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Be fair to women in military

The role of women in the United States military is evolving. As outlined by Congress, however, women still are not allowed to join men in front-line combat.

Some are unhappy about that prohibition and, although it would be unwise, the prohibition may be lifted in time. In the meantime, as their armed-forces role evolves, women's standards for training ought to evolve, as well.Some critics have focused exclusively on the combat scenario to the detriment of understanding the professional way the military is handling the desire by some women to be more involved in military operations.

Yes, if a 200-plus pound male soldier is wounded in a foxhole and has to be carried across a field, chances are he would be better off having another 200-pound man in the foxhole instead of a woman.

But how likely is that to happen? Under current policy, it would be virtually impossible.

That doesn't mean women shouldn't receive rigorous training to be prepared for times when they might come under fire. Even though the Army and Marine Corps bar women from serving in infantry, artillery and armored units, rear areas of support in battle can quickly become forward areas.

The different branches of the Armed Forces realize that and are adjusting their training regimens accordingly.

This is the first year, for example, that women in the Marine Corps are undergoing combat training alongside their male counterparts. Previously, they only received limited combat training as part of boot camp.

The Army is in the process of adjusting its physical fitness standards for both men and women, making some tougher for female soldiers and some easier for male soldiers so that there is more equity in training.

While women are barred from front-line combat they can excel in other areas of the military establishment. And many do.

However, if Congress should ever decide to allow women to be subject to as much combat experience as men, then those evolving training standards would need to reach a new level, and fast. Training standards would have to be equally tough.

Just as a male soldier wants to make sure that the person next to him can perform under the stress of combat, a female soldier would want that same assurance.