Women, who make up about 15 percent of the armed forces, have been barred from about 17 percent of the positions.
Not because they had been proven unable to do the job or unwilling to the job, but simply because.
So the decision to allow qualified female service members to serve directly in combat positions was long overdue.
For one thing, it's been obvious for some time that the modern battlefield doesn't allow for the neat separation of combat and non-combat roles. That's put women in harm's way without official recognition of that depth of commitment and contribution.
For another, the principle that Americans who can do the work should be allowed to do the work has been widely embraced by our society for at least a generation. Extending that principle to the armed services is, to some extent, a simple matter of fairness. Our military ought to reflect our civilian values.
That said, the particulars will require a careful balancing act. The business of the armed forces is deadly serious. Literally.
Forming the tip of the spear, combat soldiers are engaged in the business of killing the enemy.
In the process, soldiers risk the dismemberment and death of comrades and of themselves.
It is entirely appropriate, then, that combat positions will have gender-neutral standards of fitness. Every combat soldier must be able to carry her weight -- and more, as when a fallen comrade must be evacuated by hand from the battlefield while under fire.
So it is that opening the door to women is a matter of fairness, but one that is constrained by the nature of that deadly serious occupation.
-- The Kingston Daily Freeman