Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted the ban on women in combat last week. His decision garnered both praise and criticism. American women in the military have served on the frontlines for years. 152 women have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Retired Colonel Martha McSally, the first female combat pilot in the U.S., and Retired Lieutenant General Jerry Boykin, former head of the U.S. Special Forces Command, debated the issue on Fox News Sunday. Gen. Boykin said, “It’s not an issue of women in combat; women are in combat already.”

He believes that it creates an environment, because of their living situation, that is not conducive to readiness. “My issue here is mixing the genders in Infantry units, Armor units and Special Forces units is not a positive.”

Some who argue against women in combat believe that females aren’t as physically capable as men. Col. McSally said it comes down to treating people as individuals. “The current policy

basically says that no women can meet the standard and therefore all men can. So that’s like saying, Pee-wee Herman is okay to be in combat but Serena and Venus Williams are not going to meet the standard.”


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Gen. Boykin agrees that some women can meet the standards. He said it comes down to privacy, “as a man who has been there, […] I certainly don’t want to be in that environment with a female because it’s degrading and humiliating enough to do your personal hygiene and the other normal functions among your teammates.”

Col. McSally responded, “Women and men are serving together out there in combat. Privacy is a red herring. I mean you could figure out the privacy issue, as long as you have the most capable, qualified force. That should be no reason for these exclusionary policies.”

When it comes to the issue of sexual assault, Col. McSally said, “The way we need to address is it obviously is find those who are the criminals and make sure we rat them out of the military. You don’t avoid the issue by keeping women out of those units, because if those men are assaulters, they’re going to assault civilians and others.”

Listen to their arguments for and against women in combat:

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