The Pentagon announced on Feb. 9 that it would make changes to existing regulations ultimately easing restrictions on women in combat. The Department of Defense staed that it would be opening up 14,000 jobs to women in the military.

According to the Associated Press, the Pentagon guidelines “still ban women from serving as infantry, armor and special operations forces, which are considered the most dangerous combat jobs.”

Despite the lack of involvement of women on the front lines, the  military remains one of the most powerful and comparatively progressive armies in the world.

In contrast, the Chinese military, the world’s largest in terms of the number of troops, only allows women in support positions. The Chinese also take it so far as to require women to sing and dance in order to be recruited, thus demoralizing the position for these women.

It would be wise for the United States to review the 2010 survey by the British Ministry of Defense that examined the militaries of 12 countries which allow women in close combat roles. Considering that “combat” is a somewhat ambiguous term in this day and age, the BMD went so far as to define combat as “engaging an enemy on the ground with individual or crew served weapons while being exposed to hostile fire and to a high probability of direct physical contact with the hostile force’s personnel.”

“In the type of war that it is, women may be harmed regardless of being in combat units,” said Jon Simkins, a junior at George Mason University who served as a Marine in Iraq from 2006 to 2008.  “There aren’t clear-cut enemy front lines … you’re always at the mercy of the ambush. It’s what we are always supposed to be prepared for.”

The positions that continue to remain off -limits to women constitute one-fifth of active duty military positions. One major change to the existing policy allows women serving in specific specialties to serve at the battalion level, thus allowing them the opportunity to come into much closer contact with what the military defines as real combat.

“And to me, this change in policy only makes the policy reflect the reality that we have been experiencing,” said Kayla Williams, a former Army sergeant who served as an intelligence specialist in  in 2003, during an interview with National Public Radio.

Currently, women make up 15 percent of the nation’s 1.5 million active duty military personnel.

“They can serve as transportation personnel,” said Ryan Kelty, a sociologist from Washington College with research interest in several fields pertaining to the military. “They can be military police. They may not be the ones knocking in the door, but they are standing right next to the man who is. Women can do these jobs and they can do them well.”

Despite many people’s accolades for the revision, GOP candidate Rick Santorum stands adamantly against it. “The issue is — and certainly one that has been talked about for a long, long time — is how men would react to seeing women in harm’s way, or potentially being injured or in a vulnerable position, and not being concerned about accomplishing the mission.”

“I also find it a little absurd,” said Williams in response to Santorum’s remark, “Because we reserve our nation’s highest honors for troops who risk their own lives for the lives of their comrades. Why it would be a sign of valor for them to do so for their male comrades but somehow damaging to the military if they were to do so for a female comrade seems a little baffling to me.”

The next step will be to eliminate the co-localization rule that keeps women out of positions that are localized with direct combat units. Currently, the enforcement of this rule has not prevented women from serving alongside men in the field, but as attachments instead of as soldiers assigned to the combat unit. Since 2001, 144 women have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, 60 of whom died in combat.

It is often assumed that problems such as sexual harassment, lack of privacy and an overall upset within the male ranks will arise as a result of eliminating the co-localization rule.

“It is my opinion that the combat exclusion policy actually increases the risk of sexual harassment,” Williams said. “By making it clear to infantry troops that female personnel are not considered full soldiers, it institutionalizes women’s status as second-class citizens within the military.”

Williams’ opinion is most likely widely held among the female population. Though we are a progressive society, many women feel as though they are persecuted against based purely upon their gender. It’s not just within the military, but rather a daily occurrence in the media, workplaces and educational establishments. Women are constantly categorized as being weak, emotional and impressionable, among other lovely adjectives. However, it’s a rarity for someone to realize a woman’s strength, especially when that strength is associated with danger.

“I don’t doubt women’s capabilities, I just think there would be an adjustment period,” Simkins said while quietly defending women’s right to serve in combat. “It’s not that there are many anti-female opinions. It’s more so that the lingo and the slurs in the military — something that’s part of our daily routine — could be offensive to women.”

While some people believe that the inclusion of women in direct combat areas will cause an uproar, I believe that it’s fair to at least give them a chance. It would be idiotic to make snap judgments based upon appearances and gender alone, for there are many more underlying characteristics embedded within women than meets the eye.

Surely, our military could be categorized as equally powerful with the inclusion of women, if not more so. It’s not as though allowing women the opportunity to serve in combat somehow takes away from a man’s opportunity, nor does it degrade the job that’s being done. Rather, our military would finally see the day of composition based upon fairness and equality proven through physical training and ability rather than gender biases alone.