The CGSC (Command and General Staff College) Student Blog over at the CAC Blog (CAC = Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, a nerve-center for senior-level Army professional education) has a post up about the role of women in the military, specifically the current prohibition against allowing women to serve in combat arms roles.
The documentary Lioness that he refers to is a film that follows a handful of female Marines in Iraq who were attached to Army units to assist during presence patrols, particularly in the sensitive area of female searches: for conservative Muslims, it is strictly taboo for a woman to be touched by a male that is not their husband. The assembly of "Lioness teams" and attachment of these teams to combat patrols allowed units to carefully avoid inciting cultural/religious rage during search operations. Incidentally, I met Colonel Mike Cabrey (one of the senior Army leaders featured heavily in the documentary) when he visited Fordham University's Army ROTC back in 2007. He was in town to sit during a Q&A panel following one of the screenings of the film at the Angelika, and took the time to speak to our cadets. I was pleased to run into him again at a formal event at Fort Sill, and he is currently in command of the 214th Fires Brigade.
During my time in Iraq, women were consistently serving in "combat" roles. The current distinction as set forth by Congress follows the lines the Army has drawn between combat arms jobs and combat support or combat service support. Combat arms branches are those that historically involved close or heavy combat with the enemy: infantry, tanks, artillery, etc.
The problem is that war has changed significantly, and the anachronistic view that women are incapable of serving in forward combat roles is just plain outdated. Now, even combat support branches like MPs, engineers, etc., are all doing the same jobs as the combat arms guys: patrolling on the streets in Iraq. Some were very capable, others were not: nothing different than what we see on the male side of the house. I can say without a doubt that there are plenty of women in uniform that can outperform (physically and academically) plenty of male soldiers.
The Army is in a transition period (whether it likes it or not). I believe we will see DADT repealed fairly soon in the future (the next few years), and the prohibition against women in combat arms may soon follow. Just as with DADT, there is always going to be x percentage of the American population at-large and y percentage of the military population that will oppose change. And that's fine. But when Congress makes a change, the military needs to bring feet and knees together, render a smart salute, move out sharply and execute: leaders at all levels are going to have be flexible and adaptive.