Talkback: Should women in military be allowed to serve in combat?
Women have been formally barred from serving in most combat roles since 1994, but a federal lawsuit seeks to overturn the policy.
The suit argues the ban is based on gender exclusion without a justifying objective. Women are already effectively serving in combat roles, the suit said, but often without the level of training provided to their male counterparts or the recognition that would enable them to advance.
Those who oppose lifting the ban argue that women may lack the physical strength needed on the battlefield and that their male counterparts may be distracted and go out of their way to protect them.
From the Times staff writer Lee Romney's Wednesday story on the suit:
Capt. Zoe Bedell graduated at the top of her Marine Corps officer candidates class. In deployments to Afghanistan, she oversaw "female engagement teams" that accompanied male infantry units into the field — living and working in identical conditions.
Yet since 1994, the Defense Department has formally excluded women from most direct ground combat positions, creating a growing disconnect with the realities of warfare.
Bedell said she left active duty last year because the policy limited her potential for promotion by failing to officially recognize her combat leadership experience. (In military parlance, the female teams that played a critical role in communicating with Afghan women were "attached," not "assigned," to infantry units.)
On Tuesday, she joined a federal lawsuit challenging the blanket exclusion.
"The modern battlefield means there are no front lines or safe areas," Bedell, 27 and now a Marine Corps reservist, said during a news conference at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. The ACLU is representing her, three female members of the Marines, the California Air National Guard and the Army Reserve, and the nonprofit Service Women's Action Network.
"My Marines supported infantry units," Bedell said. "They patrolled every day. They wore the same gear. They carried the same rifles. And when my Marines were attacked, they fought back."
Is the gender-based policy antiquated or should direct-combat roles be reserved for men? Let us know in the comments section below or by tweeting your thoughts @LANow.
Photo: Marine Capt. Zoe Bedell said she left active duty last year because military policy limited her potential for promotion by failing to officially recognize her combat leadership experience. Credit: Ben Margot / Associated Press