Women have long chafed under the combat restrictions and have increasingly pressured the Pentagon to catch up with the reality on the battlefield. The move comes as Mr. Panetta is about to step down from his post and would leave him with a substantial legacy after only 18 months in the job.Mr. Panetta’s decision came after he received a Jan. 9 letter from Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who stated in strong terms that the armed service chiefs all agreed that “the time has come to rescind the direct combat exclusion rule for women and to eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service.”But there was a note of caution. “To implement these initiatives successfully and without sacrificing our war fighting capability or the trust of the American people, we will need time to get it right,” General Dempsey wrote.A copy of General Dempsey’s letter was provided by a Pentagon official under the condition of anonymity.The letter noted that this action was meant to ensure that women as well as men “are given the opportunity to succeed.”
The opportunity to succeed? Let's get real. The only way women will qualify for many combat roles in the U.S. Military is if the U.S. Military drastically lowers the physical requirements and physical testing for these roles.
I'm far from being the only one who thinks so:
The decision has some detractors. Kingsley Browne, professor at Wayne State University Law School and author of Co-ed Combat: The New Evidence That Women Shouldn’t Fight the Nation’s Wars, calls the decision “misguided.” “The fact that the decision precedes the assessment phase is putting the cart before horse,” he says. “The Marine Corps has done rigorous testing but haven’t gotten very far because they haven’t gotten many women volunteers.”
The Marine Corps‘ Infantry Officer Course, a grueling three-month regimen that many men fail, was opened to women in September. However, only two out of 80 eligible women volunteered and neither completed it.
Browne argues that because women are not physically built like men, attempts to integrate them may lead to lowered standards overall. Additionally, he believes women in combat units may negatively change the dynamics, creating conditions of sexual competition and sexual harassment.
For more on that sort of thing, USMC Captain Katie Petronio has some good insights:
By the fifth month into the deployment, I had muscle atrophy in my thighs that was causing me to constantly trip and my legs to buckle with the slightest grade change. My agility during firefights and mobility on and off vehicles and perimeter walls was seriously hindering my response time and overall capability. It was evident that stress and muscular deterioration was affecting everyone regardless of gender; however, the rate of my deterioration was noticeably faster than that of male Marines and further compounded by gender-specific medical conditions. At the end of the 7-month deployment, and the construction of 18 PBs later, I had lost 17 pounds and was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (which personally resulted in infertility, but is not a genetic trend in my family), which was brought on by the chemical and physical changes endured during deployment. Regardless of my deteriorating physical stature, I was extremely successful during both of my combat tours, serving beside my infantry brethren and gaining the respect of every unit I supported. Regardless, I can say with 100 percent assurance that despite my accomplishments, there is no way I could endure the physical demands of the infantrymen whom I worked beside as their combat load and constant deployment cycle would leave me facing medical separation long before the option of retirement. I understand that everyone is affected differently; however, I am confident that should the Marine Corps attempt to fully integrate women into the infantry, we as an institution are going to experience a colossal increase in crippling and career-ending medical conditions for females.
There is a drastic shortage of historical data on female attrition or medical ailments of women who have executed sustained combat operations. This said, we need only to review the statistics from our entry-level schools to realize that there is a significant difference in the physical longevity between male and female Marines. At OCS the attrition rate for female candidates in 2011 was historically low at 40 percent, while the male candidates attrite at a much lower rate of 16 percent. Of candidates who were dropped from training because they were injured or not physically qualified, females were breaking at a much higher rate than males, 14 percent versus 4 percent. The same trends were seen at TBS in 2011; the attrition rate for females was 13 percent versus 5 percent for males, and 5 percent of females were found not physically qualified compared with 1 percent of males. Further, both of these training venues have physical fitness standards that are easier for females; at IOC there is one standard regardless of gender. The attrition rate for males attending IOC in 2011 was 17 percent. Should female Marines ultimately attend IOC, we can expect significantly higher attrition rates and long-term injuries for women.
There have been many working groups and formal discussions recently addressing what changes would be necessary to the current IOC period of instruction in order to accommodate both genders without producing an underdeveloped or incapable infantry officer. Not once was the word “lower” used, but let’s be honest, “modifying” a standard so that less physically or mentally capable individuals (male or female) can complete a task is called “lowering the standard”! The bottom line is that the enemy doesn’t discriminate, rounds will not slow down, and combat loads don’t get any lighter, regardless of gender or capability. Even more so, the burden of command does not diminish for a male or female; a leader must gain the respect and trust of his/her Marines in combat. Not being able to physically execute to the standards already established at IOC, which have been battle tested and proven, will produce a slower operational speed and tempo resulting in increased time of exposure to enemy forces and a higher risk of combat injury or death. For this reason alone, I would ask everyone to step back and ask themselves, does this integration solely benefit the individual or the Marine Corps as a whole, as every leader’s focus should be on the needs of the institution and the Nation, not the individual? [Emphasis added--E.M.]Do read her whole essay, if you can.
Oh, and those two female Marines who attempted the Infantry Officer Course? One was unable to pass the combat endurance test, and the other dropped out for unspecified medical reasons. Which sort of backs up Captain Petronio's points.
Now, I've known plenty of women who have served honorably and well in the military, including my own mother-in-law, who served in the Air Force (as, by the way, did my father-in-law and, many years later, my husband). This is not about keeping women out of the military or reducing them to desk jobs.
But I find it hard to read Captain Petronio's essay without taking her concerns seriously. This woman is an elite soldier who experienced combat, and she's arguing strongly against making this a routine role for female soldiers, for reasons which are not at all sentimental but reality-based. In effect, Captain Petronio is reminding us that the military's primary job is not career advancement or political correctness but killing people and breaking things, and that it takes a certain, and rather high, level of physical and emotional endurance to be among those on the front lines of the killing/breaking operations. Should we sacrifice our military's standards and performance in its chief role for the sake of a misguided notion of gender equality?
Look: how many of you would be okay with requiring the NFL to recruit female linebackers? What if they had to lower the standards overall in order for any women to pass physical tests for that role? Would you think that was a good idea?
Because, make no mistake, that's exactly what putting women in combat roles will be like. The only difference is that football is a game, and war most emphatically is not. It wouldn't take very many serious injuries among female linebackers before the NFL would be rethinking the whole idea, but the military is apparently prepared to sacrifice any number of women in the pursuit of this wrong-headed agenda.