The Best Defense

How the debate on gays may have opened the door for women in the military

I suspect that the ease with which the U.S. military has accepted openly gay personnel may have encouraged the Pentagon to drop the much-tattered combat restriction on women. The same arguments that were made against integration of blacks in the 1940s  and of gays over the last 10 years were made against allowing women to openly serve in combat roles.  But, despite those Chicken Littles and Henny Pennies, the sky didn't fall. And the failure of those dire predictions of destroyed unit cohesion to pan out undercut the argument against women in combat.  Also, there was a powerful argument that we already have seen women fight in Iraq -- and be decorated for valor in combat.

Ironically, integrating women into infantry units may be far harder than it was to integrate blacks and male gays. The real battle is yet to come: It will be over whether there will be different standards for women than for men, and if so, how different. Or, as retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Mellinger puts it, "'If you want to ride this ride, you must be this tall' must be the mantra, not 'everyone gets to play.'"

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The Best Defense

Rebecca’s War Dog of the Week: Hunting for land mines in snowy Afghanistan

By Rebecca Frankel

Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

Winter Postcard:

Working at a clip on the snowy ground at Bragram Air Field is Drake, a mine detection dog, and his U.S. Army handler Sgt. Garret Grenier. This dog team (only doing training exercises in this photo taken on Jan. 8th) is part of the 49th Engineer Detachment and their job is to find buried explosives, specifically land mines.

U.S. Army Capt. Jeffrey Vlietstra, the officer-in-charge of the 49th Engineer Detachment, says that the original mission of these dogs that arrived in Afghanistan in 2004 was to find the mines on Bagram Air Field but that "eventually the program expanded and they started working in Kandahar" searching for IEDs.

"Our dog teams are the tip of the spear," Vlietstra explains. "Our engineers clear the way ahead of the maneuver force and our dog teams clear the routes to ensure their safety."

Rebecca Frankel, on leave from her FP desk, is currently writing a book about military working dogs, to be published by Atria Books in August 2013.

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Bonebrake