Women in Combat Arms: Just Good Business

February 25, 2015

As the debate over women in combat units rages on, this female aviator in the U.S. Marine Corps argues that many arguments against gender integration are the same recycled arguments used against racial desegregation and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

For special access to experts and other members of the national security community, check out the new War on the Rocks membership.

Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a short series on the debate over women serving in combat arms in the U.S. military.


No Shit, There I Was…

Congresswoman Martha McSally, the first female aviator to fly in combat, said that her most memorable mission was the first time she shot at the enemy in Afghanistan. She and her A-10 wingman were called in to kill insurgents fighting friendly troops in rugged terrain:

On my last rocket pass, my heads up display failed with all of our computerized weapons sites. I had to rely on the very archaic backup called “standby pipper,” which was a hard site. I needed to quickly get ready to shoot the gun manually, where I had to be at an exact dive angle, airspeed, and altitude when opening fire in order to be accurate. We destroyed the enemy on several passes. We train for this type of malfunction, but I never would have imagined shooting the gun in standby pipper in combat like this.

Cut to Iraq in the spring of 2003. Captain Haynie’s (now Major Haynie) section of cobra attack helicopters was supporting 3/23 in the vicinity of Al Kut. Haynie described the situation to me in an email:

It was a late night flight, so we were on NVGs [night vision goggles] and we were flying in support of a unit taking fire within the town. There was a fire fight- we were getting shot at; the guys on the ground were getting shot at. We were feeding them information on what we saw, and the forward air controller asked us to fly over their position to see what the enemy would do. It worked. A number of hours later, I was headed to the HQ tent at the airfield a few miles away when a few young Marines walked up. They were from the unit we’d been supporting and had heard a female voice over the radio, and when they saw me, they came up to thank me. One of them said that having us overhead was one of the best, most comforting sounds they had heard in awhile.

Back to Afghanistan, fast forward to 2011, and I was in the pilot’s seat. The skies were clear and the insert had gone off without a hitch. The operation started like any other early morning raid. We escorted the birds in for the insert and stayed overhead to provide overwatch. The Marines were conducting a raid on the west side of the river in the Upper Gereshk valley. My Huey wingman watched on his sensors as a ragged line of villagers fled north, dragging children and farm animals in tow. All signs indicated an imminent Taliban ambush on the infantry Marines below. We hoped we would be able to get the Marines extracted by the CH-53s sitting at Forward Operating Base Oullette before the fight came. But, as any Marine can tell you, hope is not a course of action. As the transport aircraft were on their final approach to the landing zone, the Taliban let lose a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades. We tipped in, cleared hot for weapons release, and unleashed a barrage of our own.

The Challenge

The debate over whether or not women should be allowed to fly combat aircraft arose after Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Arguments against allowing women to serve in these roles echo those we hear today against allowing women to serve in the ground combat arms. They also recall arguments against racial desegregation of the military that followed World War II and the recent repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. In all of these cases, those arguments crumbled from their obvious inadequacies and the armed services protecting America today are as capable as they are currently allowed to be. However, the pointiest tip of the spear could be sharper. Combat arms units are not as lethal as they could be if they had full access to all eligible Americans, not just men.

We have had this conversation before, and we are having it again. On January 24, 2013, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded the combat exclusion policy thereby allowing our women in uniform to serve in combat arms occupational specialties. However, unlike the racial desegregation of the military in 1948, Secretary Panetta gave services the option to submit “exceptions to policy” to justify keeping certain occupations closed to women.

Let us first dispel the notion we are discussing “women in combat.” America’s daughters have been fighting in her defense since Deborah Sampson enlisted in the Continental Army as “Robert Shurtlieff” to fight the Red Coats. Today, women serve in many of our allies’ infantries, fighting alongside our service members in Afghanistan. Whether women should serve in combat is an irrelevant discussion. It has happened and is happening as you read this article. Today’s debate is over American women serving in combat arms specialties (e.g. infantry, tanks, artillery, and special operations).

We are at a pivotal moment in our country’s history. The repeal of the combat exclusion policy has given us an opportunity to realize the ability of every individual to contribute to our nation’s security. What is remarkable about the current conversation is how much emotion and how little evidence has been presented against the integration of women into combat arms. In a short series of articles here at War on the Rocks, I will identify, assess, and refute the validity of arguments against gender integration in order to elevate the conversation beyond emotion and lead our country to a holistic solution that will make our armed forces more capable of fighting and winning tomorrow’s wars.

It’s Not a “Social Experiment.” It’s Just Good Business.

In 1949 then-Secretary of the Army Kenneth Royall argued to Congress in favor of maintaining segregation by stating the Army “was not an instrument for social evolution.” In 2011, Representative Allen West argued against the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by stating, “The U.S. military is not there as a social experiment.” They are right – in spite of themselves. By their own words, the military’s mission is to “fight and win America’s wars.” America’s recruiting pool is already extraordinarily limited. When all of the qualifiers (minimum health, weight, education, aptitude, and criminal record) are added up, only 25 percent of young Americans, age 17 to 24, are even eligible to apply for military service. To further limit this already limited talent pool is bad business.

A common concern is that men and women cannot successfully work together in small teams because of cohesion issues. Sociologists and thirteen years of U.S. combat experience have shown that mission accomplishment is based on trust between leader, subordinates, and peers. On the one-year anniversary of the repeal of combat exclusion policy, General Dempsey wrote,

When in contact with the enemy, the individual soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine doesn’t consider whether their comrade in arms is a man or woman. They care about whether they can do their job. There is a simple explanation for this: trust transcends gender.

There are different types of unit cohesion. The most important for warfighting is task cohesion. Dr. Mady Segal defines task cohesion as the extent to which group members are able to work together to accomplish shared goals. Task cohesion includes the members’ respect for the abilities of their fellow group members and the faith that the group can protect each other from harm. As long as a female warrior proves her tactical decision making ability and physical prowess, her team members will see her as a member of the team. This is achieved through countless hours of daily training, pre-deployment work-ups, and actual deployments.

Army Sergeant Julia Bringloe, a medic responsible for working a helicopter’s hoist to get casualties out of deadly combat zones and recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor, relayed a story about her initial time with her “Dustoff” (the callsign of Army MEDEVAC helicopters in Afghanistan) crew:

As the only female in my platoon, when I first got there, I got there middeployment…you know, the first month was rough, without a doubt. I knew that the guys weren’t sure if I was going to be able to handle myself when I came in contact, which was inevitable doing hoist work in the Kunar [Province]. I Finally did my first mission and got shot at and got my patient on board and did my job and dropped my patient off. And then all of a sudden everybody talked to me. Do I think that is necessarily a gender specific thing? We sort of treat everyone like that until you get your first mission in…Now, those people I work with are my brothers.

As the services prepare their troops for combat, cohesion emerges as individuals prove their worth to the whole. Anyone who has played organized sports or been on a debate team recognizes this dynamic intuitively and through experience.

Recent history demonstrates the promise of full integration. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, women who served on Female Engagement Teams (FETs) and in the Lioness Program were used primarily by infantry and military police units to accompany patrols and work at checkpoints. This allowed our troops to have access to women in the community – and often to local men who preferred to speak to women. Upon entering the war zone, FETs were in “direct support” of the infantry units. They were expected to patrol, interact, and shoot when necessary, but rarely had extensive training with the units they worked and lived with. Despite this disadvantage, they performed their mission skillfully and successfully. If each of these young women were allowed to be in the infantry, there would be minimal need for FET and Lioness Teams. Many units would already have this inherent capability as fully integrated members of the team. Women have performed capably and bravely over the last decade. Imagine what could have been accomplished if they had been given the same training as these men, and think about the cohesion that would have naturally occurred if this difficult training was accomplished alongside their brothers-in-arms, as part of the unit.

Looking Forward

Many arguments against integration are the same recycled arguments used against racial desegregation, previous integration efforts, and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The emotional fear of the critics must be overruled by the rational reality of unit cohesion. When every member of the team carries his or her pack, the team is stronger. Giving women the opportunity to try out for combat arms positions will strengthen their units if they earn those positions.

I have not presented all arguments in favor of integration in this article. There will be pieces that follow refuting the major concerns against integration so the reader may realize the value of capitalizing on all the talent available to the American people.   Fighting and winning America’s wars require the military to have unfettered access to the best, brightest, and most diverse talent pool of all Americans.


Katey “Talent” van Dam is an attack helicopter pilot by trade and combat veteran.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Marine Corps or the Department of Defense.

We have retired our comments section, but if you want to talk to other members of the natsec community about War on the Rocks articles, the War Hall is the place for you. Check out our membership at warontherocks.com/subscribe!

40 thoughts on “Women in Combat Arms: Just Good Business

  1. Capt van Dam,

    Usually I can defend someone elses’ argument somewhat. Yours I cannot. You are argueing “apples, oranges and pears.”

    There is absolutely no comparison between desegration of the US military and opening up all military vocations to women. The desegration involved men, with men’s bodies.

    Your examples of success are all airborne. I have no doubt women can effectvely fly aircraft. But it is much different on the ground in combat arms; infantry, armor, field artillery and SOF.

    Incidentally the one thing you got right is women have been in combat for quite some time. Usually combat is where the enemy picks it to be.

  2. “Tip of the Spear” is up close and personal. I don’t think any trooper is going to trust an average size female soldier with full kit to protect his six in a close encounter.

    Also, no squad leader is going to trust a female to break down a door and enter a building with armed drugged up insurgents: two shots might not be enough to take him down. What is a female going to do? Use her feminine diplomat skills? How is this good business?

    Looking for your response.

  3. I understand this is an opinion series but the author’s argument is definitely lacking and WOTR, when will there be an antithesis (obviously there is an agenda here)? We understand you are pro-women in combat, I am too; however, if they can’t pass the test (IOC), we have to start looking at reasons why. So far it’s been the physical part. If a woman displays the physical prowess required, I would be honored to have her as one of my platoon commanders. Truth is, her body is more likely to break down before a man’s, and you can’t lead from the back of a HMMWV or 7-ton. Every good argument equally explains both sides. Please do so “Talent”.

    1. “If a woman displays the physical prowess required, I would be honored to have her as one of my platoon commanders.”

      That is exactly the argument made here. Anyone who meets the physical and mental standards for a particular MOS should be allowed to serve and advance in the military, regardless of gender.

      It’s true that none of the 20-something women who have attempted IOC over the past two years have passed. Putting aside the statistical problems inherent in that limited sample size and the fact that IOC is the Marine Corps’ toughest course for officers (with an extremely high attrition rate for males), IOC should not be the litmus test for every combat arms MOS.

      In the last two years, almost 100 women have passed the Marine Corps’ enlisted equivalent of IOC, School of Infantry. Five women qualified last week to attend the Army’s Ranger School. The Army has also already developed and validated gender neutral individual standards for Artillery and Combat Engineers, and this spring the Army will begin sequentially opening all remaining closed Field Artillery and Combat Engineer specialties, as well as Infantry and Armor specialties once those gender-neutral standards are set.

      Sergeant Major of the Army, SgtMaj Daniel A. Dailey, is an infantryman by trade and decorated with the Bronze Star with Valor for his leadership during the 4th Infantry Division’s 2‐month “Battle for Sadr City” in 2008. He had this to say about integration:

      “Is the Army ready for women in combat arms? I think we are past due,” Dailey said. “I think we should give every Soldier, regardless of gender, the opportunity to serve in any military occupational specialty. What I am excited about is that we are using a standards-based approach, just like we should for everything we do in the Army. Regardless of gender, those Soldiers who are physically capable and want to compete and try out for these schools and military occupational specialties will be eligible to do so. I think it will make our Army better.”

      Those are the facts. If you still don’t agree with allowing those who are capable to compete for the toughest jobs because you FEEL a certain way, tough cookies. Pentagon leaders and combat veterans say that combat exclusion policies based on gender alone do not make sense. We need the best on the front lines to keep our country safe. There is no room for your feelings in the United States military.

      1. J,
        You said it. Frequently had a female .50 gunner in Baghdad, never had any issues. She was big and absolutely able to handle the weapon. Could she have loaded the 120mm HEAT round under pressure in an M1A1? Don’t know until we try.

      2. Your statement – “Tough cookies” can cost a soldier his life. War is not a social experiment of game. BTW, there is room for “feelings” when a father, mother, or wife send their son off downrange. They want to know they are safe and will return. What I have seen during my time in the military is women do not have the upper body strength or endurance for direct combat.

        Enlisted women who completed SOI (ITB-East: flat ground) did not complete same requirements as males. The media like to present a different story, but the instructors no otherwise. Also, the females who completed RTAC were giving special considerations/treatment. Even Airborne school females females don’t adhere to the same requirements as their male counterparts. How is a female going to garner any respect when the PFT standards are different.

        You state this is “past due.” Answer this question: What would have happened if we had fifty percent females land at Iwo Jima and Normandy? Would we have been successful?

      3. The problem with using SMA Daley’s argument is that it is exclusively one of equal opportunity and not of improving the force. Too many active duty service members view the military as an institution that hands out paychecks, and the expectations placed upon it by the public have been more of employing the unemployable as opposed to providing a defense against foreign threats. This is merely a byproduct of such misplaced thinking.

  4. I was an instructor at the Basic School and I have seen how women perform in comparison to men. They are never picked by their peers for leadership positions and just cannot keep up physically in the field. Women never carry the machine gun, they are not as good as digging fighting holes, and cannot carry packs for long distances. This has been proven by the horrible results of attempted integration at IOC. Another observation I have had is watching women attempt to break down doors in an urban environment. Let’s just say that is a circus.
    Your argument that integrating the infantry will open the service to 50% more talent is off base. A small percentage of American males are qualified to serve in the infantry, so that means the absolute smallest percentage of American females are qualified. This is not worth changing the culture over. When women enter an all male unit, the culture changes, everyone much watch what they say, and women cry discrimination when they don’t get what they want. No one has the right to serve in the military let alone combat arms or the infantry. This is not about people’s careers; it is about national defense. Just be eternally grateful that you live in the greatest nation on planet Earth with the most opportunity in the world for women. Literally the only job women can’t do is combat arms in the military. That is amazing and is the best situation in human history for women. Please don’t try to destroy the institution that helps keep it that way.

    1. Your point on available talent is entirely correct.

      I often phrase things in terms of “if I were King of the Navy,” so here goes:

      If I were King of the Navy, and needed to train Navy SEALs to kill terrorists, I need to maximize the number of deployable SEALs and maximize their effectiveness at killing terrorists, while constrained by a limited training pipeline. No other metrics are valid. What that means is:

      Women meeting the minimums to go to BUD/S is not success,
      Female graduates of BUD/S are not success,
      Female candidates graduating BUD/S at the same rate as men is not even success, although it is close,

      Success is when the male/female split of an BUD/S class at Indoc will be the same as the split of that class’s graduates in 5-10 years. This might require unequal standards for candidates.

      The standard I propose is harsh, but anything less would be wasting time and money on sub-standard candidates to accomplish goals unrelated to the military’s mission.

      (I am not a SEAL, I fly, but the SEALs are Navy and a dramatic case of difficult training.)

    2. There is something fishy going on. I see headlines saying an overwhelming majority approve of women in combat, but the comments in articles about the subject are overwhelmingly opposed. Propaganda? The elite need more bodies. Google, “How Feminism Became Capitalism’s Handmaiden” describes how encouraging women into the workforce drove a lot of people, not just women into poverty. Another article, “Kicking Back, Not Leaning In” Dissent Magazine, Madeleine Swartz, summer 2013

    3. Chris…your comment that “no one has the right to serve in the military” reminds me of a larger problem we face society-wide. I would like to expand on that statement by saying that nobody has the RIGHT to have a job…it is a privilege we fight for every day by proving ourselves an asset to our employer. We as a society have strayed from that mindset, and now the job market has strayed from accommodating the needs of the employer to accommodating the needs of the employee. When you place a well-funded bureaucracy like the US military in the midst of such a dysfunctional mindset, it is no wonder that we are seeing this mentality among our leadership.

  5. Dear Readers: I love it when you engage in the comments section and I realize this is an issue that raises hackles and passions so I offer this preemptive warning:

    No ad hominem comments. That means you should counter the author’s arguments rather than the author. In other words, just don’t be a jerk. Stay cool and polite. If you violate that, you won’t be permitted to comment.

    Thank you!

  6. Are women’s bodies more prone to breakage than their male counterparts, increasing potential healthcare costs to the military?
    Will enough women qualify for these jobs to rationalize the costs of facilitating female soldiers in these units?
    Is there a shortage of able bodied males standing in line to fill the roles in Infantry and SOF?
    Is it better to instead utilize the tiny number of females who can compete for these jobs in a much more specialized role in a Special Missions Unit, which they CAN currently try out for?

    These are the only 4 questions that need to be answered. The military can be described with a lot of words. “Fair” is not one of them, and it never should be.

    1. I always chuckle when people cite the Red Army’s use of women as snipers in World War II, because the USSR had taken millions of casualties, and selecting for infantry was NOT a competitive process.

      The military has always been fastest at integrating women into specialties with shortages of qualified men.

  7. This is an issue only because the decision effects the military on a policy level and changes how it does business. Combat on the ground is a physical business that requires strength and toughness. The fact is that men are generally stronger and tougher than women and possess much larger amounts of testosterone which pre programs them with aggression and blood lust. Why are we selling to open the combat arms to a gender that is simply not biologically programmed for the job. The real argument is that we believe future war will be less violent. That’s why we’re moving away from our most efficient weapons of death as well. These arguments will all resolve themselves the next time we find ourselves embroiled in a high intensity conflict.

    1. Mike Agree that it could be solved next go around. But the real issue is that leaders have to anticipate the results and make decisions now that allow opportunities to be effective in combat in the future. Leaders are making short term decisions for non-compelling reasons, even when evidence suggests otherwise.

  8. First if putting women into direct combat as an infantrman, Tanker etc is such a good idea then let pure fleet them. Form all female BDEs so they can show us their stuff. That way no one can claim bias.

    But honestly, even the author knows her argument is pure BS. The purpose of putting women in combat units isn’t to fight, its to displace men from Leadership positions and put females there.

    And in case your wondering I am an ex Army Captain (IF and OD) and I found consistently female Officers and soldier always demand to be treated the same as male soldiers until you actually do so. Then its unreasonable expectations and sexism.

  9. The analogy with racial desegregation is a typical feminist red herring: when the services were desegregated, black men met ALL of the same standards, and all of the same training conditions, and used all of the same equipment, and lived in the same barracks/berths as their white counterparts. None of that is remotely true of any of the efforts to integrate women into the armed forces. All of the services and all of the branches of service that have become coed have separate physical standards and separate task-specific training standards. Had similar methods been used when the forces were desegregated, we would have racial problems like one would not believe, just as affirmative action in the civilian world today generates enormous resistance.

    Military women have never, repeat never, been held to the same standards as their male counterparts. Most who are serving at sea, in the air and in so-called combat support roles still cannot perform all of the minimum damage control, casualty evacuation and combat tasks as well as their male counterparts. All of the data shows that. All of the data shows that women cost more to maintain, are more easily injured (even in non-combat roles), require special gear and separate quarters, have lower rates of readiness, and leave the services at higher rates than do men, and of course their presence contributes to the military’s on-going and huge problem with fraternization and sexual assault. There is absolutely no objective evidence to suggest that a) they are cost effective, b) that they contribute anything to improve our military’s performance and c) that anything like a critical mass can be sustained if they were held to the same standard as men. It is not “good business” but dumb policy. Perhaps one reason why we continue to lose the wars that we are fighting, even against 4th rate enemies.

    The historical analogy, about women serving since the Revolution is absolute [I have a potty mouth so the moderators had to edit out a curse word that I did not need to use to make my point]. Yes, a handful of women have served in roles both traditional (nursing, for example) and non-traditional. There is again no evidence that anything more than this handful of exceptions exists. The historical record internationally is just as decisive. Making policy based on exceptions is dumb.

    It is, of course, true, that some women can meet the male standards for fitness. The number of women who can meet the AVERAGE male standard is about 2%. So, the absolute best women, outliers relative to the rest of the female population, are no better than average men, with many costs. If some of this could actually be acknowledged, along with all the standards that have been adjusted or lowered to-date, one might be able to have a productive debate.

    Finally, a word about all those instances of women returning fire or flying helicopters or just being there. Exposure to danger and being able to perform all the relevant tasks are not the same thing. Moreover, the nature of the enemy matters. Iraq and Afghanistan bear the same resemblance to war against competent opponents as the 19th century’s colonial wars bore to the world wars, reflecting an old saying goes, “You don’t know war until you’ve fought the Germans.” What I find appalling in this debate is the number of so-called professional soldiers who don’t get this, and who don’t understand that the recent wars were nothing like what it would be to fight an enemy with long-range missiles, cyber-war capabilities, submarines, effective aircraft, space-based systems and electronic warfare. Oh, and we haven’t even won the wars we have fought.

    1. I take exception with your dismissal of America’s enemies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere as “4th rate enemies”. The fact that they fight using commercially available technology and low-cost guerrilla tactics commensurate with their available funding, and optimized for use against America’s technologically top-heavy doctrine, does not make them “4th rate”. To quote the reigning doyen of international strategy, Colin S. Gray, from his 1999 book Modern Strategy:

      “The domain of strategic effect, purposeful or otherwise, is not confined to ‘civilized’, as contrasted with ‘savage’, warfare. There are two principal errors to avoid. The first is to regard the realm of real war and ‘real soldiering’ as coterminous with symmetrical conflict, at least as roughly identical to the experience of regular forces fighting regular forces. This error can promote the idea that ‘small wars’, in Callwell’s meaning, are irrelevant, perhaps dangerously irrelevant, diversions from the mainstream requirement to prepare for real war (i.e. grande guerre). Armed forces that decline to take small wars seriously as a military art form with their own tactical, operational, and political – though not strategic – rules invite defeat.”

      That said, I actually think that your dismissal of the brutality and effectiveness of irregular enemies undermines your otherwise compelling argument. As effective as the German War machine was between 1914 and 1919, and 1938 to 1945, one thing you could say about the Wehrmacht was that you’d damn sure rather be captured by them than by the Japanese. The Germans also refused to shoot at medics who were tending to the wounded on the battlefield. Contrast that to the treatment that Yezidi women received at the hands of DAESH, Lara Logan received at the hands of Egyptian protestors, and Amanda Lindhout received at the hands of Hizbul Islam in Somalia. Removed by more than a decade though it may be, many will remember the arguably disproportionate attention that the Jessica Lynch rescue received. Imagine if, instead of a highly publicized SOF rescue, an American infantrywoman was broadcast being burned alive in a cage, or decapitated. There was a time when American values precluded the military from putting women in such positions, and I suspect that many Americans would are still less uncomfortable with the prospect of G.I. Joe being subjected to torture at the hands of enemy guerrillas than they are with the same prospect vis a vis G.I. Jane. With the current global media landscape, irregular groups’ ability to exploit that landscape, and the American public’s notorious casualty aversion, the propaganda value of such contingencies should at least be considered in this discussion.

    2. One thing that you missed about racial integration of the military: The military was largely the trailblazer in this movement. That alone sets racial integration and gender integration apart.

  10. When a woman is required to do 20 dead hang pull ups to max her PFT score in Marine Corps bootcamp, I will then listen to these arguments. Hackles get raised by this argument because they don’t have to meet the same basic requirements from the get go, and yet we are supposed to overlook this? Make it equal from the beginning, and I will have no problem with this. The truth is, they won’t, and we know it. Exceptions will be made, and women will pretend that is not what happens.

  11. First, I am a retired soldier. Second, I am a woman. My opinion is that standards should be set for certain jobs. Anyone who meets those standards should be allowed to do them. Just because a person is female or male does not mean they can meet the requirement. During my prime I could ruck as far, as fast, and carrying as heavy a load as any guy, but you are right that I probably wouldn’t have been able to kick that door down. There were a lot of guys who couldn’t keep up though and a there are a lot of guys who shouldn’t qualify for some jobs just because they are male. There are also a lot of guys who whine and cry about unfairness and foul language and working late hours. There are plenty of women willing to get up and do what needs to be done, even when it involves the terrible things you can’t go home and tell your family about. There are plenty of us who stood at the end of stack so we could tend to the wounds of the guys who did break down the doors. There are plenty of us who carried men out of burning vehicles after they were hit with IEDs. Weak minded and strong minded people exist in both genders. Set the standards high. It ought to be about ability.

    1. Keep in mind that entry into many combat units isn’t based on meeting the minimums, but on competing for the last available spot. There are undoubtedly women who meet the minimums for certain units and training pipelines, but are they displacing more qualified volunteers?

  12. Can’t wait to read the rest of these. I’m an 0302 and couldn’t agree more with the premise of putting the best Marines in a unit regardless of anatomy.
    Dirty little secret: Every grunt unit has a whole crew of weak bitches sprinkled in every Section/Squad. It is never about one Marine’s ability; a unit works together to leverage what each individual does well and adapts IOT function.
    The only way to change this is to actually care about having standards of intelligence, personality, and physical ability that provide a more able pool of Marines. Remove the barrier, set a high standard and we’ll all benefit.

    1. Chris, interesting that you are a 03 making that kind of statement. I pretty sure a majority of your brothers don’t agree with you.

      BTW, I was part of the first experiment (E-MEPSCAT) in the 80’s and women did not do well physically, and Congress squashed the experiment. We all know why this was resurrected again and why liberals and feminists have been emboldened.

      The females I trained with during the test could not ruck on long humps, and there was constant drama and sex. It was like the love boat. We had one female who did well out of the hundreds. She was athletic and gorgeous. She was nice to look at even in fatigues dripping wet. I am sure by your outlook she would have done well in a group of young high testosterone infantry males. How long do you think that would last before someone’s career was destroyed?

      One thing I remember is the DS’ handled the females with kid-gloves afraid of ruining their careers. They smoked the males anytime they got an opportunity. The females could go to sick call anytime they wanted to, they got extra rations and breaks on long humps and FTX, and could decide not to train on any given day if it was that time of the month. Also, the females could not go anywhere alone.

      In a perfect world, I would say give everyone (regardless of gender) a shot if they are physically qualified. However, we all know humans are not perfect and FUBAR’s occur. Women assigned to infantry is a bad idea.

  13. Your arguments have already been very well debunked by others both in the comments and on other sites so I’ll just add this. Squeezing a trigger is the (physically) easy part of sustained combat. It’s pulling a 180lbs fallen soldier out of the line of fire, lifting your comrades over a wall, heaving your body through windows, etc. that exhausts most men and the VAST majority of women.

    Men and women are biologically different. Women are generally weaker. [I wrote something nasty and ad hominem in this next sentence so the editor deleted it. If I don’t follow the rules next time, I’ll be prohibited from commenting here at War on the Rocks]

  14. The alliance between ticket punching women officers and feminists will have their way on this and there is nothing that can be done about it. The political decision has been made. It will be a great success because the institutional military will lie like hell about to make it appear so. All unfavorable information will be suppressed and everybody will like and applaud it…or else.

    It will be a success until the next big war comes and people die who otherwise wouldn’t have had to. Those bodies killed and missing won’t be so easy to hide and things will change back to the way humans have been doing it for the last several thousand years. Those who must die because of this can’t be saved, it is too late. But if we are lucky we will have time to change things back before the country is defeated.

    There is one other thing. If combat exclusion is rescinded I see no reason why women can’t be forced into the military and into combat arms during times of national emergency. Women will be subject to the draft. That would result in massive resistance on a scale we have never seen before. Mark Helprin said that would break his social contract with the polity that is the US. He would take his daughters to the hills and fight to keep them out of the military. That may be stated melodramatically but the gist of what he says is right on. It would not be stood for.

    And that is only one of the reasons this experiment will be reversed when a big war comes. It is sad though that people will have to die that shouldn’t have to.

  15. Ironic that the author accuses her opponents of ignoring the evidence while herself refusing to acknowledge the most screamingly obvious evidence against her own argument – the fact that not a single one of the hand-picked, heavily prepared female students at IOC made it past the _second week_ of the course. Being at TBS, Capt Van Dam can’t plead ignorance to these failures.

    Why should women join the infantry if they can’t meet the standards?

  16. As a retired former SF and infantry colonel with some Very serious close combat time (See movie “We Were Soldiers”) I do not support women in infantry units. Here’s why–
    -In today’s world the press has created the idea that combat is the same as being assigned to Iraq or Afghanistan. If you are a cook or truck driver you “have been in combat”. If this were true every citizen of London during WWII could say that they had been in combat. There is a huge difference between being a target and moving under fire to assault an enemy position. UNfortunately, I know of only two cases where females had to maneuver under fire and that happened while they were riding in a convoy. None of the females in Congress, or in the military, who advocate for women in the infantry have any idea of what that is like. Since the term combat has become generic I have taken to using the term battle when I speak or write about infantry units. How many women have been in an infantry battle?
    All wars are not made up of short patrols from a fire base. My unit often spent two to three weeks in cold, wet jungle with no relief, sanitation, bathing etc. Everyone had to share the load such as machine gun ammo, mortar rounds, etc. That is an essential part of creating the cohesion that drives good combat units.
    A woman in an infantry platoon , or as a platoon leader, would be a distraction. Regardless of what some say, the young soldiers would be trying to see her pee, or clean herself, would be competing for her attention or affection, would spend time discussing among themselves whether she would be a good lay and do the things that come naturally to young men. This imposes another burden on the chain of command which it clearly does not need in a battle environment.
    There is no question that women can be valorous, smart, dedicated soldiers, but in an infantry unit they will serve to degrade , not enhance combat effectiveness.

  17. As a female soldier, I cannot understand why there are women who feel the need to slip into these male branches. Let’s get beyond the physical aspect–it is clear that the overwhelming majority of females lack the physical attributes to succeed. For those that do–what will our leadership do when allegations of sexual harassment/assault surface….or consensual sexual relations that will inevitably breed contention in the unit. Going to combat and being in a combat arms unit are entirely different. Infantrymen are trained to kill, kick in doors and in these situations, the physical capabilities exceed those of female capability, and when “leave no (wo)man behind” is the code, people will unnecessarily be compromised in a high threat, high stakes situation and people may die. This is a terrible decision based on demands for equality, but we are not equal in those jobs. Just ask any man in these units to comment off the record or survey anonymously without risk–you’ll get a different picture. It remains unclear to me why my fellow female servicewomen are not satisfied with their roles in support units–we are patriots, we have honorable career paths. Let the men do what they do best without the contamination of estrogen.

  18. As an 0302 and prior instructor at the basic school, I know that there is one more class during the study at Infantry Officer’s Course. IOC has been open to Captains for months now. Why doesn’t the author of the article throw her hat in the ring and attempt the course. If she were to pass then it would lend some validity to what she is saying. It would be easy for her to get into the course since IOC is literally 100 meters from where she currently works. I don’t believe that the author will attend the course, but she will continue to write articles about things she does not understand just like everyone else on her side of this argument.

  19. Rather than frame this debate about women and watering down standards or whether they might physical standards such as upper body strength. We must realize that today’s military is changing, and not all positions require as much physical strength.

    There is no doubt one needs to be physically fit in the military, but different positions may not call for as much upper body strength.Many arguments against women in combat center around the believe that a woman’s place is not in combat or even the police, such as phyllis schafly. Others think that women are “Too emotional” for combat.

    This argument has a bit of nonsense, massod ayoob who is hardly a liberal and is a famous pro-gun expert has even said females can be just as great as men when it comes to firing weapons, sure the gun may have to be custom fitted because women’s hands are different. Also many women won’t hesitate to shoot rather than try to use alternate fighting techniques if confronted with danger.

    With advanced military techniques,weaponry,change in tactics,etc it’s not like the old military with as many horses and bayonets. Yes, its true sexual harassment,pregnancy, and other issues can arise, but not everyone is like that, many military women are professional, and harassment can occur in same-sex environments. Counties such as Israel have had women in the military for decades without major problems, you would think if having women in the Israeli army was a problem, women would not continue to serve and nobody doubts the skill and well trained mechanisms of the israeli army.

    1. This is a very dangerous assumption to make, and I’m sure that the armchair quarterbacks of the 1860s were saying the same thing.

      “Butts in seats” does not replace “boots on ground”. Sure, it may seem that way from our perspective…but that is solely because there were local “boots on ground” that were willing to fight on our behalf as long as it suited their agenda and we equipped them. I somehow doubt we will have that luxury with the Russians, North Koreans, or Chinese.

  20. Women want “equality”. Well, careful what you ask for. How about we make the Selective Service and Military Draft “equal” for all? Why not draft Suzy cheerleader along with Joe football the next time we have a Vietnam, Korea, or WWII? And not draft her as a cook or nurse, but into a combat position.

    These pioneering women of today’s military may be lauded as heros now, but I hope it doesn’t backfire for the rest of the millions of women later down the road.