Here’s Why Women in Combat Units is a Bad Idea

November 18, 2014

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Three problems plague the debate over whether all combat units should finally be opened to women. (Actually, there are four problems: The fourth and most important being the likelihood that there will be no real debate, something that I hope this article will help to mitigate). Most career soldiers and officers I know believe the integration of women into Special Forces teams, and into SEAL, Ranger and Marine infantry platoons, is already a forgone conclusion. From their perspective, politicians in uniform (namely, top brass) don’t have the intestinal fortitude to brook the vocal minority in Congress – and the country, really – who think mainstreaming women into ground combat units is a good idea.

As for the other three problems, the first is that every sentient adult knows what happens when you mix healthy young men and women together in small groups for extended periods of time. Just look at any workplace. Couples form. At some point, how couples interact – sexually, emotionally, happily and/or unhappily – makes life uncomfortable for those around them. Factor in intense, intimate conditions and you can forget about adults being able to stay professional 24/7. Object lesson for anyone who disagrees: General Petraeus.

Problem number two: Those who favor lifting the combat exclusion ban engage in a clever sleight of hand whenever they equate women serving in combat with women serving in combat units. Given women’s performance over the past decade in Afghanistan and Iraq, who but a misogynist would doubt their capacity for courage, aggressiveness or grace under fire at this point? But battles are like exclamation points. They punctuate long stretches when there are no firefights. Spend time around soldiers when they are coming down from adrenaline highs, or are depressed or upset; they are prone to all sorts of temptations. Alternatively, under Groundhog Day-like conditions, troops invariably grow bored and frustrated. How quickly we forget Charles Graner and Lynndie England, and the dynamic between them that helped fuel the sadism at Abu Ghraib.

Problem number three involves a different elision. Proponents of lifting the ban love to invoke desegregation and the demise of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Their intent in doing so is to suggest that all three are of a piece: Blacks now serve in combat units, as do (at least in theory) openly homosexual soldiers, and there have been no untoward effects. It is therefore past time to let women be all that they can be as well. Except that attraction between the sexes is nothing like the denigration of another race or the disinterest (or disgust) heterosexual men feel when it comes to the idea of one man pursuing another.

Indeed, racism and bigotry lie at the opposite end of the spectrum from attraction. Lumping all three together is a canard.

There is no clearer way to put it than this: Heterosexual men like women. They also compete for their attention. This is best captured by the Darwinist aphorism: male-male competition and female choice. Or, try: no female has to leave a bar alone if she doesn’t want to, whereas at ‘last call’ lots of men do.

Cast back through history or just look cross-culturally: Men’s abiding interest in women (and women’s interest in having men be interested) creates limitless potential for friction. Is this really what we want to inflict on combat units?

More than a decade ago, I described the critical ethos on teams, and in squads or platoons, as ‘one for all and all for one.’ Introduce something over which members are bound to compete, that the winner won’t share, and you inject a dangerous dynamic. Worse, introduce the possibility of exclusivity between two individuals and you will have automatically killed cohesion.

Interestingly – tellingly – proponents of lifting the combat exclusion ban routinely dismiss the significance of cohesion. Take the recent story about the Marine Corps’ new experimental mixed gender combat unit that appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. In it, correspondent Michael Phillips writes: “The debate over women in combat – similar to arguments about gays in the military – used to focus on so-called unit cohesion…”

That value-laden qualifier, “so-called,” made me sit bolt upright. Its use signals just how successful military sociologists and others have been at dismissing the idea that social cohesion might (still) matter. Their preferred cohesion is something they call ‘task cohesion,’ which refers to soldiers’ ability to do a job regardless of whatever inter-personal differences might exist among them. This, according to these academics, is the only kind of cohesion military units need. Forget shared interests, past-times or proclivities. Remaining effective over the long-haul in combat no longer requires that individuals have anything more than the mission in common.

Except – dig beneath the political correctness that those in uniform know they better parrot, and it quickly becomes apparent that academics have split an impossible hair. For instance, U.S. Army Special Forces Command has been waging a quiet dissuasion campaign against Special Forces soldiers joining motorcycle ‘clubs.’ And though some wonder why any special operator would feel the need to join a bunch of wannabe outlaws when SF teams already constitute the ‘baddest’ gangs around, operators enamored with biker subculture are clearly seeking something SF does not provide. For many that something is camaraderie.

No question, stateside camaraderie is not what it is OCONUS (outside the continental U.S.). Family life looms large, wives have careers etc. There are a host of reasons why cohesion frays whenever teams return from deployments (to include how strained families are thanks to the sheer number of deployments). However, this fraying has consequences. Individuals go on benders and get into trouble; combat veterans commit suicide; PTSD festers. Old timers’ assessment is that team members no longer have each other’s backs except in combat. Ironically, their observation fits exactly what focusing only on ‘task cohesion’ prescribes.

Talk to team leaders and they will describe how much effort it takes to get team members and their families to want to socialize once everyone is home. But they will also describe how rewarding it is once they do – all of which should be an indicator that social cohesion still does matter. It matters to those who join Special Forces in order to belong to something other than just a job. It also matters to those responsible for leading them, who recognize what a difference it makes downrange when a team ‘hangs together.’

Consequently, one question that should be posed to those who fixate on ‘task cohesion’ as the only glue the military needs is: Don’t social scientists owe it to those who already serve in special operations (and infantry) units to pay attention to what they say (and do), rather than rely on what members of mixed gender noncombat units self-report regarding ‘task cohesion’?

Of course, the idea that there can be any social ‘science’ answer to whether the U.S. military should integrate women into ground combat forces is silly. Proponents might like to think that objective metrics can be devised. But metrics that measure what? Whether a unit can gel? Whether it will stay solid? Whether it will be able to recover from disaster effectively?

Granted, there are some critical performance criteria – such as the ability to meet physical standards – that can be gauged in advance. But it is essential to remember that just because an individual meets these does not mean he or she will fit well into any group. Nonetheless, physical standards now amount to the Rubicon in the combat exclusion debate.

Opponents of lifting the ban believe that so long as standards remain high – and do not get gender-normed – few women will either want to serve in the combat arms or be able to make it through selection. Thus, certain Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs) – they hope – will remain protected. For their part, proponents question the relevancy of the physical standards that special operations units and the Marine Corps infantry do still use. Their position is that if you look at any unit, tasks are rarely undertaken by individuals alone. Instead, members shift and share burdens, and help each other out. Invariably the group finds creative ways to get the job done regardless of individuals’ weaknesses.

Ergo the Marine Corps’ new experimental unit, the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force (the subject of Phillips’ article). What the Marine Corps tests will find as they train up both male and female volunteers for combat should be interesting, to say the least. Forget just the gender dimension. Each service should ensure that today’s standards reflect real world requirements, and not some arbitrary, holdover notions of what combat pre-9/11 entailed. After all, it could be that numerous physical standards will need to be raised, not lowered – something that is all too imaginable given the sheer weight of today’s combat loads. If so, it will be interesting to then see what tack proponents take, since thus far they have shown zero interest in acknowledging why we even have combat units. Their impetus all along has been equity instead.

Equity is a quintessentially progressive and thus classically American goal. It is also a goal that increasingly attracts uniformed fathers who want to see their uniformed daughters excel. This reflects a remarkable societal shift. Proponency by men who have served in the combat arms is powerful and persuasive. It can also be extraordinarily moving. However, no decision about the future makeup of ground combat units should be influenced by what opening such units will do for anyone’s offspring, or sibling or spouse. Instead, the only thing that should matter is whether the presence of women will contribute positively to the combat effectiveness of combat units.

No question, women are a boon for certain types of missions, especially certain special operations missions. No one I know disagrees with that, and in fact most special operators are anxious for more qualified women to be able to work with them. But there is a world of difference between women participating on certain missions and women serving alongside men as permanent members of ground combat units.

This difference has everything to do with why combat units exist – they exist to be sent into harm’s way. Maybe they won’t take casualties. But the military can never count on that. The prospect of attrition requires that the military treat individuals not as individuals, but as interchangeable pieces of a complex system. Not only does every combat soldier need to be capable of accomplishing the same essential tasks as every other combat soldier (according to rank, MOS etc.), but every potential replacement has to be able to easily fit into an already-stressed group. This introduces the equivalent of a Goldilocks challenge: Groups must be flexible enough to quickly absorb new members, while new members need to be sufficiently similar to both old members and surviving members that they readily fit.

Unfortunately, proponents of lifting the combat exclusion ban don’t seem to get this. So, while it might make academic sense to assume squads, platoons and teams will simply be able to work out their own division of labor (read: task cohesion) under duress, what invariably happens when new members of the opposite sex arrive on the scene? In any setting, group chemistry changes – in predictably unpredictable ways.

Unfortunately, the services aren’t likely to use their sexual assault data to make the case that injecting women into hard-charging, all-male units isn’t a sound idea. But surely other statistics exist. For instance, how much time do command staffs already spend on boy-girl troubles? Anecdotally, fraternization and related issues eat up way too much time. Is this really what Washington should now saddle combat units and commanders with as they fight ISIS or whomever else in the future?

Or what about combat soldiers’ spouses, who already have more than enough worries? Why don’t their concerns count? This is a question that leads to a cascade of others for anyone who truly cares about equity. Whose equity should most matter? And who should get to determine this?

The irony is that combat units are ‘it’ when it comes to protecting all the other equities we Americans value. That is inconvenient truth number one. We have no other front-line/behind-the-lines first responders. Why would we want to do anything that jeopardizes their cohesiveness and integrity?

Inconvenient truth number two is that men and women have been each other’s most consistent distraction since the beginning of time. To pretend that we don’t know what will happen when men and women are thrown together for prolonged periods in emotionally intense situations defies common sense. Being overly academic and insufficiently adult about adult behavior isn’t just irresponsible but imperiling, and belies the deadly seriousness with which we should want combat units to perform.

 

Anna Simons is a Professor of Defense Analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School.  She is the author of  Networks of Dissolution: Somalia Undone and The Company They Keep: Life Inside the U.S. Army Special Forces, and is most recently the co-author of The Sovereignty Solution: A Commonsense Approach to Global Security.  The views expressed are the author’s and do not reflect those of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy, or the Naval Postgraduate School.

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98 thoughts on “Here’s Why Women in Combat Units is a Bad Idea

  1. While generally agreeing with Ms. Simons comments, she errs when she says that the experience of the last 13 years proves that only a misogynist would question women’s aggressiveness, grace under fire and courage. It isn’t those points that are in dispute (although I might quibble over aggressiveness), but rather physical performance. No woman in any branch of the service has unequivocally had to perform all of the same tasks as her male counterparts (nor been held to the same standard), and standards have been lowered or renormed in the Navy and so-called combat support branches. All of the cohesion and fraternization problems are rampant, and the notion that somehow “ground” combat is the exception or so special as to make any of these things more important for them than the other branches is wrong. All branches of the all of the services must seem themselves as combatants. The circus that is today’s Navy will end the first time it needs to fight a real enemy at sea, and takes real damage which it can’t work around (all of the heavy lifting on the coed USS Cole was done by men). Ditto the first time the Air Force seriously has to defend a base against attack or service aircraft while under tactical ballistic missile bombardment while wearing chemical warfare gear.

    1. Using the integration of blacks in the military as a supportive arguement for females being integrated in combat units needs to have an important qualifier.Namely blacks are severely under represented in COMBAT units as are ALL minorities,while having fair to above average representation in SUPPORT units…this has been a remarkable paradigm since post vietnam.I can personally attest to this phenomena while I served in the 3rd ACR in the late 80’s.

      1. There is a simple reason that minorities would be underrepresented in combat units, if they are truly population minorities, equal percentages of a large number of people and a small number of people will be radically different in the total numbers from each group.

    2. I do agree that some women are not able to do such high demanding role in the u.s.a military but how about the very few women that can do it maybe not right now but women such not have lower standards Because that may kill people on the Field but at least give them a chance to try if they cannot cut it then oh well. Women can do what men do women should be allowed to fight for her country as men

      1. God never created women to do what men do. Men fight so that women don’t have to. It is not a women’s place, yes I said it’s not their place, to be in combat.

        1. Your interpretation of a woman’s place based upon your individual religious belief system is irrelevant. There is a place for debate on this topic, but religious is not a factor.

  2. The article makes excellent points. I would add the Israeli experience. Historically, there have been all male units that abandoned their primary mission to “save” and all female support group that was targeted during a conflict. The cultural imperative to protect women, at all costs, is not uniquely Israeli. So how do we train men to ignore women as women with such callousness? And does that easily transition when back in society?

      1. All of this nonsense is unstoppable BS…it will end the very next time we get in a war. It will be real ugly and the answer will be real obvious. Anything that makes a combat unit more capable of closing with the enemy and destroying them is good…everything else isn’t.

        1. It will not end the very next time we get in a war. It will end when the number of excess funerals reaches a tipping point. Given the lopsided nature of our combat ability, it’s possible we might not suffer enough casualties to hit the tipping point in the next war. We can avoid a lot of harumphing going forward if it’s clear that this is an experiment which, if it fails, leads to excess casualties.

          As in most cases when the price is paid in blood, the backlash will be unpredictable and the reaction will not necessarily improve things. It would be better to figure out how to wargame unit cohesion vs task cohesion and establish prizes for the winners. Right now, it is in the brass’ political interests not to make that difference too obvious. To do so gains no benefits and risks significant attacks that could destroy a military career.

          1. There is a very real danger, rarely mentioned, that results from removing barriers which prevent females from serving in combat specialties. That is, selective service (the draft) has been tied to the policy that exempts females from combat specialties and, consequently, from the requirement to register for the draft; the draft having been necessary to provide great numbers of replacements to fill the many combat divisions activated to wage on a large scale for an extended period. Females were exempt from serving in combat units/specialties; consequently, the law exempted them from selective service and the draft. Now that that tie has probably been broken, we can expect senior policy makers to take the first opportunity to require females to register for the draft and, in the event of a mobilization, we can expect our government to order females to be drafted. What an irony it will be when American women join American men fleeing to Canada to avoid military service. A question to be asked of our Congress is how and when will the laws be changes to require females to register for the draft? Who will sponsor that bill? Will that person be a female member of Congress? Will many others jump on that bandwagon? Look for our citizens to become alarmed when they finally understand the gravity of all this because, what has been offered as an opportunity for equality, for a “level Playing Field”, will become in the future an obligation. Level playing field? It is not a playing field, it is a battle field! The German word for battle field is Schlachtfeld. “Schlacht” is the German word for slaughter. Does anyone really believe all this is promoted as a way to help women? Let’s be honest: It is all about resourcing the military by expanding the source to the other half of the youthful population that until now has been unavailable. Pentagon resource managers will throw a huge party when their resources double! And, at what cost to our society, our American culture, our traditions, what a terrible cost! All who promote such insanity or allow it to happen should go to their daughters, granddaughters and nieces, fall on their knees and beg their forgiveness for the hell that such callousness, such irresponsibility, will visit upon these loved ones! We have plenty of young men to wage combat, so let them be the ones to wage combat, not our women. In closing, I must say that I speak as a retired Army Officer, a former Infantry Officer and Vietnam veteran. I have earned a free pass to speak out on this subject because I have been there and because I have granddaughters whom I love dearly and whom I will fight to protect from this dangerous threat to my family and our country.

          2. I agree with you to a certain point. However, I believe that when we admit to this folly of women in combat, it will be too llate to change the rules and will lead to a blood bath of men in combat units trying to patch together a fighting force. Strange but I never hear how women will use the toilet on a battlefield – in such a way that men aren’t accused of being sexual deviants. I remember reading about a tank crew in iraq where the crew didn’t get out for weeks, and used their helmets as toilets in the tank on the mo0ve. Seems a simple question, but is never addressed!

        2. When I was a USMA cadet from 1998 – 2002 we used to say the same thing; this foolishness with women will end with a war. Well, we fought for over a decade in two different theaters and it hasn’t. If anything, those wars reinforced everything we already knew about the dirty, dangerous work of the infantry. I was an infantry officer with 30 months in Iraq. But our Army became even more obtuse about the issue of women in combat, in spite of the overwhelming evidence of gross misconduct in the ranks and generally poor soldiering. At this point, I can only think our society is insane and so out of touch with what the military does that we are doomed to disastrous social policies that have nothing to do with fighting and winning wars. We’ll get nuked by Russia and stomped by China and find a way to avoid offending women and homosexuals and their effect on the Armed Services.

  3. When I was in the Army, my platoon lived together, worked together all day, after work we went out to eat and drink beer, went bowling to the movie theater, we did everything together, nobody would would be left behind. Whenever a woman would enter the picture, Girlfriend or wife, that member of the platoon would leave the regular group, never a good thing for our unit…

  4. Is there a particular reason US Army infantry units are left out of this article altogether, yet they constitute the largest and liIkely most affected group by this new policy?

    1. Yea I noticed them being left out too. US Army Infantry Units would defiantly be most effected since they do 12-18 month combat deployments as their Marine brethren only do 7 months at a time. Tankers, artilleryman, combat engineers, and combat medics are also effected.

    1. Gary, I read your attachment and I have to say that I don’t agree with you either. I do however agree with most of Miss Simmons points, even though I don’t agree with all of her’s either. My reasoning is this, you say that we can exist within close proximity of someone we are attracted to without that being a guiding factor in our choices and I pose to you, “Only in a perfect world”! You can laud all sorts of character and moral righteousness but the fact is, its all well and good in theory but falls horribly short in practice.

      My point that shatters your theory here is just this, There is a running joke in Special Forces that says you will not make E-7 until you have 2 divorces under your belt. Regretfully it has been my experience that this “joke” is all too true. There is a reason for that and it is embedded in the culture of the Special Forces A-Team and the fact that we are so close that we know more about each other than our families do. This culture is absolutely needed in order for us to accomplish the things we are asked to do in combat. Any distraction from this Warrior state of mind would be catastrophic to the team as a whole.

      I would suggest that you read “The COMPANY THEY KEEP by Anna Simons”. I think it will open up your eyes on what serving in a Tier-1 unit is really like as well as why adding women to that unit simply wont work at all.

    2. Read the blog post and I have to completely agree with Ryan Evans twitter response. You completely missed the boat. I’m not sure where you came up with the idea that Anna Simons’ article amounts to a homophobic diatribe, but I guess you can read into it what you want. You disparage her for using individual examples that you say shouldn’t be extrapolated to combat units writ large, then do the very same thing by posting individual pictures of public displays of affection and equate that to every gay person in the military. Anna’s argument is not meant to be a holistic reason for exclusion, but rather one thing to consider. And, despite your sarcastic title, it is an important one.

    3. That’s a clever, well-written joke. Too bad we don’t all have the luxury of joking about this. I’ve been an SF wife for 13 years — and at least as many deployments. My husband is a senior NCO. Rarely does a week pass without another SF wife calling or texting in a panic because she has learned that her husband had an affair downrange. It is literally the biggest problem we have on the family side of the SF community. Three times now I have personally taken suicidal SF wives to the ER, and all three times the husbands had cheated with active duty female soldiers while deployed to Afghanistan. Soldiers in every war have had extramarital sex, but the difference now is that — with no host nation women available in these Muslim countries — they’re doing it with other soldiers, and those affairs are coming home with them. Putting women into these units will only increase the problem. Don’t we wives have enough to worry about already? Don’t our worries count for anything? Our community already has a divorce rate that has been estimated at 85%. We already hear the gunshots and mortars in the background when our husbands call home. We already wait 24/7 for the knock on the door that will tell us that we’re widows. Literally the only consolations we have during a deployment are that there aren’t women on their teams, and that everyone on the team is working cohesively. What you see as a joke I see as an existential crisis.

      1. Waiting on Gary Owens’ snarky, barely-admitting-potential-misconstrual-while-claiming-offensive-ambiguity reply. Everyone who has been in or led a mixed-gender unit has seen the issues of male-female fraternization and extramarital affairs, CONUS and OCONUS. Perhaps Simons’ fault is just that, well, 95% of the general population (and I’m unsure of the military ratio) is heterosexual, making these potential protectiveness and fraternization into significant issues for the a sizable number of servicemen in every mixed-gender unit.

        Professionalism didn’t spare one of our military’s and nation’s best and brightest (Petraeus), I think is the author’s point. What a shame of Gary to denigrate what should be an unbiased and truth-seeking discussion with his self-serving sarcasm.

  5. Anna writes: “Instead, the only thing that should matter is whether the presence of women will contribute positively to the combat effectiveness of combat units.”

    Not weighing into the larger debate, but this point is a red herring. It’s important, sure, but not that only thing that matters. We routinely and consciously limit the combat effectiveness of our units for social values and we do it because it matters to us as a people and a nation. Look no further than any set of U.S. Rules of Engagement and the Laws of Land Warfare. We limit our combat effectiveness to subscribe to these values, even when the enemy doesn’t recognize them at all, and we take real casualties to do it.

    Therefore, America could in the same vein determine that it values the provision of the opportunity over the (alleged) cost to combat effectiveness. Any resultant casualties would still be in the name of preserving the American way of life.

      1. This is a false analogy you’ve set up here. Rules of Engagement/Laws of Armed Conflict are a necessity. Commanders must direct their subordinates as to how to identify the enemy. Commanders follow the Laws of Armed Conflict because it is both federal and international law that commanders do not have the option to ignore. America has seen that where we do not follow our own LOAC, such as at Abu Gharib, short-term benefits are outdone by a much larger long term damage on our international standing and strategic objectives. Ultimately, the use of LOAC or RoEs are not a “conscious choice” to limit combat effectiveness in the name of the political. They are an inherent part of warfare.

        Ultimately the problem lies in your assumption – equal qualification. If one assumes that women are, in fact, entirely interchangeable with men then of course integration makes sense. And obviously not ALL men are stronger/faster/whatever than ALL women. However, there seems to be little debate that, over the entire scope of the military, a concentrated effort to put women into combat arms would have a negative impact on combat readiness. Therefore, we would be allowing the political objective to trump the readiness of the unit. Unlike LOAC/ROE, this is not a necessity, it is a choice to bow to equity in favor of effectiveness. Reduced combat readiness is measured in American casualties and therefore extreme care should be taken in preserving it.

    1. What social value trumps military effectiveness when organizing our fighting forces? Isn’t it immoral in the extreme – and unfair to those affected – to in effect say, “We can tolerate a lower margin and place you at more risk in the interests of those broader goals?” When the forces were desegregated, standards were maintained. Not as we’ve gone progressively more coed. And, what happens if an enemy emerges of roughly similar policies who places effectiveness first?

      I would also take objection when you propose to speak for the nation and its values. No national value that I know of says that we are committed to the interchangeability of men and women. We are committed to the equal protection of individual rights, and until military service is deemed a right, then the organizing principle for the armed forces remains the most effective arrangement consistent with our general principles of equal treatment. Since the evidence of the last 40 years is that we cannot maintain equal standards for the sexes – quite apart from all the fraternization issues Simons raises – what exactly is the benefit of a coed force other than allowing some to feel good about themselves? I would further note that while I agree fully the powers that be HAVE opted to sacrifice standards to equity, that is not an immutable decision, it has had consequences, and it is not an expression of national principles.

      1. The protection of noncombatants can and does limit military effectiveness. It’s the basis of the uniform requirement in the LOAC, for example. The supremacy of military effectiveness is a defense line that isn’t going to hold.

        But not all social values outweigh military effectiveness. Does the integration of women cause such a conflict? It should be measured. Does the price we would pay outweigh the social value? Let the promoters openly state that they are willing to have more broken families and more funerals. Right now we may do a great many foolish things because we have a much larger military than anybody else. This will not always be the case.

  6. I am for one completely tired and fed up with this topic. Instead of concentrating on why it would be a seriously bad idea to put women into frontline combat units (I could write a book from my 30 years experience in the USMC) – Let’s concentrate on this: How would extremely effective combat units benefit by having women among them? If there are a ton of positive reason’s let’s try it. If not and the combat units readiness, capability and morale declines, let’s not! Anything that does not enhance a combat units effectiveness should be discarded – Our job is to win wars, not “be fair” or be a grand “social experiment” – This topic would literally be over before it started!
    Colonel D

  7. If females want to see combat, they can fly attack helicopters. There was one female Apache pilot claimed she saw over 100 combat missions in one tour. That’s more than the average ground trooper. An Apache crew would love to catch the enemy bunched up and ambush the people thinking they are doing the ambushing.

  8. Gary Owen,
    I read your blog post, and I tend to believe you are missing the point. Most of what Simmons has written is spot on. Her first argument is exactly why. As you point out, she does use poor examples. Nevertheless, poor examples don’t change the substance of her argument. She likely used them because of their visibility or accessibility to a larger audience.

    Her statement that it is a prize that cannot be shared is exactly the issue, and it is precisely what tears down cohesion. It goes from “We’re all in this together” to “He’s getting something intimate that I am not.” There may be a significant number of professionals who can work through this, but it is still the most destructive threat to cohesion. Just like the cheat in class, or the POW with special privileges, there is a fundamental inequity that causes issues.

    We don’t need infamous anecdotes to substantiate this, despite your claim of Ms. Simmons disparaging a lot of longstanding professional conduct. We could do a survey of leadership from mixed gender units on the issues that they faced due to the integration of genders, or just crudely ask them if they would rather have a mixed gender unit or not. Simply, leaders in single gender units don’t deal with a set of issues that leaders in mixed gender units do inherently. Why add more problems to their responsibilities? Further, a simple data collection of disciplinary issues across brigades would show that the mixed gender units have a higher level of discipline issues, many related to inappropriate relations between young people of the opposite sex. Which cause is more likely? 1) Mixed gender units, such brigade support battalions, have bad leaders (who generally come through the same commissioning sources, military culture, schools, promotion boards, etc.). (or) 2) Immature people or behavior have more opportunities to surface in a mixed gender units.

    Finally, your rant about homophobia is not only off base, but largely irrelevant. You interpreted it one way. Allow me to interpret it another. Ms. Simmons was simply alluding to an expectation that there are still a number of homosexuals who are not open about their sexuality in the services because they don’t feel comfortable sharing it at work. Or, that while they may be homosexual, they don’t have visible significant others. (Some people may just not be able to get a date.) If think that is off base, I will be happy to see your data that all homosexuals in the military are completely out of the closet, and in established relationships that they make visible to their units. But it is irrelevant because Ms. Simmons was pointing out the differences between integration of blacks, and the integration of women, or homosexuals into the military, or combat arms specifically. Three separate issues.

    BTW, Garryowen is one word. I will drop a copy of this on your blog.

    All the best and good luck,

    Matt

    1. Still agree to disagree. And aware that “Garryowen” is one word. Also aware that it’s possible that “Gary Owen” is a slightly tweaked homage to my cav brethren past, present and future. And since I’m not Madonna, Sting, or Jay-Z, can’t get away with single name monikers.

  9. Why do men and women get along in most of the great coporations sometimes under significant stress and pressure but won’t in a combat unit?! It is time for women to claim these uncharted men’s world and show that they can make it!!

    1. Give me a break “Significant Stress”? Try having your “civilian team” clear(kill everyone) a room, building or block and blocks of houses for several weeks. Ever hear of Fallujah, Ramadi, or Marjah just to name few?

      “Civilian Corporations” would pay billions if they could figure out how to replicate the Unit Cohesion that causes Marines and Soldiers to willingly and gladly risk their lives and often die for their fellow warriors.

      “In a fire fight in a house in Fallujah, although wounded by seven 7.62x39mm rounds and hit by more than 43 pieces of hot fragmentation from a grenade while using his body to shield an injured fellow Marine, Kasal refused to quit fighting and is credited with saving the lives of several Marines during the U.S. assault on insurgent strongholds in Fallujah in November 2004.

      By the time he was carried out of the house by LCpl Chris Marquez and LCpl Dane Shaffer, Kasal had lost approximately 60 percent of his blood.[1] The photograph of Kasal, taken by photographer Lucian Read — blood-soaked and still holding his M9 pistol and KA-Bar fighting knife — being helped from the building by fellow Marines, has become one of the iconic pictures of the war.”

      There are dozens of recent examples from OEF/OIF of Marines and Soldiers attempting to “escape” from field and other hospitals to rejoin their units. I know of one case where one Marine was missing a leg and his buddy was missing his hand. They both had to be physically restrained so as not to injure themselves in the hospital. THAT IS UNIT COHESION.

      You will never lose with warriors in units like that. The dirty little secret that all of us know is that by integrating women into combat units, you won’t have units like that ever again.

      Be careful wishing your Armed Forces were like Fortune 500 Corporations – You might get what you ask for. Who will come to your side when the stress level gets too high?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradley_Kasal

  10. Very well written by obviously a very educated person. However, I found the logic riddled with holes, and political emotion compromising her judgement. The author attempted to overcome this with commanding rhetoric.

    1) General Petraeus was not a combat officer at the time of his indiscretion. He moved in bureaucratic circles. Therefore, his liaison has absolutely nothing in common with the potential liaisons of male SEALS with female SEALS.

    2) These are the best trained troops in the entire world. The tip of most powerful spear that exists. You’re saying you don’t think they’ve been trained to overcome temptation? If they succumbed to their emotions so easily, they wouldn’t have made it through SEAL or Ranger training in the first place. A reader is forced to wonder how Professor Gunn could underestimate her fellow combatants so egregiously.

    3) Problem number two suggests an operational deficiency in the US military. Professor Gunn is equating actions of clinically depressed and PTSD diagnosed Grander and England, of Abu Gharib fame, with what would happen if women were in combat units. She is saying that the “dynamic” of man and woman is to blame. Well, the first thing that is to blame is insufficient oversight. Second is a host of undiagnosed and untreated illnesses. Third, if the only thing that is keeping the entir emilitary from turning into sadistic torturers is the separation of the sexes, we are skating on way thinner ice than anyone should be comfortable with.

    4) Professor Gunn somehow seems to fail to comprehend the fact that women have not been allowed in combat units because they have been viewed as too weak and too frail. Her argument is just that – hers – and does not speak for the majority opposition, who not only don’t want women in combat units, but who SURELY still do not want gays in combat units. It’s a clever sleight of hand she executes to apologize for bigotry. Indeed, it is bigotry that has kept gays roles limited, and it is bigotry that has kept women (to this point) out of combat units.

    5) There is no clearer way to put it than this: there is no evidence to suggest soldiers are more highly sexualized than any other group of individuals. And even if Professor Gunn is right in this position with no factual support, then it only opens another area where our soldiers should be trained. Being part of a unit means cohesion in pursuit of a goal. Does she think there are no factors which tear at the fabric of cohesion? Does she have experience as part of a cohesive group of men? I personally have experience in a group of highly cohesive men and women, put under high-pressure, dangerous, exhausting conditions far away from society. We adapted and maintained because we were skilled, were trained, and believed in the mission. Do you think those 3 precepts don’t also apply to Navy SEALS and Army Rangers?

    6) The author fails to consider alternative possibilities. What about an all women unit? How bout trying out a few units that aren’t under constant fire (ie outside of the Middle East)? Is the author even willing to be proved wrong by a lengthy study? It would seem so.

    7) The use of “so-called” before “cohesion” in one article by one journalist hardly signals anything. The reading of it by Professor Gunn was blown entirely out of proportion. Any sane person is concerned about unit cohesion.

    8) Again, soldiers at home joining a club that shares their interest does not indicate that they have failed to form a bond with their unit. Where are the stats to back up this ridiculous claim?

    9) Why is this so hard to comprehend? “But metrics that measure what? Whether a unit can gel? Whether it will stay solid? Whether it will be able to recover from disaster effectively?” Yes, that’s exactly what they should measure. Why are you afraid of hard stats?

    10) Too much of this smacks of the frat dudes at an elite fraternity not wanting to let in a new dude who they don’t think is as strong, because that would somehow diminish their own accomplishment in being accepted to inner circle.

    BOTTOM LINE in response to this quote:
    “To pretend that we don’t know what will happen when men and women are thrown together for prolonged periods in emotionally intense situations defies common sense.”

    —We need to study to find out what will happen. But I find it odd that there is not more faith in the capacity of the most highly trained soldiers on the planet to keep the mission #1.

    1. Never been in a combat unit have you?

      Trained to overcome temptation? For real? We were trained to fight and survive.

      I’ve been a soldier and I was more highly sexualized then than any other point in my life. Eminent death has a way of making procreation an even higher priority for a young man.

      Just about every woman I know is weaker amd frailer than the weakest male Marine. I’ve seen Women Marines try to keep up with the men on urban warfare training and end up in the hospital. Many women in the military can’t carry a full combat load (100 lbs or more) across the street, much less on a 30-mile speed march.

    2. Hard Facts ? Pretty sure it would take more than a few trial runs to know anything much about potential problems / difficulties. Dynamics of every group would vary significantly.
      Have some of these thoughts / observations had example situations in Reality TV ?
      Highly Trained / disciplined doesn’t mean people are not still human. There is a hell of a history of indiscretions / interactions between Males & Females in close proximity as circumstantial evidence / historical background.
      I would tend to think a group of ‘the boys’ (non-sexually in particular) would be considerably more united / focused than a mixed-sex group, over time, in & out of combat.

    3. I dare say there’s quite the history of Sexual Harassment claims & inter-office infighting to suggest likely potential outcomes, along with generally less cohesion, i should think.
      Sex seems to have an odd habit of seeming more important than life itself at times, perhaps dangerous times in particular, also times of loneliness / isolation / alienation.

  11. I agree with most everything that you posted except you have still missed the basics of the debate.

    In one corner you have most of the combats arms officers across the services that do not want women in their units. They have stacks of data on VO2 max, strength tests, injury reports, pregnancy related absences,fraternization issues…

    In the other corner you have the people that cannot believe that in 2014 there is a place were boys are still allowed to hang up a “NO GURLS ALLOWED” sign.

    So one side argues, you are going to get me killed, while the other side argues I should be able to do whatever I want because that is my fundamental right. Good luck declaring a winner in that debate.

  12. In 1981 I was the XO/TO for a Basic Training Company at Fort Leonard Wood, MO. I did three training cycles with a mixed company of men and women. I then did three training cycles with a newly formed, all male, Basic Training Company. The all male company was definitely easier to keep focused. As a side note I spent the rest of my career in law enforcement and many of the same arguments, pro and con, were made back then regarding law enforcement. There were some good things that came out of that and some bad. You should definitely expect physical standards to take a hit as they will be downgraded so as to provide the greatest opportunities to all applicants. Unfortunately, the people who are making these integration decisions are out of touch with reality.

  13. as an ex 11b in an airborne unit i only see one point to argue the point of females in combat arms.sex aside , mentality aside, the female body is not equipped to go for extended periods of time without the proper personal hygiene being done. as a males body is . a female soldier who is not able to take care of their is going to go down with serious infections and become a liability for the unit period, and that risk is not worth compromising anyone safety for.

    1. Thomas van hoose – uh, what? Proper personal hygiene? Dude you have NEVER had a wife or girlfriend. I don’t know what century you are from, but that hilarious.

  14. Hang on a second. I’ve completed two deployments now, and I will never stop singing the praises of the female operators attached to my unit. They obtained information that eventually became critical intelligence against our enemies from sources no man could have reached. Granted, that does not necessarily put them in the same “combat role” as men, nor have they completed the same kind of training as Marines or various special forces.

    The argument that men can’t control themselves when women are around is obscene and insulting to the men who sign up to serve this country. The argument that morale among people surrounding a couple deteriorates really isn’t any better…The bottom line is, if you can’t keep your emotions in check towards something that should have absolutely ZERO bearing on your military performance, you need to pick a different profession. Let me speak candidly–if you can’t keep your hormones on a leash, I do not want you in my military. I get that this isn’t a “perfect world,” but it IS the greatest military power on the globe–discipline should be common sense.

    The successful integration of blacks and homosexuals is less a testament to the success of across-the-board integration, but rather more an indication that perhaps tradition for tradition’s sake needs to be questioned.

    The exclusion of women from combat roles is the product of historical, now obsolete gender roles established during the development of “civilized” society. If we can conjecture that society has somehow progressed further since then, then we can also accept the possibility that women aren’t simply meant for child-bearing and house-keeping.

    I don’t want to see the standards lowered or even really reevaluated. If a woman can successfully perform in an environment where even most men don’t cut it, she deserves a shot. End of story.

    1. Yes, PVT Joe and PFC Joesephine have done such a wonderful job keeping their hormones and emotions in check. That’s why we have General Order #1.

      Of course my dinosaur mentality regarding women in combat arms is that they shouldn’t be in those units. But that’s only based on 13 years in the infantry and 16 years in armor. Sure fraction of females could hack it physically, but is the logistical cost justified? And would it enhance mission accomplishment? probably not

    2. If you knew 100 SEALs (I use this example from knowledge) and took a survey of how many of them had sex with females – civilian or military – in a deployed environment, you would realize your second paragraph is completely erroneous. Purge all of the wrongdoers in that community alone, and you’d likely lose at least a quarter of the operators. Get to know some, listen to what they care about, listen to their stories. They aren’t high-and-to-the-right on all accounts. Quite the contrary, at a certain level, special operators (AND their support personnel) develop an entitlement complex.

    3. Yeah, i dunno, i think people can seem quite capable of “keeping their hormones on a leash” but over time their priorities / motivations / thoughts & feelings can shift & evolve. Group dynamics over time could lead to pretty much anything, i’d think.

  15. This is what is always comes down to. Just like with “Don’ ask, don’t tell”, mission first. Yes, everyone can think they are on their own little personnel campaign while they serve but they are in service to our nation. That service is in the best interest of the department of defense and mission not their feelings or personnel triumph. There are so many reason things should be left alone. I was an infantry squad leader and a Green Beret for seventeen years. Everyone has a role. God Bless America

  16. So, just to get this straight…what the author is saying is that men and women can’t serve together without a raging orgy…or at least the potential for one existing so close to the surface of everyone’s minds that it’s impossible for the unit to focus.

    Please. What century are you living in, Ms. Simons?

    From personal experience: I lead an all-male military team. We are not a special forces unit, but our missions dovetail with many SF objectives. In short, we carry weapons, we wear body armor, and when we go on a mission, it’s just us. Our teammates are all we have to rely on, and it’s essential to know that the guy standing next to you has your back.

    We have successfully executed every mission that we have been given. We train together constantly, including hand-to-hand fighting. Once the team dynamic was established–because let’s be honest, there’s an evaluation period for every new leader–my guys took a sort of pride in the fact that I’m a female. We’re a tight team, we perform well, and we trust each other.

    And guess what? Nobody has gotten the “prize,” metaphorically speaking, as Ms. Simons refers to it. It is insulting to female soldiers, sailors and Marines to call us a “prize.” Are there going to be individuals who conduct themselves unprofessionally? Yes, just as there are military members who choose to commit other infractions of the UCMJ. But at least have the respect not to paint all of us, male and female, with the same hormone-soaked, out-of-control paintbrush.

    I agree that physical standards should not be lowered. I asked no quarter during my training and I was given none by instructors. They understood that someday not only my life but the lives of my teammates would be on the line, and they refused to give me a pass just because I’m a woman.

    Keep the integrity of the training, hold the line with all standards, and let the results speak for themselves.

  17. I just remember during the march to Baghdad we had a female crew of truck drivers from the CLB for an ammo resupply. None of them could lend a hand in moving the 155 projos

  18. When I returned to the land of UM, Md. U., after RVN, I took an excellent class, military sociology, from Prof. Charles H. Coates, Col. ret. A West Point graduate and later , LSU for his Masters. He was a fine old gentleman, God rest his soul, and the course was excellent, describing the human interactions in a military context and covering the history of the U.S. military. If you are interested, find the book, Military Sociology written by him and Roland Pellegrin.
    Anyway, there are 3 aspects of female participation in armed conflict: physiological (women have nowhere near the upper body strength and endurance of men), psychological (men are by nature aggressive, women aren’t) and sociological (as soon as you have put a woman into a unit of men, you have just eliminated any esprit de corps that existed).
    Next, the books written by a former army captain pretty much hammer the lid on the coffin.
    But, as you are painfully aware, the ghost will not die and is alive and thriving in our current political correctness.
    Weak Link: The Feminization of the American Military

    and

    Women in the Military: Flirting With Disaster

    by Mitchell, Brian

      1. hehe…Yea going against a few million years of evolutionary compulsion is always a good bet.

        The first priority is to make more copies of yourself. Everything depends on that…men have a genetic need to protect women because women are the only ones around that can insure a man has children. Women have a genetic need to find the strongest man, evolutionary forces compel her.

        But some government lackey is going to issue s proclamation and wipe all of that out. Good luck with that but I don’t think it will work out.

        Anything that doesn’t make a unit more able to close with the enemy and destroy them does not belong.

    1. This is the argument that most disgusts.

      You’re basically saying we should throw out millions of years of evolution, and that our human nature is irrelevant.

      Not so.

  19. This bad idea keeps coming back. Sure women should be in the military, and hell no they shouldn’t be in ground combat units.

    I never met a woman in my time in the Marines or Army National Guard who actually wanted to be in the Infantry or Armor once she found out what it required. And when training with non-combat units, I watched the toughest women struggle and sometimes get seriously hurt in the most basic combat drills.

    And the sex problem the author describes may be understated. When the mind is convinced that death is eminent, young bodies go into overdrive trying to reproduce before that window closes. Riyadh in ’90-91 was an absolute mess of fraternization and pregnancies.

  20. We can’t really be surprised that the train is heading in this direction as the Army’s personnel system has spent the last 50 years destroying unit cohesion. Individual assignments, rather than belonging to a regiment, were the first step. The integration argument has always been a red herring, as the Army had “colored” combat arms units and “white” units, so there was something to integrate. For proof of concept, put an all female infantry company into the line and see what happens.

  21. One reason people in units don’t get together and socialize together back in the states- a DUI now ruins a career. Seriously. Used to be, all get togethers involved copious amounts of alcohol. Now, they can’t. Like it or not, alcohol is THE great social lubricant. And being drunk used to be a mitigating facvtor when you did something stupid, not an aggravating factor. Talk to any old timer and he’ll have stories, if not of stupid things he did while drunk, stupid things his buddies did.

    As for affair downrange, mentioned earlier, everyone (in the Navy at least) knows that anyhting west of 180 deg, or anything east of Gilbralter doesn’t count. No matter how straitlaced you are- you don’t ever talk to those back home about what others are doing. You just don’t.

    And as for those who support women in combat, or on ships or in combat units, I have heard rumors there may be a dependent wife who supports the idea. But none of the several hundred I met in a career did. Mine certainly disn’t and doesn’t. And those senior personnel who support the idea? IMHO, brown nosers looking to advance in the new PC environment.

  22. I’m all for this new un-PC era of warfighting. I mean, we’ve had mixed units for over a hundred years now and never found a way to overcome issues of gender, sex and sexual orientation in a military setting. It’s not like we literally just started doing this, right?

    Seriously, though, I’m all for effectiveness over equality when it comes to warfare. The data says that women can’t hack lifting large loads and walking long distances? Fine. Except, why these particular loads and particular distances? Why not more? I mean, there is good research to show that African-Americans have a genetic advantage when it comes to these things too. So shouldn’t we up the standards and transition to an all-black infantry?

    More than that, what about areas where things other than lifting a large load and running are important? Women are naturally smaller then men, meaning that they are intrinsically better as crewmen for armoured vehicles. They also tend to be able to handle g-loadings better than men, so make inherently better fighter pilots. Finally, women tend to have less learning disabilities and concentration issues than men. So I guess anything requiring concentration and education should be all female.

    Think of the efficiency! Every person, now put into the place they’re most statistically suited for: a majority-female officer corps, all-female pilot corps, all-female tank/AFV crews, majority-female bridge crews, all-male loaders and fitters, all-male mechanics and below-decks personnel and an all-male, all-African American infantry corps.

    Somehow, I doubt these fans of logical, research-driven, “un-PC” training and deployment really want armed forces laid out as I’ve described above. Instead, they’re looking at a machine designed for men and taking it as optimal. Where that machine could be improved by changes, all is ‘good enough’. Where it would require changes to work with anything other than men, the machine is suddenly too important to tamper with. To argue for efficiency in this way ends up seeming more than a tad dishonest.

    This is not to say that there are no arguments against the way that people seem want to do things now: a mixed force with lowered standards may indeed have all of the issues the OP mentioned. So by all means, argue for your position.
    Just don’t be dishonest about what it is you are arguing for.

  23. As a soldier, I have seen the difference between single and mixed gender units. My troop was, up until a few months ago, completely male. The introduction of a female into the work environment, while not detrimental to a non-combat unit like mine, has limited the things we can say or do at work, as well as restricting the activities we can do outside work to help with bonding and unit cohesion.

    While many females are good at their job, better than males in some instances, this does not equate to combat units. Even in POG units it affects cohesion, and in many of these corps it is already evidently lacking in comparison to combat arms corps.

  24. The British experience may provide some reassurance that women in close combat will turn your armed forces into a basket case, rather the opposite.
    Women have long served in our field artillery and combat engineers, very successfully. Our rifle platoon medics and dog handlers in Afghanistan were often, indeed mostly, female. We have women in frontline SOF roles. Our practical experience of success is causing us to review infantry and armour MOS.
    We thought the sky would fall in when gays could openly serve, when women could serve in combat unit roles. Neither happened. Instead we got a better workforce. Not least because prejudices collapsed.

  25. For Anna Simons, If you have not read Mika Etchebehere’s account of her time in Spain commanding a mostly male P.O.U.M. militia unit, I strongly recommend you do so. It was published in French under the title “Ma Guerre d’Espagne a Moi” and translated into Spanish. A couple of us SF captains read it in the late 1970s.

    Readers might find her problems with some male subordinates enlightening. To take a liberal paraphrase: “Here I was, a Revolutionary Socialist who espoused Free Love, living a life as chaste as a nun. For if any man under my command had me, he would not, as a Spaniard, respect me. And that would bring problems…”

  26. I always come back to one item. If women are the physical equal of men then why do we as a nation continue to segregate women and men on high school and college sport’s teams? If we want men and women to have unit cohesion why do we separate them from the time they are around eight to ten until they enlist in the military?

    We all know why they are on different teams even at the Olympics level. Even though there is a female every now and then who could compete with the males, they are few and far between. The boys/young men are bigger, faster and stronger and would dominate most girls/women on the team. If the girls/women can’t compete with boys/men at something as benign as soccer or basketball then how can they be the physical equal in something as grueling as ground combat?

    This concept of equality in the military is a joke. The military discriminates every day based on height , weight, medical conditions, cognitive abilities, conduct, etc. The purpose is to build a force to fight and win wars and that’s it. Political correctness cannot overcome millions of years of evolution. Men and women are physically different and nothing can change that fact.

    Also young men and women will form physical and emotional attractions to each other. Professionalism only goes so far. No one joins the military to become a celibate warrior monk. Imagine a rifle squad where the team leader is dating the squad leader who just broke up with the SAW gunner. Now think about the unit cohesion in that squad.

    This is a bad idea that will happen. This is all about promotional opportunities for female officers, not what is best for the nation. There are no senior leaders with the guts to stop it.

  27. Frankly, if you have never worked with men and women in combat zones, you do not know half the story of what happens downrange. Mixing up combat units with males and females not only can get people killed, it hurts morale, causes fights and frustration among teammates and ruins careers. All it takes is one female to make a claim and a whole team goes down in flames. Career over. Even if they find the allegations false. By the time the investigation is over, they found some other way to nail you. FACT.

  28. The attached link provides a timely case for at least one of Anna’s points in the article. Even if we all seem to agree that competence is not the issue if women are held to the same standard, there is still a long way to go socially before this notion of full integration in close-quarters situations could even be considered.

    In this case, it can be presumed that the voyeurs in question were subordinates of the unwitting female officers. Maybe I’m too much of a prude, but it would seem pretty hard to view your opposite-sex commander strictly and objectively as a leader once you’ve leered at her nudity in a shower-scene peep show.

  29. When the President displays enough confidence to allow only all-female Secret Service teams to protect him and his family his entire 4-8 years in office, as well as for all others authorized protection privileges…then we can begin having rational, adult conversations on this topic. Until then, it’s clear women are not capable or trusted to defeat serious threats in direct engagement by themselves.

    When questions arise regarding male-to-female ratios needed to maintain effective gender-integrated combat units…those very questions clearly validate women are not equally capable to the task. If our nation is forced down this road, then all-female combat units ‘is equality’ and will provide opportunity for those women capable and inclined to be in combat units the chance to serve there. However, no one in the Pentagon would order an all-female combat unit on its own into the heart of Islamic State territory; or into war with North Korea, Russia, or China as they would an all-male unit. No one will risk that blood on their hands or career.

    Someone recently expressed this concern very well: If your loved one was wounded on a battlefield, exposed to continuing enemy fire, and the only Soldier or Marine close enough to run out, shoot returning fire, and try dragging your loved one to safety was male or female…which gender would you want there?

    Non-deployability of female servicemembers in ‘non-combat’ positions due to pregnancy is around 12%. In a war with high casualties…the number of ‘non-combat’ non-deployable females due to pregnancy and other reasons could easily climb to 40-50%. Injecting those unnecessary personnel-loss rates into combat units during war is human and mission suicide.

    The enemy also has a say in all this.

  30. As a former enlisted mp and OCS commissioned Officer – Airborne, Pathfinder(yes, one of very few), etc – I beg the Rangers not to DARE lower your standards for women – I would run or fight to the death – but if you put a 120 pound ruck on my 120 pound frame – I would fall over. Military ladies – before you ask to go to combat – ask for ALL the same standards as the men – run the same pt tests do the same pushups and pullups – and then ask to go to combat – the enemy DOES NOT shoot to the left because they see a ponytail – DO NOT sacrifice the safety of this country….

  31. Ms Simons argument that “every sentient adult knows what happens when you mix healthy young men and women together [. . .] for extended periods of time” is downright sophomoric. This is high school girl thinking. The problem is just the opposite, it’s not attraction but disgust that prevails in these situations. If you have any doubts about what happens to women who become combat hardened, go ahead and Google “Brigadier General Janis Karpinski” and check out the photos.. then get back to me. WOW!

  32. A couple of things. Testosterone and aggression are male problems and are what separate the men from the girls. Just like women, whose periods synchronize when living together, men tend to up their game when they live, eat, and sleep in a group. Any person who has ever witnessed a fraternity can attest to that. The military needs aggression. Women just do not have it in sufficient quantities. The article did not address the stated intent of the Army and Marines to use “gender norming” that is dumbing down the fitness requirements for women vs those of men. This leads to a myriad of ways that the combat effectiveness of a unit will be compromised. A squad must go into combat carrying a certain amount of equipment at certain times. The combat fighting load is approaching 50 lbs per soldier. The Approach Load can be 72 lbs, and the Emergency Approach March load can be 110-150lbs. This has led to stress fractures in the backs of well conditioned male troopers, who on average would weigh 20 or 30 lbs or more than the average woman of the same age. So if she cannot carry her share of the load, someone else has to, which means someone else, one of the men is overloaded, compromising him and raising the likelihood he will break down sooner or at the very least become fatigued and lessen his combat effectiveness all to make the woman feel better about herself and to push an agenda. Are women not brave? NO they can be. Do they respond differently than men to stress, yes, they do. I have supervised women in the field and I can tell you, it was a nightmare. Women in general hold grudges and fight over petty differences between themselves that men could suppress in order to get a job done. The only thing the topic under debate will do is fill more body bags. The blood will be on the hands of those pushing this and ignoring the facts and common sense.

    1. I have been in combat, I am a woman and I performed my job with the same amount of aggression as my male counterparts. If women can pas the rigorous training the same as men let them do the same job as men. I did the same push-ups and sit-ups and 2-mile run the same as anyone in my age group…I think the issue here is men are feeling threatened by the fact that there just might be a woman out there who can do the job better than they can.

  33. This article and the comments that follow sicken me. It has proven to me just how little our society has actually come in gender equality. It’s really quite simple to me. If a woman can do the job she should be allowed to. She should also be allowed to try. If they fail the training that goes into being in combat, that’s one thing. But if they complete the training and have the strength and skill necessary to do the job there should be NO reason keeping them away. It is an insult to the men and the women in service and in the society to try to make the argument that women should not be allowed to do this because of problems with fraternization. If it’s such a problem maybe we should only allow women and not men. These beliefs are what perpetuate violence towards women and girls. I would have thought that the protectors of our country would not fall into those same attitudes. Additionally, there have been comments made that a woman’s body just can’t handle combat…. Take a look at some female body builders that could chew men up and spit them out if they wanted and get back to me. I’m not saying it’s the majority but there are women out there who can do the job and they should be allowed to serve there country in every way that a man can. I feel like I’m six years old again playing boys vs. girls when reading these comments. It literally is discouraging to know that people still think this way. When I was young I wanted to go into the military, unfortunately due to a disability that can never happen. To know that I would not have had the same opportunities as men in the service makes me sick. To me this is barely about the military, it’s about our society still operating under the illusion that men are in some way superior to women. Disgraceful. We’re supposed to be the United States for crying out loud.

  34. some people are sexist pigs!!!!women are as strong as men,who was makeing bombs during WW2 that’s right WOMEN and CHILDREN out of almost everything there was including bacon grease they were makeing bombs……and they were starving but they held their heads up high like a true united states citizen.WE should all be proud of the women and girls in our country.I my self a women,and i am proud to be one.so the males need to toughen up and except that women should be in the milatary.they atleast want to do it volentarally

  35. The emasculation of Marine ground troops, what a farce. Men want to change the world, women want to change men. Growing up in a community where women happily cared for their children, met their female counterparts, had coffee or tea, laughed, had fun and lived to ripe old ages. (100). Everywhere women go where men dominate the place they go disintegrates into idiocy, and what about sexual connections? Wow, to get laid on the job and may bet your bloody head blown off by not paying attention. Women are great sometimes but many of them are assholes. Combat is afoot, her period starts, eek!, my period, eek, I banged my shin, eek, I hate carrying this heavy gun, you carry it, I was nice to you last night, etc. We have lost our freaking minds. Women were once attractive because they were women, now they’re manipulating jerks, not all of them, could it be the food they eat is loaded with hormone that make them more men than women and men more women than men. Could be, one only has to analyze the crap we’re fed and eat. Once, we were a great country, no fat asses to speak of, no women wanting to be men, no men wanting women near them during battle, they’re physically weaker, cannot take pain as men can, don’t have the testosterone needed to be warriors, etc. Yet, we indulge them since we’re afraid they’ll go on a screaming rampage and accuse guys of all kind of atrocities, like insisting they get their ass out of combat and let men do their thing. The more women in the military, the more effeminate it becomes, and that is insane. Lesbians started this women thing, when’s the last time you snuggled up to one of the ball cutters? Anybody who goes along with this madness is no longer a man, but a mouse. Squeak, squeak, squeak, figuratively speaking.

    1. You are right about that. If a solider is facing eminent doom he’ll damn well do as he pleases, he believes he is going die anyways. And you women suggest we men go against million’s of years of evolution that compel us to fornicate, even Buddhism monks who were raised in temples at times fall to this temptation.

      I guess if the women can met the same standards as the guys and can undress naked in front of the whole unit since they will be living close together then its OK. Women can’t piss without pulling their pants down. Women are also more likely to get urinary tract infection than guys do. What do you do about periods? The cramps could reduce an army women’s combat readiness. What about female prisoners? They’ll get raped and made a mockery of when captured.

  36. Perhaps those of you who have issues with women in combat should voice them to the 2nd Peshmerga Battalion…Some Bad ass “girls” , most of them still teenagers who are Isis worse nightmare. Or the freedom fighters in any war down through the centuries, My own grandmother included, who have kick ass and taken names. They would fine your arguments offensive.

    1. Most the arguments presented here are not offensive.. just telling the truth. Facts are facts and over 90% of women would fail a PT test if it was the same test given to the men. There will be very few who can even pass the simple PT test let alone do every thing else men in infantry have to do (remember a PT test is only a small test compared to what a day in the real life is all about). With that being said if women are allowed to try out that means spots will have to be reserved just for women. To make the math easy lets say 100 people go to infantry school and 10 spots are saved for women. Men generally only have a 14% chance of failing this school so that means roughly 78 men will pass. Now as for the women, there may only be one who passes… MAYBE. Now whats the problem with this? Two main things actually the first being the fact that we paid for all of their training ,because someone has to pay for them to get trained, knowing maybe only one will get our moneys worth out of it. Second if it was an all males class we would have gotten 86 soldiers instead of roughly 79. Now put that to a scale of the 20,000+ infantry soldiers in the army alone and that gap gets MUCH wider. That is why woman should not be allowed in combat roles.

  37. To anyone that might think women should have to serve in combat jobs because it’s not fair that only men do then you are looking at this from the completely wrong perspective. By sticking women in combat you aren’t just forcing them to put their own lives at risk. As an infantry rifleman that has actually experienced combat, I can assure you that every person in combat relies on the other guys their next to them. It’s not like call of duty, and combat is extremely strenuous both mentally and physically.

    It’s scientific fact that on average women don’t have the same muscle mass as men, and they also don’t have the same level of aggression. This isn’t a cultural issue or something that can be remediated through any amount of training, it’s basic biology. The main hormone responsible for both muscle growth and aggression is testosterone. Men produce on average 10x more testosterone than women. This means we have more potential to grow muscle, we regrow it faster after breaking it down, and we have more aggression, on average. All of these factors are extremely important in a job where your life literally depends on your ability to aggressively physically pursue and destroy people that are trying to kill you.

    It really doesn’t matter how I explain it. There are a plethora of factors that add to the issue from additional logistical requirements, to sanitation, and even relationship issues created by introducing women to combat jobs. The simple fact is, if you haven’t experienced it yourself you simply aren’t going to understand. That’s not me being arrogant, it’s simply such an alien culture and experience that unless you go through it yourself you don’t have the appropriate frame of reference or educational background to being to understand the issues.

    Please take it from me, nobody in the infantry actually wants women to be forced (or allowed) to serve in combat roles. We all volunteered to do this, and we did so because we know that we will be in good hands with the guys we are serving with. Sticking women on the front lines will get people killed all in the name of diversity for diversities sake.

  38. Okay, I’m all for equality. I would be honored to die for my country and kill some ISIS scum. However, for reasons totally unrelated to bias or sexism women are nowhere near as physically able as men. Just go to Youtube and watch the video by Terrance Popp “Can’t Cut The Mustard” It talks about how for most of the requirements to serve in combat, about 20-25% of women failed and for some of the requirements 90% of women failed. These were young, athletic women who were performing at the best of their ability and probably represented the best of the female population in physical capacity. The simple truth is that our armies should not, in any way, lower the physical standards for any of their soldiers, and if the standards are equal, only 1% of women would qualify. I wish it weren’t true, but it is. I would guess that a fair amount of men wouldn’t qualify, but the difference is that with a lot of men you could train them but with women it just isn’t possible unless the woman is an anomaly. That is not to say that women are useless in war. Many militaries are responsibly trying to integrate women into roles where they can realistically compete on par with men. Israel, for example, uses women in many jobs but refuses to allow women into frontline combat and refuses to lower their standards. The real inequality is the fact that men are not legally allowed to vote if they don’t sign up to be drafted. Women can and always have had an important role during war, and by all means they should be drafted and forced to serve their countries, but it is ridiculous to assume that most women should serve in the way that most men serve. Any time that we allow women into a new role we should vigorously test and experiment in order to ensure that the effectiveness of the military will not be compromised. I’m no expert, but war today is not how it used to be; people are in general a lot bigger and stronger than they were in past eras, and like always, the women are only 1/2 to 2/3 as strong as men, which means that in combat, women are twice as likely (or at the least 1/3 more likely) to die in combat. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link and if we refuse to accept the facts our children will be even more likely to die or be horribly injured in war. I would love to serve my country, but I know my limits, and I would be better suited for a job that is less physically strenuous than combat. That’s all I have to say.

  39. After 27 years as an officer, commanding men and women, and having raised three daughters, I feel qualified to comment. All this social babble is irrelevant. What really matters is that for one week a month, a female is chemically instable and has a bad temper, bad judgment, and makes bad decisions. Military decisions are critical, people can die, and, although men aren’t perfect, they don’t make stupid decisions for an entire week every month of their life…. Menstruation is simple biology and there is nothing to discuss. Women are special and I adore them, but they have no place in Command or Leadership positions.

    1. Addressing women as “special” is rude and demeaning and saying that women make “stupid” decisions for a whole week is not constructive or accurate in any way. Also women don’t menstruate for a whole week, it varies. So next time you are going to make a sexist uneducated remark about women, please check your facts first. Women are strong and resourceful and can be treated as equals if people with your views stop grouping all women together. Adoring women isn’t going to help them advance in society, no women who is strong enough to become a green beret, a marine or any other position in the armed forces is not going to be satisfied with your adoration. The last thing that stood out in your comment was the part where you said you felt qualified to comment. No, you are not qualified to say anything about women’s menstruation until you are a woman Patrick.

  40. Saying that giving women the opportunity to enter into combat units is a bad idea because of “boy-girl” problems are the kind of ideas that set back women from succeeding. The concern that women won’t be strong enough to handle carrying packs, equipment or supporting their unit is unreasonable. It’s unreasonable because nobody should be allowed to fight if they are physically able to, men AND women have to go through rigorous training to be allowed to fight anyway. So saying no to a broad group is discriminatory because a percentage of women are completely capable of completing the training necessary to be part of a combat unit.