As this year draws to a close, so comes the decision to integrate women into all branches of the armed forces. Despite protest from both the combat arms and civilian arenas, the plan continues to move forward.
Make no mistake: This is no thesis condoning the stripping of rights or belittling of the American fighting woman’s contribution to our society. Women have served with distinction in various roles since the birth of our Republic. They are an essential asset to our military force and as American Citizens are entitled to the same rights as their male counterparts. In the United States, we strive for equality, right? But what happens when “equality” becomes more of a political move than a push for rights that bleeds into the aspect of American society that is rightfully separated from their civilian counterparts for the greater good? What might be right for the American civilian may be devastating for the American warfighter. Lastly, the author of this article- having been in both all-male combat arms and mixed-gender units- is in no way implying that women are lesser than men or that all women and men are the same. Different missions require different tools for the job and not all tools are interchangeable.
With top brass blurring the lines between political correctness and sound tactics in the name of social justice, here are a few reasons as to why integrating females into combat arms is detrimental to aspects of the warfighting process that have kept the United States at the forefront of military supremacy.
1: Degradation of Standards
While women have served honorably in the American armed forces since being given permanent military status in 1948, it is no secret to anyone who has served that they have been held to different standards. Be it physical fitness, discipline or skills-related, women have generally been given a lighter hand than their male counterparts. Take PT standards for example:
Even in the Army’s basic training stage, females are held to a much lower standard than males. While on paper this may not seem like much, keep in mind that these are a measurement of strength and endurance that separate winners and losers in combat- a competition where “first and second place” are replaced with “life and death”. Run times, raw upper body strength and physical endurance play a very important factory in infantry operations. In some infantry units (like the 173rd Airborne Brigade), troopers were (at least in 2009) all expected to score in the upper 30% of PT scores or face remedial PT, punishment or worse- being expelled from their more elite units if failure to meet the mark become a recurring offense. While many females exceed their PT standards, numbers indicate they are in the minority.
2: Physiological Differences
One of the reasons for the relaxed female PT standards breaks down to another reason why combat arms life may not be suitable for most females: women are, by design, less suitable than men for long-term infantry operations.
According to The Washington Post, the US Marines recently conducted a test with integrated units competing against all-male units. Following the evaluation, the gender-integrated unit’s assessment found that “40.5 percent of women participating suffered some form of musculoskeletal injury, while 18.8 percent of men did. Twenty-one women lost time in the unit due to injuries, 19 of whom suffered injuries to their lower extremities. Of those, 16 women were injured while carrying heavy loads in an organized movement, like a march, the study found.”
In addition to the Marine Corps evaluation, the US Army released data this year that showed that women in certain combat support MOS’s, nearest to Combat Arms troops, suffered more than double (113 percent) the injuries of men.
Constant injuries will not only stretch the already strained VA and DoD budgets but affect troop readiness. In an interview with The Washington Times, Center For Military Readiness head Elaine Donnelly stated that “Double risks of injury among women, combined with expected absences due to pregnancy and other gender-related issues, would be even more problematic in small combat units with four to 12 members, such as M1 tank crews, infantry rifle squads, or cannon artillery gun crews,” she said. “The absence of female team members would compromise missions and put everyone’s lives at greater risk.”
3: Combat Arms troops don’t want them
While a small percentage of infantry are indifferent to the idea of females integrated into their units (beyond the occasional medic, cook or other attached assets), the majority are hesitant to have women in their ranks.
“Nobody in my unit wants it- It would be like high school”, stated Ed, and infantryman who for professional purposes wishes to only go by his first name. “I’ve seen it in plenty of POG units. Infantrymen are a tight band of brothers. Our neighbors [gender integrated units] next door stumble all over each other with drama and lowered unit capabilities.”
The most common sentiment seems to be that women would add unnecessary strain to unit cohesion as well as lower the combat readiness. “Is a woman going to carry me and my 200 lbs. of gear after we have been marching for three days?” asked Ed.
Other concerns raised by infantry troops are sexual assault reports (true and false), double standards and degradation of fighting capabilities due to simple physiology.
“There are things women can do better than men- but prolonged ground combat isn’t one of them”, Ed remarked. “I get it, the world is changing. We are all about political correctness. But this is war we are talking about. Society has no place dictating the terms in a scenario they personally are going to take no part in. Leave social justice and political correctness at home. It has no place on the battlefield”.
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