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Equal Standards for Men, Women in Combat Crucial to Military Success

March 21, 2013 – A professor and a graduate student who is also a United States Army sergeant explored the evolving role of women in the military in a panel discussion at Georgetown Wednesday night.

The “Changing Role of Women in the Military and as Veterans” included a first-person account from Sgt. Margaret Webber Smith (G’13), an Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran and Army ROTC Cadet.

Smith, a homeland security and intelligence policy major at Georgetown Public Policy Institute, says she agrees with the recent Department of Defense decision to allow women in combat, but not if it includes lowering standards.

“You can’t send a female or a male who is unable to meet those standards into combat and have the rest of their team trust them,” she said. “…As long as we stick to [equal standards for both genders], then I do feel that there’s no chance for someone to look at a girl and say, ‘The only reason you made it through is because you’re a female.’ ”

The event, co-sponsored by the Georgetown Veterans Office, Georgetown Women’s Center, the Georgetown University Student Veterans Association and the Office of Federal Relations, included Nancy Sherman, university professor of philosophy and ethics.

Barbara Mujica, Spanish and Portuguese professor and mother of a former marine deployed to Iraq, moderated the panel.

Sherman, a consultant to the U.S. Armed Forces on ethics, resilience and post-traumatic stress disorder since 1995, voiced concerns about morale among female soldiers due to an insular culture that often looks away when issues of rape and assault arise within the ranks.

“The culture needs to change from the commander [on down, and] women commanders need to really take a remarkably strong role on this,” she said. “If trust isn’t there and there’s a sense of betrayal, then it’s really hard to do your job and have confidence.”