The American Legion believes that the U.S. Armed Forces are comprised of the most professional and effective military personnel in the world. At the very least, maintaining the current physical and mental requirements and qualifications for acceptance into military service is crucial. Additionally, physical and mental standards must be developed so as to insure a single duty-specific standard, regardless of gender or age, depending on Military Occupational Specialty.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 mandated the creation of the Military Leadership Diversity Commission (MLDC); the commission’s report was delivered to President Barack Obama on March 15 of this year. One of its recommendations is the elimination of the “Combat Exclusion Policies for women” including the removal of barriers and inconsistencies, to create a level playing field for all who are qualified.
American Legion Resolution No. 21, passed during the Spring National Executive Committee meetings this week, opposes the position that a level playing field is justification for this recommendation. The American Legion’s position is that favoring any segment of the force simply to increase the percentage of promotions for that segment is absolutely wrong. The resolution – “Uniform Standards for Combat Military Occupational Specialties” – in part reads, “The American Legion believes that without such strong oversight by Congress of the physical and mental requirements, there exists the possibility of incremental changes that would reduce the physical and mental qualifications and requirements for the sake of accommodating personnel for ‘social experiments,’ and would have a detrimental or a disastrous effect on the combat effectiveness of our nation’s Army and Marine Combat Arms, Special Forces and Navy Seals.”
The resolution cites the significant roles and contributions that women serving in the U.S. military have demonstrated, and that the more than 213,000 women serving on active duty and 71,182 in the National Guard and reserves all are “serving with distinction and valor.” It is also noted that women veterans have been eligible for membership in The American Legion since the organization’s founding – a year before Congress passed what later became the 19th Amendment, which prohibited state and federal agencies from gender-based restrictions on voting.
Also noted in Resolution 21:
- Women currently are excluded from serving in Combat Arms Military Occupational Specialties in the Army, Marines and Navy Seals, where close combat, high-intensity engagements with the enemy on a daily basis are expected.
- The combat exclusion clause is based in large part on the 1992 findings of the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Military, based on the physical requirements of service in combat situations.
- Women are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan in low-intensity combat situations, and in truck convoys, military police units, female engagement teams and in Afghan villages, interacting and assisting Afghan women.
- Any member of the U.S. Armed Forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are on a battlefield with a constantly changing definition and no truly secure areas.
Last May during its NEC Meetings, The American Legion passed a resolution that supports the removal of gender-based restrictions as long as the requirements for combat duty – or any other Military Occupational Specialty – are not compromised.