Women in the U.S. military gradually have been exposed to combat. We all know for the most part — from what we’ve read — women have held their own, even excelled under fire.

The view of the lawsuit filed by four female members of the military challenging the Pentagon’s ban on women serving in ground combat is a move to exert pressure on the military. In the meantime, the high ranking brass is trying to determine what the effect would be on morale. This is the second lawsuit this year to challenge a ban that was enacted in 1994. That rule bars women from being assigned to ground combat units because they are considered more dangerous, and they usually are in a battle zone for longer periods.

We have wondered why women would want that kind of duty because it’s pretty dirty business, and we just aren’t talking about the fighting. Maybe it’s different in today’s wars, but we don’t believe it’s that different when it comes to the daily living for ground troops in a battle zone. Women are neater than men as a general rule and they like things to be clean and orderly. We would call it ladylike!  

When living in a hole in the ground, a bunker, trench line, shell-ravished structure, it’s, to be polite, a filthy lifestyle. Rats seem to drop out of the sky to join you. It’s a bit uncomfortable when they crawl over your body, even your face, when you try to sleep. The longer in that spot, the filthier it gets, and the more rats that get fat off the leftover rations. Then there is the shelling, and other elements of warfare to deal with.

As for the human waste, it’s an open air movement and an entrenching tool takes over from a flushing device. It’s irritating if the ground is hard and rocky. One learns to improvise. Then there’s the matter of cleansing the body. If there is a creek or river nearby, and it is flowing, that’s a luxury for washing the body, brushing your teeth and shaving. You hoped there wasn’t a unit upstream to pollute the water.

Change of clothes? It could be a month or so when that happens.  In Korea they had shower points. Wasn’t bad and they gave you clean fatigues. If they fit, it was a good day. Problem was by the time you got back to your unit, riding in a jeep with the windshield down (required in an incoming round area), you were almost as dirty and dust covered as when you arrived at a shower point. You get used to yellow feet from socks that haven’t been washed or changed for a period, endured wetness and the dye in the cloth that adds the color. You stink, but everybody around you emits the same smell, you get used to it. It’s not so bad if it’s winter and, well, it’s just another day on line.

Men adjust to this environment, but they can get very gross. We remember seeing a GI who used his steel helmet, or pot, for a sink to shave with cold creek water. When he got through shaving, he brushed his teeth in the same water! He got a clean shave but we don’t know about how clean his mouth was. Why he didn’t brush his teeth first before shaving is a mystery.

Why would a female want to live like this, and we aren’t talking just about shaving? We don’t doubt some could adjust and pull their own weight. There isn’t much privacy and the living can be close. We already have that closeness in a number of military situations. There have been some problems.

The training is better today than it was when they had to get the troops to the battlefields in a hurry, such as in World War II. But even with longer training periods, living in the field at home is not the same as conditions in a battle zone. In training, you always know there will be a shower and clean fatigues at some point. In combat, that can be an unknown for ground troops.

Women are now doing many jobs once reserved for the male. That’s true in the military. If they want all that goes with ground combat, qualify for whatever role, the Pentagon should give its okay. Some females could handle it, some couldn’t. That’s also true of the male. We don’t know why women want to be combat ground troops except it’s been stated that they stand a better chance for promotions if they have had combat experience. As for overall troop morale, there would be a mix reaction because men are men and women are women.