A former British Army commander and member of one of the world’s most elite special forces units is speaking out against the trend of lifting the ban on women in combat roles, saying that doing so drags combat units far below the required standard and unnecessarily puts lives at risk.
“The infantry is no place for a woman, and to permit them to serve in close combat roles is a pure politically correct extravagance,” former Special Air Service Colonel Tim Collins said in protest to the British Prime Minister’s decision to open combat roles to women. “No one pretends that allowing women onto the front line enhances the army’s capabilities.”
According to the Independent, Collins’ concerns are not without data to back his worries. One test involved in joining the British infantry consists of completing an eight-mile march in less than two hours while carrying around 55 lbs. Army research data suggests less than 5% of 7,000 female recruits could even pass that standard.
“The physical bar for joining [combat] units may need to be raised, never lowered,” Collins added.
Despite criticism from within -and outside- the ranks, David Cameron said the change would “ensure the armed forces can make the most of their talent.”
Meanwhile, Hannah Bryce of the Royal Institute of International affairs said women in combat would make the military “more operationally effective,” citing that modern battlefield affect more than just men and that urban battlegrounds are reflective of all society, not just military personnel.
“The armed forces need women in all military roles if they are to understand and influence events on the battlefield and beyond,” she said. “This is not just about fairness, but about winning.”
Collins also pointed to a report by the US Marines written in 2015 that showed women and mixed-gender units performed far more poorly than their all-male counterparts, suffering everything from higher injury rates to lower marksmanship scores.
“We cannot tolerate…any attempt to play politics or mount social experiments with the armed forces,” Collins said.
Women are currently able to fill 80% of jobs in the British Army and make up more than 10% of the overall force.
Col Collins is known for his famous speech that he gave to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment on the eve-of-battle in Iraq in 2003. Here is the full transcript of that speech:
“We go to liberate, not to conquer.
We will not fly our flags in their country. We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own.
Show respect for them.
There are some who are alive at this moment who will not be alive shortly.
Those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send.
As for the others, I expect you to rock their world.
Wipe them out if that is what they choose.
But if you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory.
Iraq is steeped in history.
It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham.
Tread lightly there.
You will see things that no man could pay to see
– and you will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis.
You will be embarrassed by their hospitality even though they have nothing.
Don’t treat them as refugees for they are in their own country.
Their children will be poor, in years to come they will know that the light of liberation in their lives was brought by you.
If there are casualties of war then remember that when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day.
Allow them dignity in death.
Bury them properly and mark their graves.
It is my foremost intention to bring every single one of you out alive.
But there may be people among us who will not see the end of this campaign.
We will put them in their sleeping bags and send them back.
There will be no time for sorrow.
The enemy should be in no doubt that we are his nemesis and that we are bringing about his rightful destruction.
There are many regional commanders who have stains on their souls and they are stoking the fires of hell for Saddam.
He and his forces will be destroyed by this coalition for what they have done.
As they die they will know their deeds have brought them to this place. Show them no pity.
It is a big step to take another human life.
It is not to be done lightly.
I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts.
I can assure you they live with the mark of Cain upon them.
If someone surrenders to you then remember they have that right in international law and ensure that one day they go home to their family.
The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please.
If you harm the regiment or its history by over-enthusiasm in killing or in cowardice, know it is your family who will suffer.
You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest – for your deeds will follow you down through history.
We will bring shame on neither our uniform or our nation.
It is not a question of if, it’s a question of when.
We know he has already devolved the decision to lower commanders, and that means he has already taken the decision himself.
If we survive the first strike we will survive the attack.
As for ourselves, let’s bring everyone home and leave Iraq a better place for us having been there.
Our business now is North.”