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The New Armed Forces of the United States
By: Tori Mends-Cole
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Several significant improvements to the U.S. Armed Forces have reshaped today’s American military culture; it’s the new army of the Millennium! Earlier this year, the armed forces made a landmark move towards equalizing women’s roles in the military by lifting its own ban on women in direct combat. Actually, women were already serving in direct combat; modern warfare and the accompanying technological advances changed the geography of the front lines long ago. Officially removing the ban means that women can now be professionally recognized for their bravery, an honor that military men have always enjoyed. Since the 2000s, the military echelons have enacted policies that extended equal benefits to female officers, changed recruitment requirements that discriminated against women, and abandoned the discriminatory practices of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Regrettably, sexual assaults charges brought against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the head of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention Program, will only reinforce negative perceptions of the military’s evolving stance on women related issues, especially on sexual assault. There wasn’t any shock; servicewomen have long suffered sexual abuse from their fellow soldiers and high-ranking officers. The disbelief centered on the irony of Krusinski’s official role. Coincidentally, the day following Krusinski’s arrest, Pentagon released its annual report on sexual assault in the military.

No one expected good news; Senator Carl Levin asserted that Pentagon’s report details a daily estimate of 70 sexual assaults involving military personnel. Pentagon’s report ultimately revealed that the 2012 sexual assault rate rose 6% over the 2011 rate. Disturbingly, the sexual assault rate in the military is rising whereas the same rate in the civilian population is declining. The rate disparity is more than an embarrassment for the country. Both President Obama and Defense Secretary Hagel expressed an intolerance and outrage for sexual assault in the military. The military is on the verge of fully integrating women into the armed forces, but this report is a catastrophic illustration of the amount of work that still needs to be done.

In an effort to uphold its promise to servicewomen, the military is taking a strong public stance on improving the lives of servicewomen and punishing sex offenders. The Pentagon introduced new policies to fight and prosecute sexual offenses under military law. Things have come a long way from the days when archaic views against women in combat roles forced a revolutionary few to hide their genders on the frontlines of the American Revolution. However, more progress is necessary. New policies must include the immediate firing of offenders who are found guilty, but the military must begin a long-term educational campaign to show a high value for servicewomen across military branches.

Krusinski’s battered face reflected one woman’s refusal to be his victim, but it was also a reflection of the beating the armed forces has received in recent days. Hopefully for the armed forces, at least, better days are ahead.

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About the Author
Tori Mends-Cole is the Communications Coordinator at the American Civil Liberties Union. She holds an M.A. in communication from the University of Maryland at College Park.
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