Women in Combat Arms: Brass Tacks on Physicality

March 17, 2015

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Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a short series on the debate over women serving in combat arms in the U.S. military. Read the first article, “Women in Combat Arms: Just Good Business.”


Let’s get to the sticking point of the gender integration issue — physical capability. There are countless discussions and online comment threads that are part of the general consternation over whether women are physically capable of succeeding in combat arms. Many critics argue that women will not succeed in combat arms because none of the 26 lieutenants who have volunteered for the Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Course (IOC) have passed — yet. Stating a feat is impossible because it has yet to be accomplished is the dying rallying cry of opponents clutching to the status quo. Opponents to integration would accept as obvious that women are physically capable of flying combat aircraft. They would accept as equally obvious that despite the fact that black Americans make up less than 2% of the Navy SEAL community, this lack of “critical mass” should be no obstacle to these brave young men being afforded the opportunity to try out at BUD/S. The critics simultaneously fail to acknowledge that what they now consider to be totally apparent was formerly considered highly controversial and unsupported by science. In other words, their arguments are ahistorical, unscientific, and reactionary.

Can They Hack It?

In the early 1990s, the subject of whether or not women had the physical ability to pilot high performance combat aircraft was hotly debated. It was widely accepted at the time that the pure physical demands of this occupational specialty were beyond the ability of women; furthermore, even if women could handle the physical demands, it did not mean that they could simultaneously apply highly complex piloting skills under those same physical conditions in combat. Consider the following:

I just really object to the news or whatever coming out and saying, ‘Oh, they’re already doing that job.’ That’s not true. Yes, they are flying F-18s. They’re not flying combat mission F-18s, you know, and to put them in the same role is just ludicrous.

That’s from a Navy Top Gun instructor to the 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces. Today we, including female integration opponents, would dismiss this sort of commentary out of hand. We would tell ourselves, “Of course this is nonsense.” Ironically, female integration opponents do not hear the echo of the Top Gun instructor’s testimony in their own arguments today.

In 2011, 19.4% of enlisted sailors were black; 8.1% of naval officers were black. However, less than 2% of the SEAL community is black. Senior Chief Joseph Jones commented on NPR’s Tell Me More: “Out of approximately 2500 SEALs, there’s only like 50 of us; it’s rare to see a black face.” Whatever hypothesis one subscribes to, the fact remains that black men are vastly underrepresented in the Navy SEAL community. Opponents to female integration in combat arms point to the few instances where, given the rare opportunity to attempt combat arms entry-level schools, women have succeeded as being so few as to be insignificant. However, no one is seriously attempting to close the SEAL community to black volunteers because so few have passed BUD/S.

Just the facts Ma’am…

There are many factors required to pass any specialty school (e.g., the Q-course for Army Special Forces or BUD/S for Navy SEALs) or introductory school (e.g., IOC for Marine infantry officers). The men who compete to be in these units must be smart, mentally tough, and of course, physically strong. There is a minimum physical expectation that is defined by what that specific occupation requires. As long as the minimum physical expectation is justified and articulated for a particular job, then any woman who passes the physical requirements should be given the opportunity to compete for the job.

The first argument against female integration is based on physical capability and usually begins with, “the average man is stronger than the average woman….” It is true that as a group, men are physically stronger and faster than women; while women, as a group, are more flexible and coordinated than men. However, this is missing the point. There are many highly capable men and women within the performance overlap of both sexes. Our military is an All Volunteer Force. The services target individuals, not groups as a whole, for recruitment. If the gender-based barrier to entering the combat arms is erased, recruiting becomes about bringing onboard the most mentally and physically capable individuals, regardless of sex. Some operators already recognize that there are women out there who are capable of passing and maintaining the standards; some women already have. From honor graduates at select courses to combat arms entry-level schools to the Army Ranger screener, some women have already met this elite standard.

Given time and training, women will pass combat arms screeners. Consider the below:

PFT Score Chart
Male Composite PFT Score from 1986 to 2010. CLICK TO EXPAND.

In 1996, when the Marine Corps made men perform “dead-hang” instead of “kipping” pull-ups on their annual physical fitness tests, the average score dropped dramatically. Nearly an entire generation of Marines passed through the Corps before, in 2010, the scores returned to their 1996 averages. Old Marines had to train to a new standard; new Marines knew no difference. Given a standard to train to (those required to pass elite and difficult schools), women will meet the standards. However, as illustrated by the Marine Corps pull-up example, we cannot expect this to happen overnight:

All women possess the ability to excel physically; elite female athletes are elite because they train. Significantly, the difference in athletic potential between ordinary women and elite female athletes is greater than it is between ordinary men and elite male athletes. As an example, the average eighteen-year-old female needs 10 minutes and 51 seconds to run a mile, whereas the average eighteen-year-old male needs 7 minutes and 35 seconds. The untrained woman is 3 minutes and 16 seconds slower than the untrained man. By contrast, the women’s world record holder is only 29.43 seconds slower than her male counterpart; the elite female runner completes the mile in 4:12.56, whereas the men’s world record holder completes the mile in 3:43.13.

Accompanied by a policy that allows all candidates to compete for entry and presents validated, identified physical standards for accession to the combat arms, this new generation of young women will train to the necessary standards.

Physical Injury

The second argument against female integration is based on supposed increased incidence of physical injury. A Marine captain publicly argued against integration based on what she claimed were gender-specific injuries. She particularly gained sympathy when she asserted that her deployment as a combat engineer rendered her infertile. Thankfully, this was a temporary condition, like that experienced by many high-performance female athletes, and she has been blessed with two beautiful children since her article was written. The greater injuries women experience have more to do with their lower fitness levels than it does their gender. According to a report that studied injury rates among female Army trainees, “Gender per se is not the major risk factor that a crude analysis of military training injury data might imply…. [L]ow physical fitness may be the underlying predisposing factor.” Injuries can be mitigated with better fitness for both genders.

A related concern that has been raised is the cost of caring for combat arms injuries in women. First, re-read the previous sentence and take out the last two words. Ridiculous, right? If the cost of veteran care ever reaches such importance that it debilitates our tactics on the ground or selection of the most capable warriors, we will lose the fight before we begin. A life in combat or in a combat arms occupational specialty is a hard life. The services can always do a better job at educating all recruits to the potential health risks of certain occupational specialties. What is the rate of injury amongst explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) soldiers and Marines? How many helicopter pilots survive a crash and what are the most common injuries of those who do? What is the average hearing loss of an artilleryman? We do not keep young men from volunteering for the difficult jobs because we as a nation might have to care for them after they have spent five or 20 good years protecting us. To make a decision for a young woman choosing her career path due to the potential long-term health risk of that job is both patronizing and discriminatory. If citizens volunteer to serve their country, the country will care for these citizens if injuries are incurred during their service.


Elliot Ackerman, whose credentials are pretty hard to top in this world (Marine infantry officer, MARSOC team leader, CIA paramilitary officer, awarded both a Silver Star and Bronze Star with “V”), concludes his case for female SEALs with, “My daughter is three and, when she’s eighteen, I expect to have the same conversations with her about combat service as I’ll have with her little brother. I anticipate she’ll have those choices, if she wants them.” We should be striving to put the strongest and most capable on the battlefield by setting a singular standard and holding our troops to this standard, regardless of whether they are a man or a woman. Is integration worth the investment during the approaching interwar years? Ask a black SEAL.


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.

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56 thoughts on “Women in Combat Arms: Brass Tacks on Physicality

  1. I am a former infantry officer and TBS instructor so I know this first hand. The author has the chance to back up all her arguments by attending IOC herself. The school has been open to Captains for months. She literally works 100 meters away. I appreciate her passion on the subject but how do you write article after article on this subject and not attempt the course when you work right there? Her ideas would have much more credibility if she would do this.

    1. Once again, it is a woman who would NOT try out for ground combat arms who seems to want to take the lead in turning the military upside-down so “a few can make it”. Her opining about race borders on the sublime. NAVSPECWARCOM made the effort several years ago to specifically get more “guys with nice sun tans” into BUD/S and the Teams. They didn’t sign up. She also is under the complete misconception of unit integrity being held in tact inside of a testosterone laden group of hardened men – “well, they just need sensitivity training”. NO. History has proven over and over that these mixed units don’t work. The great secret in the Navy is the fallacy of mixed crews – how many NJP’s for officers, including commanding officers, and senior enlisted (not counting the E-6’s and below) have their been? It is literally too many too count. The experiment with women on the USS Wyoming submarine has already resulted in a disaster. So what is the answer? Take the unique talents of women and use them in those roles, especially in engagement as the Female Engagement Teams have been an unqualified success. Use the paradigm of the OSS where women were used for intelligence collection – Julia Childs, world famous chef and OSS member, exclaimed that women were not suitable for the field, but were much more effective than men in ground intel collecton, especially HUMINT. The Agency already knows this. This is where women can make a tremendous contribution! They can literally outclass men in this role as has been proven with the OSS model. Read “The Sisterhood of Spies”. Turning already successful Special Ops units on their heads with the very expensive accomodations in doing so, just in training, makes no sense. Also, what not try an all-female destroyer crew? Why do we keep fighting human nature, and please spare me the “need for more training and professionalism”. Grow up. You can’t legislate a cat to be a dog.

  2. I am assuming you did not watch the 60 minutes segment “A Few Good Women” on females attending Marine IOC. The course is now closed, and it looks like women will not be a part of Marine Infantry. Also, I doubt they will complete Ranger School this spring. Your article is purely fiction. I agree with Chris.

  3. Combat is neither fair nor equitable. Elite units gain that status through consistent success in battle. To remain elite, we need to train to the realities of the physical and mental requirements of a combat environment. To do less is to put our Marines out as lambs to the slaughter.

  4. Some combat arms? Okay. Pilot is one of those we could talk about. All combat arms? Not the average that’s for certain. And you have to think about this in terms of a draft. If we draft a wide swath of the nation during a major conflict how many could pass the muster? Few, maybe a couple top level athletes. Not enough to make it a viable option.

    Let’s see you last a day as a loader in a tank. Then let’s see the average lass try it. I’m guessing the success rate will be just as high as the Marine course.

    Then let’s take the average lass and put her in the boxing ring with the average guy…

    Wake up and smell the reality and work with it instead of trying to fight it. There’s a reason that professional boxers don’t fight coed. At the top level there is no direct competition. Saying some future girl may pass the test at entry level does not pass the test for integration.

  5. WOTR continues to have a very hard slant in favor of this issue and this author unfortunately brings up the canard of race with the paragraphs on black SEALs, but forgets that a black man is still a man, just as a gay man, asian, etc…is still a man and hence going to be far stronger than their female counterparts, are not subject to the orthopedic injuries that women are and cannot get pregnant.
    Lastly, the author should look up the actual reason so few blacks are in the teams, that despite decades recruitment initiatives that SOCM Johnson spearheaded at one point, we cannot get enough people to sing the dotted line and try out. Simple as that. The reasons for that I have no idea, but have the courage to ask Johnson, he will tell you.

    Here is why women should not be in the combat arms, because of the 1-1.5% that will meet the standards, not excel, not be in the top tier, but meet the standards over half will fall prey to orthopedic injuries that will make them next to useless in terms of manning issues. Trained men and women, alongside each other have had the same results every single time, the men always outperform the women and the top tier women perform at the lower tier of the men. This does not mean that women cannot be just as brave, but when you add in the performance, the fact that women are in the Army and Navy out of a “goal” (quota) of 30% each and toss in the frat and pregnancy issues it is not a good move. The really big problem is that in our entire history we have not held women to the same standards, every single time they have allowed them to go to a traditionally male training environment and the women could not pass they would then lower the standards for everyone. None of this hard to research, but it is like people refuse to read anything that does not conform to their premise. Below are just some of the examples of issues that have gone on with women in combat and the military.

    From the report of the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces dated November 15, 1992, it states in part:

    The average female Army recruit is 4.8 inches shorter, 31.7 pounds lighter, has 37.4 fewer pounds of muscle, and 5.7 more pounds of fat than the average male recruit. She has only 55 percent of the upper-body strength and 72 percent of the lower-body strength.

    Further, the Commission heard an abundance of expert testimony including:

    –women’s aerobic capacity is significantly lower, meaning they cannot carry as much as far as fast as men, and they are more susceptible to fatigue.

    –in terms of physical capability, the upper five percent of women are at the level of the male median. The average 20-to-30 year-old woman has the same aerobic capacity as a 50 year-old man.

    –After a study was conducted at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, one expert testified that: using the standard Army Physical Fitness Test, the upper quintile (top 20%) of women at West point achieved scores on the test equivalent to the bottom quintile (bottom 20%) of men.

    –only 21 women out of the initial 623 (3.4%) achieved a score equal to the male mean score of 260.

    –on the push-up test, only 7% of women can meet a score of 60, while 78% of men exceed it.

    –adopting a male standard of fitness at West Point would mean 70% of the women he studied would be separated as failures at the end of their junior year, only 3% would be eligible for the Recondo badge, and not one would receive the Army Physical Fitness badge.


    -1982, Women in the Army Policy Review reported only 8 per cent of women were capable of performing heavy work category jobs and recommended establishing a Military Enlistment Physical Strength Capacity Test (MEPSCAT). Army never implemented test because it would reduce the women eligible for those occupational specialties.

    -1992, James A. Vogel in an article, “Obesity and Its Relationship to Physical Fitness,” reported Natick Laboratory research results noting that aerobic capacity is a function of body fat percentage and strength is a function of lean muscle mass. A lean muscle mass of 50 kilograms is required if an individual is to perform heavy work jobs. Because woman are smaller in stature and have a high body fat percentage, few women will have the physical stature to train to the physical requirements of heavy work jobs.

    -1992, Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces unanimously recommended Services adopt gender-neutral muscular strength/endurance and cardiovascular standards for relevant specialties. Never adopted.

    -1997, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine study, Effects of a Specially Designed Physical Conditioning Program on the Load Carriage and Lifting Performance of Female Soldiers, reports that in 24 weeks the women in the study increased their lifting capacity to 82 percent of that of average males but gained less than a pound of muscle mass limiting the potential for additional improvement.

    -1998, because the British Army had found women in heavy work occupational specialties were physically incapable of performing the assigned job, the British Army instituted a standard set of physical test scores in relation to career specialties. The British Army expected that the number of women qualifying for heavy work jobs would decline but discovered that during training the injury rate among women soared.

    -1998′, Dr. William J. Gregor testifies to the Congressional Commission on Military Basic Training and Gender Related Issues that because of the physiological differences, men training with women do not increase their aerobic capacity. British Army study in 2009 observed the same results.

    -2000′, “The rate of unplanned losses is 2.5 times greater for women than for men—25 and 10 percent, respectively. That is, a quarter of women and a tenth of men are lost from ships every year for unplanned reasons. The rate of losses due to pregnancy is 11 percent.”

    “The loss rates of women exceed those of men for medical, family care, and honorable discharge reasons. Men’s disciplinary rate is higher than women’s.” (Center for Naval Analysis 1990-2000′)

    -2002′, (Reviewed) 2010′, UK MoD-“The Women in the Armed Forces report examined the differences in the physical abilities of men and women which are relevant to military performance and observed, unsurprisingly, that they differ significantly. Differences between women and men in their capacity to develop muscle strength and aerobic fitness are such that only approximately 1% of women can equal the performance of the average man. In lifting, carrying and similar tasks performed routinely by the British Army, this means that, on average, women have a lower work capacity than men and, when exposed to the same physical workload as men, have to work 50-80% harder to achieve the same results. This puts them at greater risk of injury. In load marching, another fundamental military task, and in all other simulated combat tasks, women were found to perform worse than men, and the greater the load, the greater the discrepancy. The study concluded that about 0.1% of female applicants and 1 % of trained female soldiers would reach the required standards to meet the demands of these roles.”

    -2006′, Daniel W. Trone, MA, in a study of the first term outcomes of female Marine Corps recruits observed that 44 percent of female recruits suffer lower extremity injuries and that those who experienced those injuries were less likely to complete their first term enlistment.

    -2010′, May Issue. Military Medicine (Journal)-LTC Philip J. Belmont Jr. and others report findings of a study of disease and non-battle injuries sustained by an Army BCT during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The non-battle injury rate for women is 167 percent higher than men, and the skeletal-muscular injury is almost equal to that of men from all causes. (Read the report and how many pregnancies there were too, shocking.)

    -2011, Laurel Wentz, et.al., report in Military Medicine a systematic review of medical studies of U.S. and foreign militaries and athletic teams that females have a greater incidence of stress fractures. The greater incidence of stress fractures results from anatomical differences regardless of general fitness and training.

    -2011, Dr. William J. Gregor reports the results of a study of cadet physical performance of all Army ROTC cadets from 1992 to 2011. The report observes that over that period only 72 women bested the lowest 16 percent of men in aerobic capacity and that the 72 women stood four standard deviations above the female mean. Such women are exceptional and their performance cannot be replicated through training the general population of women. Additionally, male aerobic capacity exceeds female capacity regardless of the weight to height ratio, BMI.

    Look, at the end of the day I need someone who is going to meet standards AND not be out due to orthopedic injury, pregnancy or cause issues of frat that leads to toxic environments in any leadership role. It is not worth it in terms of cost and benefit, there is no upside to pushing this, none. Standards will be dropped, MG Dempsey even said the following-

    Dempsey, who is at the pinnacle of the military’s top brass, was asked by a reporter: “You indicated that — well, at least it sounds like that there may be certain combat operational forays that women might be excluded from still. I mean, what would be the reasons for that? What sorts of operations?”

    Dempsey replied: “No, I wouldn’t put it in terms of operations, Jim. What I would say is that, as we look at the requirements for a spectrum of conflict, not just COIN, counterinsurgency, we really need to have standards that apply across all of those He added: “Importantly, though, if we do decide that a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn’t make it, the burden is now on the service to come back and explain to the secretary, why is it that high? Does it really have to be that high? With the direct combat exclusion provision in place, we never had to have that conversation.”

    If you think we will maintain standards, that we will not lose at least 12% of the manning to pregnancy and another 10-20% to orthopedic injuries, (not sure of numbers, but the injury rates were high already and they have not started widespread combat training yet), and that the environment will become non-combat effective then you are not researching the topic much or being honest with the reality.

    1. Again, well said Medic. Im surprised that after having observed several iterations of the CET at IOC, Katey Van Dam has come to equate sex with race. Watching the performance of all races during that test erases the first point of this article. I suppose that the only way the advocates of this insane issue can get any traction is to confuse this a civil rights issue.
      Im glad you are still fighting the mislead, confused and ignorant on all the blogs that I have read. Thanks for interjecting fact to all this fiction.

  6. Once again,none of the people agitating for women in combat have ever been on a three week patrol in mountainous terrain covered with jungle and endured a couple of firefights while carrying 80 pounds or so of equipment while leeches are crawling up your legs. The author disregards the impact of one or two females on the cohesion of the unit and it’s efficacy, nor on the physical well being of those women. One of the concomitant effects of long term exposure to combat is that some soldiers loose the thin veneer of civilization that has been schooled into them and behave badly.Women in a battle stressed unit will exacerbate that. I’ve been there and experienced that.

  7. I see the section entitled “Can they hack it?” – where is the one titled “Will they increase combat effectiveness?” Of course, the answer is no. It is so patently obvious. I participated in a USMC field day event this summer and our team won a tug of war match. Later, we had to go up against the same team in the finals. However, 2 of our 12 male Marines were replaced by 2 female Marines. We lost and it wasn’t close. That is symbolically everything you need to know about women in infantry units.

  8. Based on the comments, it appears that I agree with the other commenters. And the lack of a dissenting opinion (other than the author) is strange.

    I acknowledge that high-performing women are likely to be capable of meeting the physical demands required for selection into combat specialties and elite units. How many are we talking about? Probably only a handful compared to the number of qualified men. That certainly doesn’t hold up to the draft scenario mentioned above.

    Then the questions become “Is gender integration worth it?” and “What effect does this have on unit cohesion?” In highly-selective, small team-sized units I could envision the successful integration of a woman with a team of men. In the general population of combat specialties where the units are larger I just can’t see how it works without creating addtional strain on the command.

    Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

    1. The other problem with that small percentage of women who will meet the minimum standards is that they will invariably suffer far higher rates of ankle, knee and lower back issues due to nothing more than the make up and angle of their skeletal systems. With frat, pregnancy and oath injuries added in with the mandated 30% goal of females in the military this is becomes a serious manning issue.

      People should think about this very seriously, if I have a 100K troops and 30% (30K) are female and of that number I can expect to lose at least 3600 to pregnancy and another 3600 to injury. Mind you, the injury rates are from current training, not if we put women through hard, physical training all the time like we do the men. I would wager that the number of injuries would sky rocket, but just using these numbers I am starting at the loss of 7200 people in terms of manning. I am now down to at the most 92800. You are setting things up for disaster once this is in place and we will have a war again, might be a couple of decades, but it will happen.

      As you say, we have to ask ourselves “Is it worth it?”. In my view there is no benefit to this transaction.

  9. There is no doubt that an elite 1% of women could meet the physical demands of ranger school- but there are significant costs that must be understood when opening light infantry jobs to women. Specific to Ranger school, some observations:
    1) passing the national guard pre-ranger and saying that this means one will pass the ranger course is a canard. Lets see how candidates do when training events are concurrent, while food and sleep are taken away.
    2) There is an expectation in the ranger course that when we accept x number of trainees, we will produce y number of graduates. There is significant cost, time and resources applied to making sure we are staying within historical norms for graduation while maintaining standards. lats assume that one woman in ten will pass the course. Now give thirty slots to women, and we produce three graduates. But if we gave those 30 slots to men, we would produce 18-20 graduates. Now we would be in the position of producing less ranger qualified leaders so we can appease the gender equality crowd. this means a less capable Army, overall.
    3) I commanded a co-ed unit in a Brigade Combat Team, and I lost at least 7 female soldiers in key roles within 30 days of deployment, mostly to pregnancy. Needless to say, we deployed short. This was not an isolated problem.

    It needs to be acknowledged by our leaders that there are real physical differences between men and women. Integrating any soldier, male or female, within the Army should be based on what makes the organization more capable as a whole. Our job is to fight and win wars, not serve as the premier social justice organization for the country.

  10. Bravo, Katey. Well said. An uphill battle never dissuades a true warrior. The only limitations that exist are those we keep telling ourselves. Absent of that, only time stands in between females who seek out this challenge and when it’s surpassed. I love this line best.

    “Stating a feat is impossible because it has yet to be accomplished is the dying rallying cry of opponents clutching to the status quo.”

    To the would be critic, this is not about who is the better gender. It’s about finding the most talented warriors, men and women, employee ing them and ensuring freedom’s guardian remains on watch for our enemy who seeks to threaten our very way of life.

  11. Yes, there is some overlap between men and women physically. It amounts to less than 2% on strength and endurance, and this overlap is between the top performing women and the AVERAGE man. The brass tacks of this matter is that you cannot achieve a critical mass of women in the military – in any branch – without altering standards or admitting less qualified women. The study cited by one poster by Colonel Gregor studied something like 95,000 top performing West Point and ROTC candidates over a 10 year period and found that even amongst the elite group, the performance difference was enormous. In short, the relative numbers matter and matter a lot. Claiming “some women” are stronger than “some men” etc is meaningless until one puts numbers to “some.” If “some” women are 2% of all women and “some men” are – at best – half of all men, then there is no case for women in the military. Claiming also that eventually women will improve ignores the innate physiological differences between the sexes that cannot be altered by any level of training or exercise.

    Then there’s the issue of women in aviation. Yes, it is true that there were questions concerning how well women could handle high-G forces. It was discovered that provided the women had pressure suits designed for women (so an additional cost) they could handle the G-forces as well as men. Two subsequent Aviation, Space and Environment Medicine articles examined some of the gender differences and found that in a simulated test of target tracking capability, the women were on average about 15% slower than the men, largely it was concluded because they used oxygen under G-loads at different rates than the men. It was also found that there was no chronic adaptation to sustained high G-forces in women, unlike male pilots. This would matter, I suspect, in combat. As, for that matter, would the ability to survive being shot down.

    Regarding injury being unrelated to gender, Ms. Van Dam is simply wrong. Women have lighter skeletons than men due to less dense bones and in every branch of the service sustain higher training injuries regardless of level of fitness. She is directed to Ian Gemmell’s article in Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine for one of many examples.

  12. Instead of showing a chart of male PFT scores compared to earlier male PFT scores, how about we show a comparison of male PFT scores to female PFT scores based on the same standard. Oh, we can’t! We don’t even dare have females take the same test as males in the Marine Corps because they would fail in droves!

    And for other misguided people who, like the author, think that meeting minimum standards means you should be able to integrate into combat MOS’s understand this; minimum standards are the pass/fail line. The combat arms MOS’s DEPEND on physical prowess. It is literally a life or death thing. Would a Dr. who got all D’s in school be fit to practice medicine? He passed the “minimum” standard, right?

    1. More to the point, if you had a choice of doctors, do you take the minimum, or find the straight-A student?

      The Marines aren’t short on volunteers for infantry.

  13. The little-mentioned End State of the political agenda to end the “Brass Ceiling” for women is to sell infantry to female officers as just another likely career promotion path to the very highest ranks. I.E. Colonel and General. This long view is the stated goal of the Military Leadership Diversity Commission.
    Besides being brilliant, brave, and great leaders, a few exceptional young women might also pass the basic infantry officer initial physical test and course at age 22. But that singular accomplishment at the physical prime of her life is clearly the easy part, by far.
    Fast forward 21-25 infantry years, not regular years, to the agenda’s End State period.
    When finally eligible for screening for promotion to the very few Colonel or General ranks available, she must have demonstrated sustained superior performance commanding ever-larger infantry units over decades, not only in all non-physical leadership aspects, but also show herself to still be clearly fitter and stronger than her many top infantry peers at age 43-47 against whom she is competing for promotion to those highest ranks.
    Men have, are now, and will continue to achieve that physical benchmark.
    But how likely will women remain physically unbroken and achieve that after 21-25 grueling infantry years?
    The percentage of top male 2nd Lieutenant infantry officers who eventually get promoted to Colonel is already miniscule at best.
    By its uncompromising, physically arduous nature, infantry service breaks people far more than any other field even in peacetime training, shattering the strongest males. For infantry officers, it’s even tougher as they are responsible to lead from the literal front by example, and make life/death decisions while under continuous backbreaking physical duress over time. Sustained health and top fitness over many infantry years are unquestionable physical truth-tellers far beyond a basic test at a young age.
    To market infantry service to all dedicated young women as another likely path to break thru the Brass Ceiling to the highest ranks after 21-25 years of service is shortsighted, duplicitous and an injustice, peddled for nothing more than short term political gain.
    So I ask about these expensive, herculean efforts taken to justify women in the infantry: Will our national defense be significantly strengthened after all this effort…. are we fixing a combat capability that’s now woefully deficient at a cost in lives….are we short of the required number of infantry officers where we need women to fill the gap…..how many women are foreseen to be promoted to the highest ranks through the infantry to make a real difference in diversity….. is the juice really worth the squeeze?
    Perhaps it’s time for advocates to rethink using likely promotion for women to the highest infantry ranks as justification for this political agenda.

  14. Lots of arguments here in the comments that “the average woman just can’t do it.” Ok, fair. In fact, the author addresses that head on…

    Lots of women can’t/won’t make it in the most physically demanding military jobs. But a few can. What is so difficult about accepting that, opening up the opportunity to compete for jobs to all capable folks, and moving on?

    Yeah, female grunts might get pregnant, or break their ankles later in their time of service. They do have a higher statistical chance of that than male grunts. But ask any officer how many of their Marines get in trouble every weekend – thrown in jail for dumb shit, pop on a piss test, or injure themselves doing something stupid. Statistically, those who do are most likely to be men. And yet we are not arguing that we shouldn’t let men in the infantry because of what MIGHT happen to them during their time of service. We let them in because they are capable of doing the job.

    Stop trying to reframe the argument as an argument for ALL women to join the infantry. Literally no one is arguing for that. No one is arguing for quotas. The argument is simply to let those who are capable compete for the job. Even if women only end up comprising a small percentage.

    I will just let your comments speak for themselves:

    @JonathanDavid: “There is no doubt that an elite 1% of women could meet the physical demands of ranger school….”

    @Neil: “I acknowledge that high-performing women are likely to be capable of meeting the physical demands required for selection into combat specialties and elite units….”

    @Medic9532: “In terms of physical capability, the upper five percent of women are at the level of the male median…”

    1. @J Here is the issue with your assertion.

      One, the discipline issue with men. That was taken into account in the CNA study and the women were still 2.5x more likely to be an unplanned loss than their male counterparts. When pregnancy was factored out of the equation then females were still 2x more likely to be an unplanned loss than their male counterpart. That is from 1992-2000′ via the CNA. So, the discipline issue you bring up is not an actual problem in comparison and does not come close to the losses that come from issues specific to females.

      Two-That you think that 5% out of the other studies is the one you focus on is a bit telling. Think about this for a minute. That 5% is based on the Army PFT, it does not include the typical load carrying or heavy lifting that many combat jobs include. When you do that and train men and women together, which actually helps the women and not the men, then that percentage falls to 1-1.5%.

      Now, of that 1-1.5% you have to deal with the other issues that go with it-

      Ortho Injury: Rates of ankle, knee, hip and lower back injuries that are more than double the rate for men. There is nothing you can do to change this, it is mostly due to the Q Angle that far different in women than men and that is what causes this. You can lower the number of injuries in males and females caused by poor initial fitness, but you cannot change the rate of injuries to the ankle, knee, hip and back being far greater than their male counterparts.

      Frat: How do you solve this? Give me an honest solution to this issue, I am open to it.

      Pregnancy: We lose at least 10% of the females in the military for up to two years to this and they are not deployable. That number is most likely undercounted due to the fact that the Navy is the only branch that keeps annual records on that issue, the USMC, Army and AF have reported 9-15% in various studies being lost to pregnancy. So, how do you cure this issue in terms of manning that will cost you as a leader at least 10% of your 30% female cohort? This is a real issue. MG Cucolo tried to do solve this and was instantly rebuffed by Congress on this very issue. So, again I am open to ideas, but I have not seen any of the writers who support this address any of my issues honestly and for the good of the services.

      All of this does not mean women cannot serve, but the combination of lower physical performance of 98.5-99% of females, the orthopedic injury rate, frat and pregnancy are a recipe for disaster. This is nothing close to the same as the race or sexuality issue, a man is a man and a woman is a woman and the two genders are not the same.

    2. If female recruits cost more to train than the equivalent male recruits, then letting them in is a waste. Until women pass at the same rate as the men whose spots they are taking, they are being unfairly favored.

  15. @J, that is simply not true. I posted my sources, post yours please.

    As for discipline in males, it is irrelevent. The CNA study included discilpline issues over almost 10years and women were still 2.5 times more likely to be an unplanned loss than males. When pregnancy was factored out it was still 2 times more likely that they would be an unplamned loss.

    What you are doing is setting up a straw man argument with the discipline issue that I even mentioned in my post. It’s not an honest or realistic answer.

  16. You miss the point – any course where only a small percentage of a certain demographic is capable of passing is a significant waste of time and resources and would need to be redesigned…..

    …so are you advocating we water down the standards for Ranger qualified infantry? There are certain expectations about Ranger course graduates- “Fight further, faster and harder than any other Soldier”, for instance.

    1. @Jonathan David: “You miss the point – any course where only a small percentage of a certain demographic is capable of passing is a significant waste of time and resources and would need to be redesigned…..”

      Less than 6% of the Marine Corps is female. The Marine Corps was opened to women in 1918, and women have slowly but surely entered more and more fields over time, starting from secretarial work to today, when women can serve as fighter pilots, combat engineers, and on the front lines in a variety of professions in the the units that are open to them. If you want to make the case that the Marine Corps is weaker than it was in 1918, be my guest.

      No, I am not advocating for a reduction in standards. I am arguing – as is the author – to let those females who are capable compete – and be held to the exact same standards. Even if women only end up comprising a small percentage. Less than 6%, for instance.

  17. @J, I find your logic flawed. Therefore, if only thirty percent of the females pass enlisted ITB or infantry OSUT, but no females officers pass Marine IOC, IBLOC, or Ranger School – this is okay? So we will have female enlisted soldiers/Marines with zero female leadership. Also, if females can’t complete PJs, SWCCC, Seals, Special Forces, MARSOC, Delta, or Rangers, we should still allow them in Combat Arms? BTW, I doubt any will (even your elite percent) if standards are maintained. Even some professional male athletes and Olympians will not pass these schools. BTW, what kind of infantry experience do you have since you seem to be a SME on the subject? Readers would like to know.

  18. @0311vet Your rebuttal doesn’t address my logic, you just changed the subject. No, I am not particularly worried about females who don’t have female officer leadership in particular MOSes. Many if not most enlisted Marines have never had a female officer. The Corps is best served by generating capable officers, not gender quotas.

        1. Feel free to delete my response if you found it offensive. When a person’s who supposedly states that female leadership is unimportant in a field they are advocating they participate in, I find that offensive. But I see you where are coming from. No worries.

    1. J Here is the harsh reality: women and men are different. 99% of combat Marines and soldiers are attracted to women. This creates immense problems in a combat environment. It is neither the women’s nor the men’s fault; it just is. Therefore a super small percentage of women being introduced is not worth the cultural problems. Also, the one question that no one is asking in all of this is HOW DOES THIS MAKE COMBAT ARMS AND ESPECIALLY INFANTRY FORCES BETTER? The answer is simply that it does not and this is a political stunt. J the world is not fair. Nothing in including the weather, the animal kingdom, and all of human history is fair and it never will be. Just recognize this and be thankful you live in the most female friendly society that has ever existed. The only thing women can’t do is combat arms service and that is only for physiological reasons.

      1. @Chris “a super small percentage of women being introduced is not worth the cultural problems.”

        Women are already serving in combat, and have been for the last decade. There are plenty of documented instances of women supporting infantry units, as corpsmen, radio operators, engineers, or military police. The current discussion is focused on whether combat arms MOSes and units should be OFFICIALLY opened to females. Unless you are advocating that the military return to an all-male status, the culture point is moot.

        As to whether or not allowing women to compete for jobs will make our forces more effective – since when does making a job more competitive reduce efficacy? Set the bar high and allow the best of the best to compete.

        But don’t take it from me. Here’s the Sergeant Major of the Army, an infantry officer whose personal awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with Valor, and three Bronze Star Medals: “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.”

        1. Think the SMA is in between a rock and the proverbial hot spot. He has to advocate the introduction of women in the infantry because that is current Army policy. In his position he is no longer allowed to have or state opinions. His opinions must be corporate. Am afraid that is the way it is right now. Incidentally the SMA is not an infantry officer. He was an infantry NCO.

        2. Can you point us towards your documentation of women in infantry roles?

          Being the medic on the dustoff helo is not the same as being an FMF corpsman, and being an MP, radio operator, etc. is not the same as being leg infantry carrying M249s or other heavy weapons.

          If women prove the ability to replace small men in the infantry, the Marines will be interested when they run out of large- and medium-sized volunteers, and not until then.

        3. @J, they have not been serving in combat in the way you are portraying in your posts. a few women have experienced combat, but being hit by an IED while in a vehicle or getting shot does not mean you are capable to be a line infantryman. If that is the standard you are using to qualify as engaging in combat it is not a realistic or intellectually honest one.

          Even the Cultural Support Teams and Female Engagement Teams are and were a complete failure due to their training, focus and the other issues that went with them.

  19. Amen, lady. As a Marine who has for years watched the women-in-the-military fight change what women consider themselves capable of doing, I think you’re on the right side of history.

    If high standards, no quotas, and a farewell to gender norming are agreed upon by all, with only the most qualified of either sex being assigned to each billet, I fail to see the problem. Remember that not that long ago we thought women could not run a race longer than a mile, and the USMC still thinks women can’t do pullups. Low, stupid expectations are a big part of the problem.

    By the way, I think we should get rid of age-norming too. If the end result is to know how strong your Marines are and how capable of assigned tasks they might be, then let’s get rid of the sliding scale PFT based on age AND gender.

    1. Will, I am actually with you on getting rid of age norming for passing, but it should still be on there for score and measured for competition purposes. There should be a minimum for all regardless of age to have a “pass” on the test though.

      On the rest of your post it seems that you have not read a lot of the history on this topic or the many studies, please read them so you can become a little more knowledgeable about what is going on here and it is not about fairness.

      1. Um, did I mention “fairness” anywhere in there? Don’t think so. However, pretty sure I’ve read more than the obsolete slew of early-90s articles you like to cite. The point is, if physical standards are set high and some women can meet them (just like some men currently serving in the infantry won’t, as one commenter pointed out earlier), quite a lot of us out there who are still serving and have served with women for years are just fine with that outcome and aren’t consumed by the chest-beating noise being made by dudes who are afraid of women.

        1. Obsolete? The same studies in 02′, 10′ and 14′ obsolete as well? The studies are consistent and unchanged for the most part and the differences are fixed, they are not able to be mitigated. If you can debate against the studies, please do so. If you can answer the questions I ask in regard to the real issues with this effort then please do so. If you have studies that run counter then please present them. If you cannot do that you have no argument and are using a poor tactic for debate.

        2. I would also quickly add in that in no time in our entier history have we held women to the same standard consistently. We have either lowered the standards for all, given them lower standards or dropped the standards.

          What does this do to make us more combat effective?

          How do you mitigate the 2.5x unplanned loss rate that women have vs their male counterparts?

          How do you mitigate the massive increase in the orthopedic injury rate for women and justify in terms of manning?

          How do you stop the losses from pregnancy?

          How do you manage the frat issue?

          How do you push against the quotas that are in place for females that will not align with the other manning issues that they present?

          How does this benefit the miltiary?

          If you can answer these questions and prove my decades of studies are obsolete (2002, 2010, 2014? still same results, but obsolete too?) then that is debating and I am open to that. Saying that very real concerns are “chest beating” fear and that decades of studies showing the same results are somehow obsolete is not the way to prove a point. I remaing open to debate though.

  20. Women are getting their chance to earn their place in the infantry, and aren’t doing very well. Whether a woman can meet to minimum standards to be infantry is only relevant when we run out of male volunteers who exceed those minimums. Physically, the Marine infantry are the best of the Marines, and infantry officers are the best of the best. Being “good enough” is not good enough.

  21. Guys/Gals, let’s not lose sight of the fact other than “special” units the basic level of fitness ability for a male serviceman to be an infantryman, tanker, artilleryman is the minimum qualifying score on the service physical fitness test. It has always been this way. If we are to adopt standards based upon occupational specialty or combat arms .vs combat support or service support as some have advocated than we will be lowering the standard for all, especially the non combat arms.

    One other thing, this isn’t just about finding “career opportunities” for female officers, but also female noncommissioned officers. I believe that it would be the rare exception to find a woman that could make it to 20 years of service as an infantry soldier if held to the same standard of assignments and availability for duty as a man. The odds of that are so low as to be impossible and the probability serious damage to their bodies exceedingly high.

    1. Actually it is about career opportunities for officers and not all others. They advertise it otherwise but the “bottom line” is they want some women 4 star Generals. In 2009 Congress convened a body called the Military Leadership Diversity Commission. It was a body organized across all services and all ranks. They were chartered to look at ways to further the participation and careers of all minorities and women. The transcript of all meetings totaled about 11,000 pages. I was foolish and went through all pages. It became obvious to me quite rapidly that the members of the commission, especially the head and vice head, principle concerns were about upward mobility for women in the services. It was obvious to certain members (former SMA of Army) of the panel also who kept trying to steer the members to address all ranks and ethic and racial groups. But they kept focusing on upward mobility of women. If you read the recommendations you will see what I mean. The transcripts were quite specific. The purpose of the MLDC was to figure out how the Army and USMC, in particular, could get more women 4 stars, not more women Sergeant’s Major.Since AF and USN already have pilots and ships’ officers, they are taken care of. The only way to do that in the USMC and Army is to open up infantry, field artillery and armor to women because that is where almost all 4 stars come from. So, now we are a couple of years down the road and DOD pushed by politians is trying to do that. This is all about trying to allow some POTUS some day to announce his female CJCS. It has little or nothing to do with combat readiness, military efficiency or common sense.

  22. WOTR needs to consider a point-counterpoint on this topic instead of the biased expressed in these articles. I find it intriguing that women who have no experience as an “infantrywoman” seem to think that females can succeed in this capacity–THEY WILL NOT. That is, until the pressure builds and the respective services are forced to pass women through a course. One only needs to see the recent 60 Minutes report that followed women in the IOC. They failed to meet the standard. ALL of them. As a female service member, there are opportunities for us to serve in a support role attached to combat units, as has been done for years. However, there is no equality here–women are not equal to men in this capacity. Men are superior to women in this capacity. There is no shame in acknowledging this fact. Unfortunately, we are dealing with feelings and emotion from these women (illustrates another reason why females have no business in the infantry) and irrespective of the facts presented, those who have NO experience as an infantrywoman readily dismiss those who ARE the experts in this line of work. I am embarrassed for these women and their actions suggest that they are more interested in an individual achievement than they are for military success. Selfless service, anyone? Women bring no added value and will be a detriment to any unit to which they might be assigned. Unfortunately, if they complain loud enough, demand to be part of the infantry or other elite units, they will get in there but I guarantee that the first time women on the front lines are slaughtered or men killed because women compromised the mission, these very same women will complain just as loud.

    1. Paperlady:

      We have run articles expressing the other side of this argument and we have a few more coming. We will always represent both sides of this issue.



      1. Ryan,
        You have had other articles from the other side of this debate, but if you look at numbers they (number of articles) are heavily in favor of the “integration” movement. When that happens and it happens on a lot blogs it appears to be a strong confirmation of bias. I hope we will see at least a close number of articles from both sides of this issue.

        1. Medic

          When we published articles on the other side of this debate we were accused of bias by what you call the “integration movement.” Now we are accused of being biased in favor of the other side. Like I said, we have more articles coming. Chill out.

          1. Haha! Ryan, there is no anger or tenseness in that post, it was just a statement related to when you compare the number of articles it is in favor of the Pro, that is all. I get it, context, inflection, tone, etc…are all hard to get in a post, email, text, etc..but there is often no intent of anger.

            I only need to chill out when I have had to much coffee, true story.

      2. Thanks, Ryan. I think seeing the responses on both sides to targeted questions on this controversial issue would be enlightening. It would also illustrate clearly the differences between fact based arguments supported by quantifiable data vs. the feelings and emotions of those who advocate for integration. PL

  23. Here is a link to yet another study, by the UK that was released in 2014′ on just this topic. This is in addition to the one they did in 2002′ and reviewed in 2010′, @J, I highly suggest you and the author read this and the many other studies I have listed.

    Link goes right to the UK Report in PDF format. More evidence against and it doesn’t even address the other issues I raise as well.


  24. [I mocked the article with a reference to poop so the Editor redacted it. I’m a bad boy and I’ll do better next time]

    But a couple of points – Slipping in the ‘black Navy SEALS’ part was really cute and subtle way of trying to equate women and black men, nice try.

    But an interesting statistic. In most if not all 50 states the boys high school state track champions have already exceeded the women’s WORLD RECORDS in the same events. So thousands of HS aged boys in the US, let alone the rest of the world, exceed the physical performances of the mostly highly trained elite females ON PLANET EARTH.

    Let that disparity sink in

    1. Bobby. Please refrain from being a jerk. No references to feces please. Next time you’re suspended from the comments section. You can disagree and offer counterarguments while being polite.

  25. I feel like my head going to explode when I read articles like this. It is like I am living in some dystopian world where everything is turned upside down. Yes women have served in combat, but being combat does not mean one is qualified to be an infantrymen. Getting blown up, shot or wondering around the battlefield bumping into IEDs does not take the same capability to activity hunt the enemy while on foot, close with him and kill him.

    I just don’t understand the impetus for this, it’s not about making for a better more lethal combat force.

  26. Leaving aside the issue of unit cohesion, the bottom line is: Women in combat arms is BAD business. It is not cost effective to process a demographic for combat arms that we know will not succeed. There are 50 year-old men who can pass the course. But, it is not sound policy to allow any 50 year-old to enlist.

    Self-serving full-disclosure: The March/April 2015 edition of Military Review has my article on this topic. I apologize if this is self-promotion. However, I do wish to see this issue fully debated.

  27. The Marines Corps reported the results of their two and a half year experiment of integrating women into combat training. To quote the April 8, 2015, issue of The Marine Corps Times: “The two-and-a-half year period in which the Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Course became gender-integrated for research will end without a single female graduate.” This result should not be surprising. The physical rigors and training for ground combat are intense and arduous. This is why no women compete against men in sports like American football, baseball, or basketball, even at the high school level.

    So we are back to square one of the question of denied equality in the military in ground combat roles. It isn’t fair that women are excluded from these elite positions, and women want equality and equal treatment in the military. Lowering physical standards to allow women entry into these all male units would lower the overall quality of those units, just like putting women on an all male football team would do the same thing. This would not be fair to the men. Sexual integration of combat units would also involve the distraction of male/female sexual attraction, possible romance, jealousies, relationships, sexual harassment, preferential treatment and even pregnancies. These issues would all affect unit readiness, morale, and cohesion..all essential for an effective combat unit. This would not be fair to the men or the women.

    But there is a simple solution to this dilemma. We should take a lesson from the sports world. Women should have their own elite all female combat units. In the sports world there is the WNBA, the WTA (women’s tennis), the LPGA (women’s golf), and women’s college programs for soccer, basketball, and softball. Like the sports world the physical standards would fit the capabilities of women, not men. This means that women would be judged against their female peers and only the fittest and best would be selected for these elite combat units.

    But with these new rights come new responsibilities as well. Young men between the ages of 18 to 25 must register and be eligible for the Selective Service (the draft). Women, because they were, in the past, excluded from ground combat positions, were excluded from conscription. If women want equality and equal treatment they, too, should be eligible and be required to register for the draft. In the event that a draft is needed to meet manpower needs women will be drafted just like men. In the past, when men were drafted they were assigned to units where they were needed whether that assignment was a logistical support unit or a ground combat unit. Men had no choice where they would be assigned. The same should apply to women. And to be equal and fair, if a certain percentage of men are assigned to a combat unit, then the same percentage of women should be assigned to their own female only combat units. This is where the female only combat unit is the best solution for absolute fairness in treatment of the sexes. If there were no female only combat units, then high physical standards would probably exclude the vast majority of women from combat roles. But when women are competing with other women for combat units (and not men) more women will be able to serve in combat. This way the military would have equal numbers of both men and women serving in combat. Women want equal treatment and this satisfies that goal. How is it fair that more men die in combat than women. In the Iraq and Afghanistan wars men have accounted for 97% of the deaths. Women need to shoulder an equal burden!

    In sports men do not compete against women. It wouldn’t be fair or equitable. The same is true in warfare. Female only combat units should not have to fight against male combat units. Other countries are moving in the same direction that we are in recognizing the equal rights of women in military roles. These forward thinking countries will, likewise, probably have their own female only combat units. I think that the United States should petition the Geneva Convention to establish rules of warfare that would prohibit male combat units from fighting against female combat units. This would certainly be fair to both the men and women combat soldiers on both sides.

    There you have it. This is the solution for allowing women to serve in ground combat roles. Putting women into their own combat units means they won’t have to compete with men for these positions. They can have their cake and eat it too. They will get total equality with the men without having to compete against them for combat roles. They will be able to be drafted just like men and fight and die like men in equal numbers to the men. Isn’t this is what fairness and equality are all about?

    1. As to selective service that is a mooot issue. Until there is a draft, no body knows whether or not women will be included. There exists a national DB with all 335 M Americans on it so that is what the government will use as the SSS DB has about 10% missing and about 40% of the addresses are not valid, they do not validate addresses and do not require moves to be documented. Also, there is no law on how to implement a draft and the draft boards are based on the 1960 US census. Selective Service did not figuring out draft board locations based on the 1970 census but President Nixon halted it since he stated that the draft was coming to an end. Therefore, so much has to be considered that the current system is a waste of time and probably will be eliminated as serving no purpose in today’s technological era.
      You complain about women not being able to compete with me. However, those men are voluntarily there. Conscripted men may drop like flies and fail tests to get out. That is why the National Service act of 2003 would probably replace any future draft. It gives all 18 – 21 year olds (Male and Female) the option of what to do, military is just one option so it would still be voluntary, it would just pay more, give more benefits after finishing, and require less time to complete. The military does want anyone who does not freely want to join as forced conscripts will bring down the entire system.

  28. To all readers of my previous post. I DO NOT think that women should be in combat. But if they want absolute equality then they should get it and the only way to achieve that is women having their own female only combat units. However, there will not be enough women in the military who will want to do this. Then the women in combat issue may just go away. I will say, however, in the name of equality and fairness, women should not receive ANY preferential treatment that discriminates against men. This would include different physical standards for the sexes. ALL standards should be the same regardless of sex. If this means there will be fewer women who qualify for military service then that is just too bad. As Stephanie Gutmann says in her book, “The Kinder, Gentler Military” if the percent of women in the military went from 14% to 6% because of tougher standards then the military will be a better fighting force…and in the end this is all that matters.