A Retired First Sergeant's View on Women in Combat

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A Retired First Sergeant's View on Women in Combat
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SMSgt Barnes speaking at his retirement ceremony

As the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on gay marriage this week, Yahoo asked readers and contributors to share what one cultural issue absorbs their interest. Here's one perspective.

COMMENTARY | Going through Marine Corps boot camp in 1980, there were no women recruits and I naturally believed that women didn't belong in combat zones. I still don't believe they should be in units where ground combat is likely. However, I support making allowances for support roles in combat zones after serving in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait with highly capable women.

This issue shouldn't be regarded based on blowing political winds. Aside from an oft debated assertion that men naturally protect women, there is the issue of sleeping and hygiene arrangements. Are we willing to totally forego gender segregation for these issues? Or are we willing to have a commander spend extra time and resources to ensure separate accommodations?

Army retired LTG Jerry Boykin was right in saying, "My issue here is mixing the genders in Infantry units, Armor units and Special Forces units is not a positive." He said this as part of interviews on Fox News Sunday that also featured Air Force retired Col Martha McSally. I served with McSally in Kuwait and have incredible respect for her as the first female combat pilot. But, she is hardly the person to address this issue. As a pilot, she flew from a fixed military installation and easily had segregated quarters for required crew rest.

The military should not be treated as a social science laboratory by ideologues. This should never be a political football tossed about in the safe and secure halls of Washington D.C.

-- Tony Barnes, first sergeant, retired in Colorado.

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