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Loyola Students Sound Off on Lifted Women in Combat Ban

Photo courtesy U.S. Marines

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 7:45 a.m., Sharyn Chesna sees groups of people walking through the Loyola University Chicago campus fully decked in military garb, just leaving from their morning drills.

“I had seen them nearly every other day, but I just thought they were a part of something else,” Chesna said. “I had no idea they were students!”

Chesna, a 20-year-old Loyola business student, was surprised to find out there was a Military Services major here at Loyola. A Facebook poll of 30 students showed that half of those who responded had no idea that there was a military major at Loyola, eight had seen other students in military garb, but assumed it had something to do with their life outside of college and seven knew about the military presence.

While Loyola’s military major may have gone unnoticed by many students, given the recent news that women will be allowed to enter military combat roles that were once restricted, Loyola students had mixed reactions about the measure and how it should be implemented.

“I think they should be able to fight, but I believe they should be in segregated companies, essentially men and women should be segregated,” Chesna said. “I think it would eliminate gender bias by keeping the groups’ gender secret. Then when choosing what groups to station, the gender of that group would not be known to the person deciding where to send them. Now there’s not a possibility of one group being chosen over another.”

Jasmine Sanborn, 21, a communications major at Loyola, supported the new measure, though she understood the basis of some criticism of it.

“I can see the argument for physical limitations, but I don’t see the problem with it,” Sanborn said. “If the women who are allowed to do it are physically and mentally capable of being able to handle it, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be allowed in combat.”

The physical requirements for combat have been a major issue that has been debated since the news report was made public.

Arizona Central, a Republican-based news source out of Arizona, wrote a report titled “Wimps in Congress allowing Women in Combat” stating that women were not physically capable of being in combat roles and that Congress was simply buckling under the belt of fairness. The report also stated that out of fear of not seeming fair, the military would lower the physical requirements so that women would be more inclined to participate in combat roles.

This is not the case however, according to the BBC, which gathered reports from military recruiters around the United States.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who lifted the ban on women in combat on Jan. 24, said in a Pentagon press conference two days later: “Female service members have faced the reality of combat, proving their willingness to fight and, yes, to die to defend their fellow Americans.” He goes on to say that the military will be made to raise its standards for all women wanting to join. Normally women are not required to do push-ups or pull-ups to join any service, but starting Jan. 1, 2014, they will be required to do so.

The opinion of whether or not women should be allowed to join combat shifts slightly depending on gender. A few male Loyola students who were interviewed for this story said they would not like for women to be in combat roles.

Frank Baxter, a 22-year-old business major, was uneasy about answering.

“I don’t want to seem sexist, but I think there are worse things than death for a woman in combat,” he said. “Torture for a man, well, that sucks! But for a woman, I feel like it could be so much worse.”

His opinion was shared by a few surrounding male students, who chimed in.

“If I were to see a girl fall in battle, it would break my heart,” said Mike Collins, a 21-year-old pre-med student. “I can’t imagine what it would be like actually knowing her and fighting along side her!”

Two other males in the group agreed that if it was what a woman wanted to do, then she should be allowed to do it. They went on to say that they had a lot of respect for people who wanted to fight for America’s rights, because none of them wanted to do it themselves. Baxter and Collins both nodded in agreement.

Only women who are in active duty have the possibility to be sent into combat zones. The percentage of women in active duty is very low: the highest percentage being the Air Force at 19.1 percent and the lowest being the Marine Corps at 6.8 percent.

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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.