In a milestone for gender equality, the Pentagon is finally ending the combat ban for women - a ban that had become woefully obsolete. At last, women warriors will get the recognition and promotions they deserve. The brass ceiling has been shattered, and that’s good news for both women and the military.
Or is it? I admire tough fighting women as much as anyone. Their leadership skills are as good as men’s. They have important roles to play in war, and they’ve been on the front lines - and dying - for years.
But please, people. Let’s get real. Women cannot equal men in ground combat, the kind of dirty, brutal stuff that (fortunately) makes up a very minor part of modern military life, especially post-Afghanistan. It’s not that they can’t be trained to kill - they can. The issue is that the physical differences between men and women are very large, and on the battlefield, they really matter, and can’t be wished away. Men are better fighters because they are bigger and stronger and can endure far more physical punishment before they break down.
The average female soldier is “about five inches shorter than the male soldier, has half the upper body strength, lower aerobic capacity and 37 per cent less muscle mass,” Stephanie Gutmann, author of The Kinder, Gentler Military, wrote in the New Republic. “She cannot pee standing up … She tends, particularly if she is under the age of 30 (as are 60 per cent of military personnel) to get pregnant.”
U.S. Marine Captain Katie Petronio is as tough and motivated as they come - a combat engineer officer with five years of active service, during which she led many field operations. She used to think women like her could serve in the infantry, but she has changed her mind. For one thing, women are far more prone to injury than men. Her last stint in Afghanistan was so gruelling that after seven months, she had lost a large amount of muscle mass and stopped producing estrogen. “I went from breaking school records to being broken in a rather short amount of time,” she told an interviewer. “And I was only doing a portion of what my infantry brethren were doing.”
Do you want a purple band-aid, Mark?
‘It’s hard,’ Sanford said Wednesday of his decision to run, in an interview with the Charleston, S.C., station WCBD-TV. ‘I’m scared to death in human terms. I mean, as I say, I’m a wounded warrior. I’m going to step out as best I can and try and advance ideas that I’ve long believed in. But it’s not without fear and trepidation because you know you’re going to get hit, and you’re going to get hit hard.’
It has been reported that nearly 300,000 women have served in combat zones since 2001 and there were 12,000 women serving in Iraq at one time, and there are even more in Afghanistan right now. While females are technically in support roles those jobs include flying aircraft, military police units and vehicle drivers.
It is a fact that many have come under fire with unfriendly forces.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps in a msg called ALMAR 012/12, “Assignment of Women to Ground Combat Units” wrote:
“I HAVE DIRECTED THAT MEASURED AND RESPONSIBLE RESEARCH BE CONDUCTED TO PROVIDE ME WITH THE INFORMATION AND DATA NECESSARY TO MAKE AN INFORMED AND EDUCATED RECOMMENDATION ON POTENTIAL POLICY CHANGES. THE CUMULATIVE RESEARCH EFFORT WILL INCLUDE AN EXCEPTION TO THE GROUND ASSIGNMENT POLICY, QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH, AND A TOTAL FORCE SURVEY.”
Contrary to many news media reports the Commandant has not assigned Women Marines to ground combat. Please note that he has asked for research on the subject.
I asked a senior Woman Marine office (retired), whom I hold in high regard and could serve in combat with me any time, what she thought of the research.
“I actually think it’s a good move to see how many women actually volunteer for the training/research and then make it through. It may be a very small number and mostly put an end to the controversy, at least for the Marine Corps — that is, as long as the women actually have to keep pace with their male counterparts throughout the training. If Infantry Officer’s Course (IOC) remains unchanged, I suspect a similar thing will happen as happened in the 70’s when Gen Wilson integrated OCS and TBS — female Marines were initially injured in such large numbers (breaking ankles and legs) that the Corps had to scale down the obstacle course and eventually develop a completely different “agility” course for the female candidates. If IOC stays exactly as is, most of the female volunteers will likely drop out or be dropped. The Corps will have to decide beforehand how they will assign the Women Marines who complete the training and also make it clear to the volunteers beforehand that they are not going to be assigned to infantry units directly. I imagine the volunteers will have to sign a letter of understanding so the Press and/or the ACLU won’t be able to claim discrimination.
“It would be a travesty if the Corps were forced by DoD to make the IOC training ‘gender neutral’ and, thereby, lower the standards to accommodate women. I pray that never happens.”