Women have played a variety of supporting roles in war for as long as people have waged them, but U.S. policy forbids them from serving at the point of the spear.
Even so, two current wars with no real delineated front or rear and a foggy understanding of who and where the enemy is have repeatedly put women in combat situations.
The question is not will they fight. A military policewoman in Iraq just received the Silver Star for leading her team in breaking the back of an ambush after her convoy was attacked and women serve in direct combat roles as pilots of fighter jets and attack helicopters.
Rather, military brass wonder if women can hack life in the field with the guys and whether men and women can go about the business of war without distraction.
All this leaves women with a decided disadvantage in an environment where combat service has a direct link to advancing your career.