Combat Infantry – Should Women Serve?

Now women have the chance to live and die like combat infantry soldiers.  Is this an opportunity to excel and lead others to victory or a bad mistake?

…In life, as we all know, there are no guarantees of success. Not everyone is going to be able to be a combat soldier. But everyone is entitled to a chance.  Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta

Female Grunts

Well ladies, on Thursday 24 January 2013, the Pentagon officially lifted the ban on a woman’s right and duty to serve in combat. The reform is to be phased in within a three year period and unless Congress delays or blocks the recommended change, the new policy should go into effect this summer.  Yet, this is still a volunteer military so for now the job opportunity is only open for eager and qualified candidates.

We’ll integrate women in a way that enhances opportunity for everyone. This means setting clear standards of performance for all occupations based on what it actually takes to do the job. It also means ensuring that these standards are gender neutral in occupations that will open to women. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey

In the past, women were assigned to combat units but never below the brigade level.  The 1994 Combat Exclusion Law, a ban which restricts women from serving as front line combat soldiers, stipulates that,

Women shall be excluded from assignment to units below the brigade level whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground.  

is now no longer a hindrance to a woman’s ambition to try to qualify for infantry duty.  At this time a claim is being made that gender neutral standards will be set and that women will be given no favor, they either meet the standards or they don’t, but is this true?  

Phyllis Schlafly, who has been on the vanguard for protecting women’s interests from unquestioned radical feminism does raise some very valid concerns.  First, is the issue of ‘Diversity Metrics’, in this case a quota of females within a combat unit that commanders will be pressured to achieve. Schlafly believes this will not only change requirements for women to successfully pass into the infantry and special ops ranks but adversely affect men as well.  Therefore, she charges that any claim that standards will not be lowered is false and will indeed impact the reality of the outcome. 

The services will be required to introduce a “critical mass” or a “significant cadre” of women, expected to be 10 to 15 percent, into previously all-male units.  The mandate for diversity metrics will trump truth, honor, and common sense.

Furthermore, she informs us that, 

The Defense Department has recommended that a new Diversity Czar (officially called a Chief Diversity Officer) be established to monitor “diversity management.”  This Diversity Czar, who will run the Military Leadership Diversity Commission (MLDC) will be responsible, to ensure that the diversity effort continues, demonstrated diversity leadership must be assessed throughout careers and made … a criterion for nomination and confirmation to the 3- and 4-star ranks. 

I checked her claim and indeed it is so. Therefore, promotions will depend on positive results of politically correct policies that feminists have been pushing for years. Though the Military is the ultimate collective and allows for change, it is historically established on a more traditional paradigm, one that has proven successful through real trials of fire and blood.  Yet now the incentive for any officer to survive politically and move up in the ranks will be effected by positive reports of “equal” performance between genders in order to prove “diversity leadership”.  Make no mistake, when the stakes are this high, false information will be given. 

If this is true and I can certainly see the handwriting on the wall of how it would be, then Schlafly is right in her prediction that men will be expected to ignore the fact that “gender-free training” is not the same as “gender-fair training”.  To make my point, Retired Army Lt. Gen. Julius W. Becton Jr., the vice chair on the Military Leadership Diversity Commission has stated,  

There are no efforts whatsoever to decrease standards. The standards are proven, and we want people to come up to the standards.  www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=63065

Yet, in spite of this comforting policy statement the MLDC report admits that new “diversity management” involves fair treatment, but it is not about treating everyone the same. (p.18)

So what does this mean?  

This means that “diversity” and “fairness” have been redefined away from the idea of recognition and reward by virtue of individual merit.  In fact, the individual disappears altogether.  This raises the argument among those who can read between the lines, that say this radical imperative of “new diversity” becomes a banner for gender-based group rights, which will result in discrimination against more qualified and deserving men.

Military Leadership Diversity Commission (MLDC) Report, is another name for gender-based quotas that treat people not as individuals, but as part of favored or disfavored demographic groups. 

The present integration of women may also include Special Forces, but for now the Navy SEALs can find solace in the term “exceptions being allowed”. Yet, if each branch of service is required to develop policies that integrate women into the most physically demanding jobs without loosing male competition, then the standards must be lowered to the point where the average young and fit male and female can achieve positive results, on this basic level a “gender neutral” tag will be slapped on.

The difference of upper-body strength between men and women is well established. When I go to the gym these days I see many fine young women that are in great shape and work hard to stay that way.  They are toned and strong and above average, yet even the best of them will find it extremely difficult to carry a wounded comrade to safety or walk for days dressed in full battle gear.  To some degree these women are most likely to show some success for their efforts, but what about the average female?  Put that together with no showers for weeks at a time and yes we must speak about it, a woman’s cycle.  There is no way a woman can carry enough tampons on top of all her other gear to be sure of her needs for weeks or even months at a time! I am not talking about mood swings of PMS, I only refer to the fact that women bleed and gunfire or shrapnel has nothing to do with it.  

On the lighter side of this issue, Rush Limbaugh made the following amusing suggestion on his 25 January 2013 broadcast:

What we do is we create a force. We call it the All-American First Cavalry Amazon Battalion, and we segregate women enough in various bases and barracks so that you have synchronized menstrual cycles.

They’re timed in such a way that on any day of the year, you are guaranteed to have a fighting female force all in PMS, all during premenstrual syndrome. You can do it because they synchronize the cycles. So you house them together. It wouldn’t take much of a computer program to figure this out. No matter when you need them, you’re always going to have a combat-ready battalion of women on PMS. Pregnancy problem solved — and, and they’re pretty damn good during combat at the same time.

Talk to any man about it. I’m not being sexist here. We’re just dealing with reality. That’s how you do it. Now, I proposed this way back in the nineties. Put Molly Yard or whoever the leader of the NOW gang is in charge of this battalion. The possibilities are limitless here, and it accomplishes everything. We get women in combat, no pregnancy, and they’re ready to go on any day of the year.

They’re combat ready on PMS.

It’s all made possible by that miracle of synchronization that nobody can explain, but it does happen.

See? We try to help here.  

Then to make this little story more interesting Limbaugh proclaimed a message from an email he had just received: 

I was just checking the e-mail and people say, “You may not have heard about this, Rush, but women in the military already have this solved. There is a shot, an injection that they’re given that eliminates the menstrual cycle period for a whole year. So it’s never, ever a problem,” 

As for this claim of injection, I do not know as I have been out of military life now for many years.  However, it is true that menstrual cycles can be suppressed and in this scenario I wouldn’t put it beyond the government to encourage or even coerce young women into such a measure, but it is unnatural and I believe very unhealthy for a woman’s body, especially over an extended length of time.  Yet, that is one of the most valid points about combat infantry, time has no meaning when a mission must be accomplished.  If any female veterans have any information regarding this issue, please leave a comment, thank you.

All that being said, combat support is challenging enough, but combat and special ops units go far beyond the general rigors of foot patrol and other down and dirty duties or even the occasional fire fight that could hit any unit at any time. I have done road marches and it was hard work but that was long before our involvement in Iraq, so I am not clueless about the strength and endurance that such activity requires. Now let’s paint a real picture of just what we mean by combat infantry.

The mission of the infantry is to engage the enemy and kill, injure and if possible capture them with whatever it takes. The very nature of this work maximizes physical-emotional stress with genuine physical violence, so casualties are a fact of life in war and training.  Infantry is a highly dangerous and demanding full time occupation that requires  total physical strength and mental focus.  The environmental setting in which the Infantry operates is often extreme and ranges from freezing cold to high heat and humidity in a lush jungle.  All ammo, weaponry, survival gear, special mission specific equipment, food, water, clothing, shelter etc. are carried on the backs of these troops. The Infantry Article Index of Strategy Page, lists: 

  • Currently, the lightest load carried, the “fighting load” for situations where the troops were sneaking up on the enemy and might be involved in hand-to-hand combat, is 28.6 kg (63 pounds).
  • The “approach march load”, for when infantry were moving up to a position where they would shed some weight to achieve their “fighting load”, is 46 kg (101 pounds).
  • The heaviest load, 60 kg (132 pounds), was the emergency approach march load, where troops had to move through terrain too difficult for vehicles. As in the past, the troops often ignored the rules and regulations and dumped gear so they could move, or keep moving. 

In high altitude climates like Afghanistan even the most well trained and fit infantry soldiers would sweat about 20 ounces of fluid an hour while marching in bright sunlight in moderate temperature.  

Now combine this with long foot patrols of over 20 to 25 miles a day, in extreme heat to bitter cold with the expectation to live with no shelter and fight in a brutal setting and we are just getting started.  Let’s consider frostbite, heat stroke, trench foot, insect and wild animal bites and we are not even engaged with the enemy yet!  Even the most physically fit of men are challenged to the breaking point but they are expected to fulfill their combat missions regardless of fear, despair, fatigue, bodily injury and death of comrades.

Discipline and endurance require courage that refuses to give up and yes, we women certainly do have these qualities. However, it is unrealistic to expect even the most fit young woman of say 130 lbs. to carry a minimum of 65 lbs. of gear, march up to 25 miles a day, be able to fight hand to hand and to the death with an enemy, carry a buddy to safety in a battle or ambush that could last for days, with no sign of relief! Reference Charles Rangels account of Kunu-ri which saw some of the worst fighting of the Korean War.  Or the Battle of Hue in 1968, which is remembered as one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War.

Ladies we have performed our duties in the field remarkably. We have brains, courage and strength, but we are not men and to pretend that we can do everything that men can do is a lie!  I am not against the idea of women in Armored Cavalry, Airborne or any other unit if the standards are not lowered. In fact, women have served in just such units and pulled their own weight admirably, so I am fine with that, but ground pounding combat infantry is very different.  None of the women in any of the interviews presented have actually ever experience that. Credit must be given to any basic training they must have completed, but lets be real here, it was training and limited in time.  Let these women be side by side with the men not just for a few weeks, but months, years, endure a siege, an isolated out post with no rescue and the fear of attack with no ammo or supplies, then the awful possibility of capture, far worse then the men would ever face. Yet, these women are gung-ho to thrust such a burden of expected performance on future generations of their younger sisters and daughters, many of whom will have no choice in the matter?

It is being argued that battlegrounds of the future will be different, more technical, is that so?  As I mentioned earlier, Iraq and Afghanistan have proven that claim to be false and we can expect more challenges like those. Furthermore, the vast majority of women do not want to be the ‘tip of the spear’ in combat infantry!  If it could only be open for those who choose to join, I would have no argument, but that is not the case.  The trajectory of ‘Diversity’ for which the Military seeks is clear, they want a fair ratio that represents all of American society. Fine, then I expect to see Beyonce and other young and beautiful babes from Hollywood represented. 

Lets talk about the real motivating factor that is going on here, it is about advancing the careers  of women to the upper echelon of stars. There have been many female generals over the years, but not enough and now we have at least two Four Stars, Janet Wolfenbarger and Ann Dunwoody, congratulations!  Yet, in spite of all the claims that women are serving as combat troops in the armies of Israel, Australia, etc.  this is not true! They are combat support and attached to combat units with an occasional experience of hostile action, but they are not full time combat infantry trained soldiers.  Women want more, absolutely, but not at the expense of lowering the standards, because if that happens the mission is at risk. Slaughter in warfare is bad enough even when we give the very best that we have.  We must not be stupid enough to give the enemy an advantage just because we want to be politically correct. Women who have faced tough combat situations, fought, been wounded and even died, should already receive the recognition that they deserve from the Veterans Administration (VA).  To force combat infantry on women of the future who cannot deal with it and will die just trying to get through the training is not the answer and ‘force’ is indeed one of the components here.  All those cheesy Hollywood movies of female super heroes are fine, but reality is very different.  Let women choose and give them the opportunity, but only if they meet the standards as they exist now and not lowered just to satisfy some ideological baloney!

Where is Congress in the decision making here? Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta can just do whatever he wants much like his boss Barack Obama, screw the Congress, screw the People?  The only way to preserve tough standards for ground combat units, yet allow women who want to join the ability to do so, without terrorizing other women who are not interested, is for Congress to reassert previous regulations exempting women from direct ground combat units, with exception for those who do want to serve and can meet the standards. Congress must act immediately, before the May passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2014, in order to preempt what Obama’s Department of Defense, without constitutional authority, is trying to do unilaterally. So there is little time, raise your voice and be heard for the sake of all women and in the best interests of our national security.  The ‘tip of the spear’ troops must not only be made to feel elite, they must know that they are elite because they have met the standards and prevailed.  

The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.  George Orwell, In Front of Your Nose, London Tribune (22 March 1946)

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