded as auxiliary corps for women or WAVES and their services were limited in some areas. The WAVES could not serve in combatant aircraft as they were not allowed to get involved in combat missions.
The scope of their service was also limited to only a few states (lower 48) but as the war continued, they served in the overseas US territories but still restricted to a few of them like the Hawaii island. As time went by, the WAVES team grew big to about twenty seven thousands and they became very strong.
They were assigned clerical work but others by their choice opted to serve in other departments like medical and communication as others took part in the naval intelligence unit in the US (Burrelli, 1996, 1).
During the Korean War, the number of US women that participated grew to over 120, 000, most of whom served as nurses. The US Navy Nurse Corps had contributed the largest number women to serve in the Korean War and this really strengthened the men servants. This group was headed by only one superintendent since its establishment in 1908 but by 1947, after the end of World War 2, the group had become an important sector in the medical navy.
According to Grassel (2010, 1), the commissioned rank of the WAVES was not well established at that time but was later established as an autonomous official corps team. The commissioned rank was also instituted comprising of an ensign on the lower hand and a commander being the highest in the rank. Through the review of the Equal Rights Amendment, it was decided by the US congress that there shall be a unified management of both sex in the armed forces.
Through this great step, women were considered in all ratings and a recruiting and training command for women was also set up. This was to ensure that qualified women are given the honor that they deserve and are accorded duties by merit but not by gender rating. The trend has currently been completely changed and women now are serving in all the wings of the armed forces without any gender segregation.
The passing of Army-Navy Nurses Act that officially launched the officials of nurse corps and also the passing of the Equal Rights Review Act have played a big role in redefining the involvement of women in the armed forces. As stated by Grassel, “Women have started to play a more integral role in all areas of the military” and that “Women in the Navy are no exception.” (Grassel, 2010, 1). It is vivid that women currently play a big role in the armed forces and they make a big percentage of the Navy.
Over 15% of women take part in the Navy’s sailors and they even lead the expeditionary strike among other areas initially meant for men. They even take part in the combatant ships and aviation squadrons, the missions that they were initially restricted to venture.
Starting from humble nurse positions, women have now grown to a “battle ready” part of the US navy and their role and involvement in the US armed forces is increasing by the day. They have become an indispensable part of the US armed forces taking the very role and duties initially meant for men.
Clinging to the assumed reliability of the secondary materials used regarding women in the armed forces, it is apparent that the role of women in the military has been increasing. According to Burrelli (1996, 1), Equal Right Movements and the need for recruiting and retaining competent and qualified armed force servants have greatly contributed to the increase in the number of women serving in the US armed forces. Various acts have been instituted which have really changed the view of women in the armed forces.
These acts repealed many restrictions which denied women equal opportunities in the armed forces. Initially, only two percent of women could be recruited in the military but this was repealed in 1967.
The restriction of women involvement in combat missions was repealed in 1991 by the Defense Authorization Act and women could since then be assigned duties in the combat ships and aircraft in both Navy and the Air Force with effect from 1994. Due to these changes, women representation in the armed forces increased to over 12% by the end of 2005.
As stated by Burrelli, “the number of career fields and military jobs open to women has steadily increased” (Burrelli, 1996, 1). This trend shows that, the number of women in the armed forces has been going up and might continue going up as more movements continue demanding for equal opportunities for both men and women.
The leadership position of women in the armed forces.
The United States military is a rather masculine institution with many challenges. Despite these challenges, women have ventured in to this institution and have even occupied the executive positions like General and Flag Officers among others. According to Iskra (2008, 2), women have overcome these challenges because of not considering themselves unequal to men but being ready to take any position or opportunity without limiting themselves to gender.
Their positive attitude towards military institutions has enabled them to work without questioning their ability and this has enabled them to take new opportunities as they arise. The success of women in the military could not have been achieved without the support of their spouses and the general support from the government. Though military jobs have been perceived as being unfavorable to women who wishes to have stable families and social life, many women with a passion to serve in the military have managed both responsibilities.
Some women have joined the armed forces but after serving for some time, they left the military in pursuit of other interests in life (Burrelli, 1996, 1). This is generally dependent on the career aspirations of the individuals because there are other women who have served in the military until they reach the retirement age. Women have risen to high ranks in the military careers to take the positions of GFOs, the General and Flag Officers.
In 1960s, women could not easily excel in the military because of the restriction especially in getting involved in the combat missions. As these barriers get removed, women are now going up ranks in the military as they become eligible in taking up emerging senior positions. According to Iskra (2008, 12), Very few women are promoted to higher ranks because their leadership skills are considered weaker than those of men.
To a great extent, military ability is considered on gender norms and it favors men because they are believed to have a high ability to perform in the military. This is still a barrier to promotion of women in the US armed forces. The positive response of a few women to these barriers is what defines their reason for success and distinguished performance in the US armed forces.
Military readiness for women
The ability of women to accomplish the assigned tasks in the military is questionable considering the number that drops out before they finish training. The US armed forces in general was known for having very strong military readiness but recent researches have shown that it is taking a different shape.
According to Spencer (2000, 1), though the US military is the strongest in the world and charged with a lot of responsibilities, its readiness is wanting. Women could be considered as the source of the weak point because they are increasing in number in the US military yet they are not eligible to participate in some combat missions.
According to Powers (2010, 1), women have been involved in some combat missions and statistics has it that, many have lost their lives while fighting on the ground. The US military have lost military women in almost all wars they have fought and this is raising an alarm to alert the US congress to take action. Some died in revolutionary war and also in the most recent cases in Iraq. There are arguments raised as early as 1996 that women should not be involved in the combat. It is generally agreed that women are not physically strong to undertake combat missions. Women have been even sexually molested and others taken captive especially in the Iraq combat. If these incidents continue, it might hurt the US military readiness.
Pregnancy in the US military
Though sometimes argued otherwise, pregnancy in the military could hurt the military readiness. If we could take readiness to mean the ability of a nation to supply competent forces to fight the right war in time of need, then it is vivid that when women in the army take maternity leave, readiness will have a lack of.
In the current situation, pregnant women are allowed to continue in the US Armed Forces and they are given the due care and medication. When all is said and done, it remains an undeniable fact that pregnancy will affect the military readiness at one given time.
Women at war face sexual violence
Women at war are exposed to the risk of sexual molestation. This is evidenced by the female US soldier who was sexually harassed by Iraqis during the Gulf War and many other cases. This could expose women to cases of unwanted pregnancies which would also affect military readiness. According to BBC, “………30% of military women are raped while serving, 71% are sexually assaulted, and 90% are sexually harassed.” (BBC, 2009, 1).
This case was experienced in 2006-2008 Iraq War where there were 40 women serving and about 28 of them went though rape, assault and sexual harassment and many other cases that were not reported. This would demoralize women serving in the military and make them more ineffective thus affecting the military readiness.
Statistics report: women compare male counterparts
The number of women in the US military has been increasing since World War II. There are currently about 3,300,300 soldiers serving in the US military comprising of both men and women. Women make up to 20% of the US military and the proportion of women compared to men is still increasing. The executive positions taken by women also increased from 13 to 15 percent between 1995 and 2004 and this number was expected to rise in the following years. The table below shows the comparison of the number of men to that of women in the military as of 2002.
Department of Defense Personnel by Sex and Minority Status, Fiscal Year 2002
(N = 172,201)(N = 1,347,581)
Other Minority 1.4%4.8%
(N = 33,370)(N = 240,207)