Legislation introduced to overturn ban on women in combat roles

Monday, August 01, 2011

Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif.
Member, House Armed Services Committee

From the highest levels of the Pentagon to the fox holes on the front lines in Afghanistan, women are integral to the success of the United States military, and they sacrifice their lives every day to protect our country.

Whether pilots, medics, translators or base commanders, women are saving, leading, and invigorating our nation’s armed forces.

As the highest ranking woman on the House Armed Services Committee, I have worked hard to make military service a strong working environment and career option for female service members who serve this nation bravely and honorably.

However, the military remains a distinctly male-dominated culture, where women often struggle to find their place.

Our nation owes female service members the services and benefits they need to be healthy and successful.

I have worked with Pentagon leaders to ensure service women have improved health services overseas.

One of the most pressing health and safety issues for women in the military is the prevalence of sexual assault crimes and sexual harassment of our female service members.

Although the military has made great efforts to recognize and address this serious problem, it remains a persistent and shameful problem which requires renewed commitment and dedicated action by leaders at all levels.

I believe the Department of Defense should adopt and enforce a zero-tolerance policy and find new ways to keep itself accountable for providing a safe and respectful environment for its personnel.

I believe, beyond the various programs the services have put in place, ultimately the culture will only change when individuals realize there will be severe consequences and that they will be held accountable for crimes such as sexual assault.

Commanders must take immediate and appropriate actions when sexual assault occurs.

No soldier should have to suffer sexual assault at the hands of other soldiers in an institution as disciplined and venerable as the United States military.

Female soldiers also face a significant professional barrier: the combat exclusion policy which systematically denies female soldiers active combat duty in war.

I strongly believe in giving our female service members both the privilege and official recognition of serving their country in direct combat. It’s very difficult for female service members to climb the professional ladder and receive promotions without combat experience.

The truth is that military women already fight in combat every day, all over the world. We need a policy that matches the daily reality of female combat service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I’ve introduced H.R. 1928, the Women’s Fair and Equal Right to Military Service Act, which would require the military to overturn its ban on women serving in combat roles.

I will continue to fight for this groundbreaking legislation as long as I serve in Congress.

Female soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines serve with pride and honor.

Let’s celebrate their crucial contributions and sacrifices and make the military the strongest working environment possible for females who fight on the front line of freedom and democracy.