Women in the Infantry? Yes.


This was published yesterday on Breach Bang Clear. Not surprisingly, many readers launched into vitriolic diatribes against the idea, without bothering to read the article. On the other hand, quite a few infantrymen agreed with me. I’ll take that as a win. 🙂


Over the last several years we’ve had much debate on the topic of women in the infantry. Support for the idea comes from many military women, some of whom, like the Lionesses of the Marine Corps and the Special Forces “enablers”, were embedded with infantry units. Some women in non-combat units who were occasionally on combat missions have also spoken out in favor of allowing women into the infantry.

Unfortunately, support also comes from ignorant morons who never served, would never serve, don’t know anyone who serves, and view military gender integration as a social justice cause. They make stupid statements like “The military has finally recognized that there are no lines or drawn battlefields anymore where they could put the ‘girls’ in the rear. If you carry a weapon, you are in the thick of it.”

Yes, some moron on the Huffington Post actually said that.

A few female combat veterans have spoken out against the idea, including Marine Captain Katie Petronio. She described the physical damage she suffered while working with infantry units, and strongly criticized the federal government’s Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service, which was pushing women into combat arms. “…None of the committee members are on active duty or have any recent combat or relevant operational experience relating to the issue they are attempting to change.”

We’ve also heard from long-time infantrymen, many of whom oppose giving women even the opportunity to test for combat arms. They and others see the whole idea as “nothing but trouble”. Many veterans, particularly (though by no means exclusively) Cold War-era vets, seem to be dead set against any type of military gender integration, on any level.

I’ve spoken on the subject as well. My take was, allow women into the infantry, but only if they pass a screening test beforehand. And no matter what, don’t lower the standards. But my opinion only means so much. Although I’m a combat veteran, I was never infantry.

So everyone seems to be talking about women in infantry. Everyone except women who were infantry, and who actually were in combat.

Yes, they do exist.


I was recently introduced online to a woman who served seven years as a Danish Army infantry soldier and deployed to Kosovo and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan she was a rifleman (her word), Carl Gustav recoilless rifle gunner and team leader. That role is roughly equivalent to a fire team leader, but with three soldiers instead of four; her role as fire team leader also made her assistant squad leader. She was in multiple firefights, had casualties in her platoon, and carried her load alongside everyone else. She’s also an American citizen, born here but raised in Denmark. She has plenty of actual infantry combat experience, and understands American culture. Her opinions on this subject deserve to be heard.

At this point, I’m sure some readers are walking away in disgust at the very idea that a woman could be infantry. See you guys later, hope you open your mind someday. On the other side of the debate, “social justice warriors” who know nothing at all about the military won’t read past the last paragraph before proclaiming, “See? Women are the same as men! Open the infantry to all women, you cismale gendernormative fascists!” Well, screw you simpleminded “I put lofty ideals over reality” idiots.

And some readers are skeptical about women in the infantry, but willing to listen to opposing views. Those are the people I’m trying to reach.

I’d like to introduce you open-minded readers to our Danish female infantry combat vet. She’s chosen to remain anonymous, so I’ll call her “Mary”. Mary has moved on from combat arms, and isn’t trying to become the spokesperson for women in the infantry. She’s just a proud infantry combat vet who agreed to talk about her experience.


I’ve spent hours speaking to Mary online and on Skype. Like most infantry soldiers, she’s crude, crass and fun to talk with. Her language probably draws horrified stares when she’s around polite company (she really likes making penis jokes). She’s intelligent and has a quick wit. And no, she’s not a “big-boned” butch lesbian with a crew cut and mustache. She’s straight, married to a man she met in the army, and is pretty much the beautiful blond goddess Americans imagine all Scandinavian women to be.

Mary’s first deployment was to Kosovo, as a peacekeeper in the Mitrovica region. Kosovo experiences periodic unrest, but Mary didn’t see any combat there. Afghanistan, of course, was different.

Mary’s company went to Helmand Province in 2009 for a six-month deployment. She was in a sister company to the Danish troops in the documentary Armadillo, which won an award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010. Helmand Province back then, as now, was no joke. When she returned to Helmand in 2011, it wasn’t any safer.

Mary sweeping for IEDs in Helmand Province

Mary sweeping for IEDs in Helmand Province

Mary wasn’t a hero, and doesn’t claim to have done anything more than her job. But that job was to be a real infantry soldier. Even though she’s a woman (a female woman!), she somehow pulled it off.

I’m going to identify the most common questions and objections raised when we discuss females in combat arms, then let Mary give her opinion on each one. Where applicable, my own observations and opinions will be included and will be clearly identified as such.

“Women aren’t physically capable of serving in the infantry.”

Denmark has a conscript army. Draftees have to serve at least four months, just long enough for basic training. Females aren’t subject to conscription but are welcome to volunteer. Mary joined the army at twenty-two and was in an infantry basic training platoon with thirty males and ten females. She made it through with no issues, along with five other females. Two females dropped due to medical problems and two quit (volunteers are allowed to quit, draftees aren’t).

“After those four months, if you pass with a high enough score, you can opt for ‘real’ military training,” Mary said. “After the conscript period, out of 400 conscripts, about 100 of us stayed on for what they call Reaction Force Training, which is a short-term contract where you train for eight months and then deploy to Kosovo or Afghanistan.”

Of the six females in her platoon who graduated basic, Mary and two others chose to stay infantry. But she was quick to point out that Denmark’s standards for infantry were nothing to brag about when she joined.

“Back then, our PT standards were a shambles. You had to pass a two-mile run in fifteen minutes, and do some pushups and situps. There was no special test for infantry, pretty much anyone could do it. Since Denmark really started contributing to the War on Terror, we’ve raised the standards quite a bit for combat arms. And the standards are the same for males and females.”

Mary participating in a biathlon

Mary participating in a biathlon

Mary spent the Kosovo deployment working out, which prepared her for Afghanistan. “I wasn’t in great shape before I joined the army. Since then I’ve gotten much better, although I’m still better at strength tests than running.” In Afghanistan her combat load, depending on whether she was acting as rifleman, team leader or Carl Gustav gunner, averaged about eighty pounds. According to Mary, she had no issue humping her ruck, never fell out of a march, and never had to pass off her gear to anyone else. Not even when she was carrying the twenty-one pound Gustav.

Mary firing her Carl Gustav outside her firebase

Mary firing her Carl Gustav outside a firebase

Most missions in Afghanistan last no longer than a day. Mary never had to hump a 100+ pound ruck for days or weeks at a time. She was quick to point out that she was mechanized infantry, and even on nine-day missions always had an M113 close by. Those who oppose women in the infantry will likely claim that humping eighty pounds on an eight-hour patrol is “easy” compared to the multi-day slogs with over 100 pounds grunts have endured in training and past wars.

True enough. But that’s not the standard for passing infantry school. If that’s the standard we want to maintain, then hold male infantrymen to it as well. I imagine our infantry units would lose quite a few male troops if we did.

“Males and females are physiologically different, and should be separated in the military just like they are in sports.”

Part of the argument against females in the infantry focuses on physiological differences between males and females. The best female athlete can’t compete with the best male athlete, the average woman isn’t as strong as the average male. Genders are separated in professional sports and the Olympics. That’s all true. Mary has, I think, a realistic answer to that.

“People always point to the separate male and female leagues in sports, which is a valid point — it is biology — but infantry isn’t the major leagues, SOF is. Obviously we’d love to have all our infantrymen consist of 6’5″ super-athletes, but it’s not realistic. If you’re letting in small guys who barely pass the standards, what’s the compelling argument for keeping women out?

“And the ‘I’m 3000 pounds with all my gear on, how is Sally Cheerleader going to drag my ass out of the line of fire’ argument? Jesus. EVERY platoon has at least one or two guys no one else can carry. We had one huge motherfucker that needed three to just pull him out of an APC. So is there gonna be an upper size limit, too? Some guys were so tall, they got back problems from sitting in a cramped APC. Everyone’s got their cross to carry. Everyone comes with benefits and drawbacks.”



Read the rest at http://www.breachbangclear.com/females-in-the-infantry-er-yes-actually/

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Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com, Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).


51 Responses to “Women in the Infantry? Yes.”

  1. 1 Lars

    Delicious danfleck

  2. 3 fknauss

    As someone whose views are regularly described as “Social Justice Warrior” by those who are less egalitarian, I hate to tell you that I’m 100% in agreement with your views.

    Welcome to social justice warriordom!

    • In that case, I hereby change my position on the subject. 🙂

      • 5 fknauss

        More seriously, I don’t care what you call it – I appreciate your efforts to create a world where people are judged on their skills and character rather than a few physical characteristics.

        Keep up the good work.

  3. Outstanding read Chris. I did go over to Breach, Bang, Clear and read the whole thing, some great comments over there as well.

    Mary sounds Sierra Hotel!

    • Mary does seem to be pretty awesome. The comments are probably 60/40 in agreement, but there are some informed disagreements and some ridiculous ones. Most of those disagreeing seem to think I’m advocating some sort of gigantic social experiment; all I’m doing is saying, “If someone is qualified and willing, let them try the infantry.”

  4. Chris, I notice you didn’t address the issue of sexual harassment, molestation, and assault that’s already a problem in the military (and in society in general). I’d be interested in hearing your views on that and on what steps the military might take to deal with it. There’s already a serious problem with regard to the mistreatment of women in the military, so it seems to me that to successfully integrate women into the infantry, the military will have to do advance work to forestall future issues AND deal more successfully with the problems they already have.

    The military culture, as I experienced it growing up in it, is one that stresses solidarity and unit cohesion so strongly that women soldiers have remained silent about sexual assaults, sometimes perpetrated by their commanding officers. The ones who have come forward have ben subjected to some pretty horrific treatment.

    I think there are a lot of complex reasons for the mistreatment of women in the service (and elsewhere). One of them is that many men perceive women as “less than”—a sub-class. It’s almost a cliche of human nature that people seek to exert control over those below them in the pecking order. It’s possible that putting more women where they can be observed to be just as tough and capable as their male counterparts will ameliorate that tendency, but it seems to me that such a cultural shift would have to be driven by more than just putting more women onto the battlefield.

    When I look at the history of “out” groups being integrated with the previously homogenous culture (whether its racial, religious, or gender-related) there is a flashpoint at which the members of the homogenous group backlash strongly against the newcomers. Do you see the military taking steps to address these issues? Are they really aware of the stresses that putting women into the infantry in large numbers would bring?

    • “Chris, I notice you didn’t address the issue of sexual harassment, molestation, and assault that’s already a problem in the military (and in society in general). I’d be interested in hearing your views on that and on what steps the military might take to deal with it. There’s already a serious problem with regard to the mistreatment of women in the military, so it seems to me that to successfully integrate women into the infantry, the military will have to do advance work to forestall future issues AND deal more successfully with the problems they already have.”


      The military sexual assault problem is real, but it’s not at the level popularly believed. The “26,000 sexual assaults in the military last year” quote that came out in 2013 was extrapolated from a single survey, which was later shown to be flawed. The term “sexual assault” wasn’t used in the survey, and respondents were asked if they had experienced “unwanted sexual contact”. That can be a hand on someone’s leg, or a violent rape. The survey didn’t differentiate with the question, and every “yes” was counted as a sexual assault. This article, from a female Marine legal officer, explains it well: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323582904578484941173658754

      And if I understand the stats correctly, even if sexual assaults in the military were as rampant as portrayed, they still wouldn’t approach the level of sexual assaults on college campuses. Yet parents are still happy to send their daughters to college.

      My gut feeling is that the part of the reason we have sexual assaults in the military is that females are de facto second-class citizens. They are prohibited from engaging in the duties the entire military exists to support. Along with that lower status goes the Army’s constant victimhood reinforcement. Females are constantly reminded to be on guard for rape, and females in war zones have been issued rape whistles. Any rapist should be terrified to discover his intended victim is a soldier. Nobody should be able to hear a rape whistle over the rapist’s screams as he’s shot or stabbed repeatedly in the face by a pissed-off female soldier. But instead of treating female soldiers as warriors, the Army tells them to blow a whistle and wait for rescue if they’re attacked. That sends exactly the wrong message. If we allow females to become infantry, we’ll erase some of that inherent victim mentality. I doubt Mary worries too much about rape.

      “The military culture, as I experienced it growing up in it, is one that stresses solidarity and unit cohesion so strongly that women soldiers have remained silent about sexual assaults, sometimes perpetrated by their commanding officers. The ones who have come forward have been subjected to some pretty horrific treatment.”

      That’s true, but it’s not limited to the military. The same thing has happened in the civilian world. Again, I believe that an environment where women are viewed as warriors and equals will reduce the risk of sexual assaults, not increase it.

      “I think there are a lot of complex reasons for the mistreatment of women in the service (and elsewhere). One of them is that many men perceive women as “less than”—a sub-class. It’s almost a cliche of human nature that people seek to exert control over those below them in the pecking order. It’s possible that putting more women where they can be observed to be just as tough and capable as their male counterparts will ameliorate that tendency, but it seems to me that such a cultural shift would have to be driven by more than just putting more women onto the battlefield.”

      I agree, but I think putting women into combat units is a very important second step (the first was putting them on the battlefield, which happened quite a ways back).

      “When I look at the history of ‘out’ groups being integrated with the previously homogenous culture (whether its racial, religious, or gender-related) there is a flashpoint at which the members of the homogenous group backlash strongly against the newcomers. Do you see the military taking steps to address these issues? Are they really aware of the stresses that putting women into the infantry in large numbers would bring?”

      I think the Army right now is trying so hard to prevent a backlash against women that they’re creating a backlash against women. The constant sexual harassment briefs convince many soldiers the best solution is to avoid females altogether; this probably isn’t the effect the Army desired. Again, I think qualified, capable females in combat units, who are capable of thriving in the crude world of the combat soldier, will go far toward eliminating that backlash. And I don’t think there would be large numbers of females in the infantry. As with Denmark, only a small number of females are both capable and willing. I imagine, if we actually stick to the standards, that we’ll have only a few hundred infantrywomen spread across the entire Army.

  5. I know this was not a topic of discussion in your post, Chris, but I wanted to add one comment, and leave it at that:

    If women want this, and want equality, then they should get it.

    Everything equal. Standards you have to meet in order to qualify for your placement as infantry, including strength, endurance, and everything else, is one thing, which you did discuss.

    But the other thing that you pointed out but failed to get into is the other places where women get special treatment and a “free pass.”

    Women don’t get conscripted. Women are allowed to quit. Women get choice, and to CHOOSE these things, whereas men do not. As I understand it, for the most part, if you’re a dude and they say “infantry” you go to infantry. If you’re a woman, you get to choose not to be infantry if you don’t want to be. You also don’t have to fill out selective service forms, which is irrelevant now, but could be relevant in the future with a quickness.

    This coming from a guy who was turned down for service in two branches of the military before he gave up, and never served a day in his life. (I could not get a clean bill of health given my vision, my heart problems and my immune-deficiencies. I am sadly not a healthy man). My selective service forms never meant squat, because they wouldn’t have taken me, anyway.

    I am not a person who says things like “women are incapable of…” or “women shouldn’t be doing…” What I do say is that if they want to do these things, they should do them under the exact same conditions that everyone else does them, no free pass or special dispensation. You meet the same standards, live by the same rules, and do the same work, or you’re not fit for the duty. The job requires X, you meet X, or you aren’t really doing the job.

    I am a project manager for a 100 million a year construction firm, and we live by the same rules. Every so often, we get women who want to be carpenters or laborers, and some of them are excellent employees with whom I have no quarrel at all. Others, however, use their “gender pass” constantly, expecting the other men on the crew to pick up their slack for them, and it breeds contempt and unrest amongst the crews. I also can’t fire them for shirking their duty, because “he fired me because I’m a girl!” is a really bad thing to have to face.

    I can’t even imagine how damaging such a thing could be in a foxhole during wartime.

    Equality swings both ways. If women want it, they need to accept it without qualm, or find another occupation.

    • Goober,

      In the US military, men aren’t conscripted and forced into infantry (and I know you know that, just laying a baseline). I’m not arguing for implementation of the Danish conscription system, I’m simply saying we should allow qualified and willing females to go infantry if they can maintain the standards. It’s not about across-the-board equality either. My argument is very narrow in scope: if someone of either gender is qualified, capable and willing, they should be allowed to serve in the infantry.

      I understand that women can use their gender to their advantage, just as some employees and soldiers use race or other traits. That’s not an easy problem to manage, but we’re already doing it in mixed-gender units in the military. It’s not impossible.

      • I know that in the US military that men aren’t conscripted or forced into infantry.

        I wasn’t even really arguing against what you said, just adding to it based on my own biases (and maybe bitterness) at the fickle nature of womens’ desire for “equality”.

        The fact is, if things go sideways, things could change to where men ARE forced into the infantry, and ARE being conscripted, because those things are in place now, even if they aren’t being actively used.

        My point was, and will continue to be, that if that ever happens in my lifetime, I’ll be very interested to see how many women are still agitating for “equality”.

        I’ll bet the number drops substantially.

        Special, or equal. Pick one. It cannot be both ways, but the vast majority of women (even my wife, to a certain extent) agitate for a situation where they get all of the same opportunities that men do, with none of the added responsibilities that we have.

        But yeah, if a woman can meet the standards, and can pull her weight, and not use her gender as an excuse, let her join the infantry. I’ve no qualms with that.

        Just don’t expect any special treatment. None.

  6. Sorry, Chris, no sale.

    But let ’em try?
    Hell yeah.
    They’re 0-for-forever at USMC IOC. That’s what happens when you don’t lower standards. (For the contrary view, watch what happens when Range school and SFAS is ordered to drop standards to get an X% female pass rate.)

    I could only post links to 10 to 50 studies that document for decades that the strongest women are weaker than 85% of the men, and the average 18 year old woman recruit/officer candidate scores at physical levels normal for 40-45 yr old men, no matter how you measure it.
    They’re also slower and break easier, and that’s before we get to the problems of non-deployability, injuries, sexual assault, harassment, fraternization, and a dozen other problems they bring to the mix just by being there. But why bother with that?

    Instead, let’s just focus on what you suggested:
    “…no matter what, don’t lower the standards…”

    I’ll go you one better: if women want equality, they can have it.
    I say give it to them across the board.

    Let’s start with the PFT/ART.
    No more separate male/female standards. Combat doesn’t cut you slack for what type of plumbing you have. Neither should the military.

    So the male standard will now be the only standard in every service.
    No slower run times. No booster steps on the obstacle course.
    Just requiring the bare minimum of 3 pull-ups for women in the Marines would weed out about 80-90% of the women in the first 20 minutes of the PFT (which is exactly why they’ve postponed that idea indefinitely).
    And consistently scoring 2nd and 3rd class on PFT tests would ensure that no woman would ever make cutting scores for NCO or staff NCO grades, and would be passed over for selection beyond 0-3. So simply joining would be career suicide. They’d be one-hit wonders.
    Then we can make a couple of other changes: no voluntary discharge for pregnancy, and any such leave comes out of your chargeable leave. Pregnancy-related medical leave stops the clock on your enlistment TIS/TIG, so if you’re out for 3-6 months, you just added 3-6 months to your enlistment. I’d even be okay with letting career troops, those past their initial tour, bank more leave than the current max to help out with that. Say 90 days instead of 60.
    Miss more than one deployment, get involuntarily discharged under other than honorable conditions, with a re-enlistment code equal to those given to any other shirker or slug. Now you can have all the babies you want, on your time, but no more rash of pregnancies in units every time a deployment rolls around.

    Oh, and let’s forget about women “volunteering” for the infantry: they’ll not only be allowed to ask for it, they’ll be assigned to it whether they like it or not. Just like men, and in equal ratios., i.e. if 40% of male recruits are sent to the infantry, same rate for females.
    And every female in the US will now be required to register for the Selective Service by age 18, whether they want to or not, or they can forget ever qualifying for pretty much every loan in existence, like college, home loans, or small business loans. And if there’s a draft, they’re going to get called up, at a 1:1 ratio with men.
    This equality stuff is pretty fun, isn’t it?

    And with having to do the same tough jobs, and the risk of going to war, they’d stop enlisting in droves. They’d avoid ROTC and other commissioning programs like the plague. Most who did try would flunk out of OCS and the service academies due to inability to perform to minimum physical standards. (NOW is going to love that!) And suddenly, the All-Volunteer Force would be short 15% or so on bodies.

    No problem: we’d just go old-school, and draft enough bodies anyways. And since there would already be plenty of men, most of the draftees, if not in fact every single one, would have to be women.
    Think of it as the military version of forced bussing to desegregate schools.
    After all, if diversity is so nifty, we’d have to draft 15,000-20,000 women every year just to keep their participation at current levels.
    You want equality ladies, have a shovel-full, right down your throats.

    And then, in a year or two, when 99.9998% were battered, broken, bruised, and otherwise destroyed, including most of the women officers pushing for changes because they want more stars, we could look at the millions of taxpayer dollars wasted on this failed social experimentation since the ’70s, realize it was all farcical, and then at the end of the day, we’d only have about a platoon worth of women left in each service, all of whom would have actually earned the right to be there.

    For them, let them do whateverinhell they want, long as they meet the same standards at every step.
    All 30 of them.

    Just like military men have been doing since…forever.

    Funny that in 40 years, I’ve never heard complaints about any of the above unfairness, nor anything like my solution suggested by the women actually serving, or from the social engineers outside the military who are always agitating for changes.

    It’s almost as if the last thing they actually want, is true equal treatment.

    • I was going to leave a comment saying something to the effect of “don’t lower the standards and let them try” but you hit on that and then some.

    • Aesop,

      Mary and I weren’t arguing for equality. All we said was, “If someone of either gender is qualified and can attain and maintain the standard, let them serve in the infantry.” There is no reason to force women into infantry, since men aren’t forced into it either (short of conscription, which I’m strongly against).

      What I see now are some males who have no more capability than some females. Those males can still go infantry. Even if they’re smaller than the average woman. Even if they’re weaker than the average woman. Take “equality” out of the argument; allowing substandard males into infantry while barring capable females isn’t logical.

      I realize you’re looking at this as a sort of “whole concept” issue. I’m not, and I’m not arguing for large-scale upheaval. I’m looking at individuals. If we have someone like Mary who is physically capable and psychologically suited to infantry service, and who doesn’t require separate facilities, what harm results from allowing her to serve?

      • The complete upheaval of the unit environment, detrimental to mission accomplishment, from all the laundry list of things I left out of the above, all the way down to doubling up on heads/latrines. All of which will make it less likely a given unit will accomplish its basic mission, the entire point of a military. If they want a place where everyone plays and gets a prize for trying, there’s Little League. The military is the big leagues, and we don’t have an infantry to make one person feel good about themself

        But the telling line is “weren’t arguing about equality”.
        That means the discussion is merely about simultaneous punishing men, and expanding the second-class citizenship, to accommodate what will in all probability be a number of women that you and I together could count on our thumbs over the next number of years.

        And BTW, men are assigned to the 11B and 0300 MOSs daily on open contracts in both the USA and USMC, based on “needs of the service”, long after we stopped drafting people. If that doesn’t and shouldn’t apply to women, this is still polishing a turd, and the guys so designated are being officially hosed in favor of less-qualified women as they have been every day.

        Neither you nor I are big guys (me less so, but I have a few more years of good civilian living and craft service to blame for that). And we both made the cut, and have both seen guys in our time that had no business in combat, or combat arms. I’m fine with weeding them out across the board. Nothing I want would let more in.

        But to let even the first woman in, we’ll have to lower standards. (We already do just to let them enlist in the first place, with PT scores! They’ve never even gotten in the door on a fair basis, back to Day One.) For men in the Corps, three pull-ups isn’t the Holy Grail of Studliness; it’s the bare minimum of marginal acceptability even for the chairborne clerks and jerks (God bless ’em every one). But for more than half of all women everywhere, even that paltry physical test is far beyond their abilities with even weeks of training. The Army standards show the same thing. So at best, we’re talking about changing everything, and lowering the standards, just to get a fraction of the 10-15% of the .mil, a fraction of a fraction – the women – over the obstacle wall, and into the infantry.

        And then, as I said, they’re always weaker, slower, and break earlier and easier than at least 85% of the men, before we get to all the other well-documented problems they bring to the party.

        And all that’s before they even hit the beach.

        It’s simply not fair to the women to put them there, and it’s not fair to the guys who’ll be forced to depend on substandard troops, in life-and-death situations, to accomplish missions (or fail them), vital enough to the nation to risk blood and treasure in the first place.

        As I said, if they want to run at the wall, let ’em.
        And when they fail in droves, there are no shortage of jobs they can do where they’re welcome in the military.

        But until they can really do the job, day-in, day-out, for at least a full enlistment, not just to bare minimums for a minute or two, there’s no point in putting them there except to placate the social engineering whims of a bunch of PC commandos who never served, never will, and won’t pay the consequences when those unfit Combat Barbies and G.I. Janes try, fail, die, and get other men killed to boot.
        And worse, cost us a unit, a battle, a campaign, a strategy, a war. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

        And the social engineers won’t have to write the condolence letters, or look the parents in the eye afterwards either, and explain that their sons and daughters died because we thought we could thwart biology and physiology if we just wished hard enough.

        A fair test?
        “Welcome to the male-standard PT test. If you pass it, after lunch you will be issued a standard fully loaded combat pack and issue weapon. Fifteen point five miles down the road will be a bus. Everybody not sitting on that bus six hours later just failed the combat arms screening assessment, and will be assigned to Whatever Other Duty the service decides you’re best suited for, or separated as physically unsuitable, depending on where you are at that point in time. First rank of recruits, begin testing.”

        Under that standard, you couldn’t fill so much as one single infantry platoon with qualified women from the entire armed forces of the United States in most four-year periods, and would be hard-pressed to find more than a few hundred who’d even try.

        Far be it for me to tell them not to.
        But the stats of those who tried should be updated daily and posted on the front page of the USA and USMC websites on the Internet, and every chattering harpy agitating for “fairness” should be directed to have a gander there before they shriek their disapproval at the Patriarchy.

        As small as budget cuts are making the military of even a few months from now, we could probably start increasing the minimum physical standards, and still hit recruiting goals.

        And until there are more than a couple of one-in-ten-million Marys to make the case for, I can’t see any pressing need to change how they do what they do in the infantry. Unfortunately, we seen to have no shortage of career-minded officers willing to look the other way to assure their own promotions and pensions to try it the other way.

  7. 17 Ken

    The only question that matters in this is “Does having women in the infantry improve the effectiveness of the infantry?” To answer this you, also, have to define what the infantry is for, and keep that in mind, when deciding what policies should and shouldn’t be implemented. This is why I am very unmoved by the arguments that some women are physically and psychologically capable of performing well in the infantry. So what? How does this improve the overall performance of the infantry? This is affected by many more things than how physically and psychologically capable any particular woman is.

    Undoubtedly there are some women who can perform well in some infantry divisions and some groups of infantrymen into which qualified women can be integrated. This doesn’t matter. I’m sure under certain combat circumstances I would perform very well in some infantry divisions; I’m equally sure that in most combat circumstances I would perform much worse than most infantrymen; in most circumstances I would degrade the effectiveness of the infantry. I am sure there are a couple fat 40 year old men who would simply be infantry animals who would absolutely increase the combat readiness and effectiveness of most infantry, but really, should we focus on recruiting fat 40 year old men? Should we change policy to allow fat 40 year old men to join the infantry? Of course not. In light of this, there are a number of things to consider.

    Aside from the physical and psychological aspects of women, the first and most worrisome for me is that merely the presence of women affects the behavior of men. Always. How does this changed behavior affect combat readiness and performance? Does it enhance it? In other words, how does letting any qualified woman into any infantry division affect the average infantryman in any given combat situation? I’m very skeptical. The bonds of brotherhood among men who share a common dangerous experience is far different from the feelings men have towards women with whom they’ve shared a dangerous experience. Saying men shouldn’t be like that, as a shocking number of people do, is to live in a fantasy land. We have to implement policy based on actual human nature, not some idealized fantasy about how we’d like it to be.

    Another consideration is how willing Americans would be to send women into combat. Americans are much more concerned about violence against women than men (for example, there is no Council on Men and Boys sponsored by the White House; there isn’t even a whisper anywhere to suggest such a thing). How willing would a president or commander be to fight what would be known to be a bloody battle, knowing that many body bags will be filled with women? Some see this as a feature, not a bug. I don’t.

    Lastly, imagine an all female division, staffed with the best women, going to battle against an all male division, staffed with the best men. Who thinks the women would win? I don’t. In fact, I think it would be a slaughter. This is why the focus should be on recruiting and training men. I further think, for many reasons, not just the ones listed above, the focus should be on only men. However, as implored, I am willing to keep an open mind and entertain the notion that the division of women would win on average more often than lose. In this case, we should switch our focus to recruiting and training women, while refusing men entry in the infantry.

    • First, I strongly disagree with your contention that a female’s actual combat performance is irrelevant. Combat performance is, in my opinion, the only relevant factor. We have males in infantry units now who cannot perform in combat. Are we better off with those males than we would be with capable females? So to answer your question “does allowing females into the infantry enhance our effectiveness”, I’d answer “Of course not”. What DOES enhance our effectiveness is allowing capable soldiers into the infantry. If Mary is capable, then she adds effectiveness. Gender is immaterial in actual combat; maleness does not automatically make one a combat-effective soldier, and femaleness does not automatically make one ineffective. Google Leigh-Ann Hester. She earned a Silver Star in Iraq for her actions during a huge ambush on a convoy. When her route patrol team was engaged in brutal close-range combat, and the convoy under attack was being destroyed, her capabilities proved extremely important. I was in Iraq when that action happened, and have studied the incident. You’re not going to convince me that her mere presence was an automatic distraction, or that her team would have been better off with any male than with Hester.

      Second, I disagree with your view on male behavior toward females. Yes, what you describe exists, but it isn’t unchangeable. If it was, then no country would successfully integrate females into infantry units. Yet many countries have. Maybe what you’re describing is more cultural than human nature.

      Third, we already have females coming home in body bags. That’s been going on for 13 years. There has been no public outcry to pull women from combat assignments.

      Fourth, a division of 5’5″, 120 pound males would probably lose against a normal division. Yet those males are still allowed to go infantry. Should we ban them?

      • 19 Ken

        I strongly disagree with your contention that a female’s actual combat performance is irrelevant

        My point was that anecdotes about the combat performance of a SPECIFIC woman in no way translates to the performance of women in general who are physically and psychologically capable. I understand perfectly well what you are saying aobut Leigh-Ann Hester and the few other women you mention. What happens when the TYPICAL woman starts to fill the ranks of the infantry? As I asked before, how does letting any qualified woman into any infantry division affect the average infantryman in any given combat situation? That Leigh-Ann Hester performed well in combat is, in fact, IRRELEVANT to the effectiveness the random Jane Smith from Middle America USA brings to the infantry.

        What DOES enhance our effectiveness is allowing capable soldiers into the infantry

        I think this is an excellent question and as I mentioned the ONLY relevant question. Well What DOES enhance our effectiveness? The topic of gender is largely a social warrior crusade, which provides a distraction from focusing on the horrific task of understanding what makes infantry more effective. The purpose of infantry is a grisly and nightmarish affair. It’s just so much easier to beat your chest and yell SEXIST! It makes one feel better as well to focus on sex issues, rather than the most effective ways to kill other people with modern industrial precision and efficiency.

        Gender is immaterial in actual combat

        You can’t actually believe this can you? The sexual dynamic is always present in ALL situations where there is a significant proportion of men and women. To say “gender is immaterial” is to say “I’m going to ignore the very real immutable human nature and pretend like what I WANT to be true is actually true”. The presence of one or two women here and there in an overwhelmingly male environment changes things somewhat, but not that much. When there the percent of women any group gets high enough, the dynamics of that group will significantly changed. Sexual tension becomes real and distracting for BOTH sexes.

        Yes, what you describe exists, but it isn’t unchangeable.

        In fact, it is unchangeable. We are NOT blank slates. Our behavior is largely determined by our genes, with some overlay of learned culture. Our impulses and behavior can be, at best, controlled to some extent. A lot of research has gone down over the last few decades on this very topic. The results aren’t very good for those who insist human nature “isn’t unchangeable”.

        If it was, then no country would successfully integrate females into infantry units. Yet many countries have

        Which countries? Successful how? Successful at improving the combat effectiveness of their infantry?

        Third, we already have females coming home in body bags. That’s been going on for 13 years. There has been no public outcry to pull women from combat assignments.

        Please show me where I said “no women were coming home in body bags”. I clearly stated “many body bags will be filled with women”, meaning much more than the current 2-4%.The percent of combat deaths that are male is at least 95% for our current conflicts and over 97% since 1990.

        Fourth, a division of 5’5″, 120 pound males would probably lose against a normal division. Yet those males are still allowed to go infantry. Should we ban them?

        If this typically hurts infantry effectiveness, absolutely.

        • Who said any random Jane should be in the infantry?

          • 21 Ken

            I qualified my statement often enough to mean a random woman who physically and psychologically qualified, that I didn’t think I needed to make that qualification every time. I now know better.

        • “My point was that anecdotes about the combat performance of a SPECIFIC woman in no way translates to the performance of women in general who are physically and psychologically capable. I understand perfectly well what you are saying about Leigh-Ann Hester and the few other women you mention. What happens when the TYPICAL woman starts to fill the ranks of the infantry? As I asked before, how does letting any qualified woman into any infantry division affect the average infantryman in any given combat situation? That Leigh-Ann Hester performed well in combat is, in fact, IRRELEVANT to the effectiveness the random Jane Smith from Middle America USA brings to the infantry.”

          Who argued for allowing random Jane Smith from Middle America into the infantry? My entire point is that SPECIFIC women are capable and willing. Not that all women are.

          “It’s just so much easier to beat your chest and yell SEXIST! It makes one feel better as well to focus on sex issues, rather than the most effective ways to kill other people with modern industrial precision and efficiency.”

          When did I use the term “sexist”? And I agree that we should focus on the most effective ways to kill the enemy. I argue that by excluding capable individuals from infantry while allowing others who are substandard, we harm our capability to kill the enemy.

          “Gender is immaterial in actual combat…You can’t actually believe this can you? The sexual dynamic is always present in ALL situations where there is a significant proportion of men and women. To say ‘gender is immaterial’ is to say ‘I’m going to ignore the very real immutable human nature and pretend like what I WANT to be true is actually true’. The presence of one or two women here and there in an overwhelmingly male environment changes things somewhat, but not that much. When there the percent of women any group gets high enough, the dynamics of that group will significantly changed. Sexual tension becomes real and distracting for BOTH sexes.”

          You’re automatically assuming there will be millions of female infantry. There won’t. Even in places like Denmark, Canada and France where women can serve in the infantry, very few do so. Just as in Mary’s case, there would only be ones and twos per company or platoon. And yes, when those ones and twos are in combat with their small unit their gender won’t be the distraction you claim it will be. During the Palm Sunday Ambush (we called it the Kentucky Ambush, because Hester and her MP patrol were KY National Guard), do you think Hester’s fellow soldiers were thinking about sex while they were fighting 30 insurgents? Or were they thinking about killing the enemy and not getting killed themselves? When I rolled into the Alasai Valley with the French Mountain troops, they had a few women around. Somehow we still won the fight.

          In short, I don’t know who you’re arguing with. Neither I nor Mary want huge numbers of average women in the infantry. We want that tiny number who are capable and willing.

          “In fact, it is unchangeable. We are NOT blank slates. Our behavior is largely determined by our genes, with some overlay of learned culture. Our impulses and behavior can be, at best, controlled to some extent. A lot of research has gone down over the last few decades on this very topic. The results aren’t very good for those who insist human nature ‘isn’t unchangeable’.”

          Again, how have other countries pulled it off?

          “Which countries? Successful how? Successful at improving the combat effectiveness of their infantry?”

          Canada, France and Denmark, to name three. If human nature was as you suggest it is, NO country would be able to integrate genders on ANY level in their military. And by successful, I mean they allowed qualified and capable individuals to serve. If YOU claim this hurt their militaries, YOU prove it.

          “Please show me where I said ‘no women were coming home in body bags’. I clearly stated ‘many body bags will be filled with women’, meaning much more than the current 2-4%.The percent of combat deaths that are male is at least 95% for our current conflicts and over 97% since 1990.”

          Please show me where I advocated for large numbers of average women in the infantry.

          “If [allowing small males into the infantry] typically hurts infantry effectiveness, absolutely.”

          Really. So of course you were already demanding that small males be excluded from the infantry, before I wrote this article. I’m going to guess you weren’t. I’ve discovered that as soon as the possibility of women in combat arms is discussed, some people rise up in anger about allowing anyone into the infantry who might degrade its effectiveness. Well, we’ve had small guys in the infantry forever. We’ve had dumb guys in the infantry forever. We’ve had fat guys. Yesterday I was talking to an infantry buddy about this article, and he said “We had tons of guys who couldn’t pass a PT test.” All of those shortcomings are tolerated until someone suggests we allow qualified females into the infantry. Then the infantry suddenly becomes the land of only the best qualified males. So here’s what I’m saying: women like Mary make better infantry soldiers than some males who are in the infantry now. We don’t help the infantry by allowing substandard males while excluding capable females. My argument isn’t about gender equality or sexism. It’s about making our military better. And we make it better by allowing qualified, capable people to serve. I don’t care if those people are male or female, gay or straight. If they’re qualified and capable, they’re an asset.

          • 23 Ken

            “My entire point is that SPECIFIC women are capable and willing.”

            You are using specific examples to argue for ANY woman who passes the physical and psychological tests, qualifications that I have repeatedly made, yet you keep acting as if I did not make those qualifications.

            “Not that all women are.”

            Neither did I, so you’re arguing against a straw man.

            “When did I use the term “sexist”?”

            As if your snide “At this point, I’m sure some readers are walking away in disgust at the very idea that a woman could be infantry. See you guys later, hope you open your mind someday.” remark in your post could possibly mean anything else. The entire point of your ridiculous comment was to forestall anyone who is against women in the infantry by implying they are close minded (sexist), therefore haven’t thought too hard or seriously on the matter, and are a priori wrong about women in the infantry.

            “You’re automatically assuming there will be millions of female infantry”

            There’s not even millions of infantry in totality now. That I know that basic fact, there isn’t any way I would make such a stupid assumption as the one above, so I’m not sure where you could come up with that line of reason, other than to, yet AGAIN, erect a straw man.

            “In short, I don’t know who you’re arguing with.”

            It’s clear you’re not even sure what I’m arguing, as you keep missing the qualifications I’ve been putting on my arguments, as well as attributing assumptions to me that no reasonable or educated person would assume.

            “Again, how have other countries pulled it off?”

            Pulled what off? Implementing stupid policies because they know that they are simply auxiliaries of the US?

            “Canada, France and Denmark, to name three.”

            So three countries whose militaries are incredibly subsidized and whose operations rely on the US? These countries can do whatever they like to reduce the ineffectiveness of their fighting forces because they know that they are at best auxiliary forces of the US. The reason the US spends more on the military than the 8 next largest militaries, two of which are China and Russia, political adversaries, is because the US is the actual military for its allies with our allies providing support.

            “Please show me where I advocated for large numbers of average women in the infantry.”

            Um, your argument is to allow any woman who wants to and qualifies for to be in the infantry.

            “So of course you were already demanding that small males be excluded from the infantry, before I wrote this article.”

            The military RIGHT NOW excludes males for all sorts of reasons, including size, pretty much all of which I support. You do know that this is standard policy don’t you, to exclude large groups of men from from even joining the military and excluding even more from specific jobs, such as the infantry?

            “I’m going to guess you weren’t.”

            You like to guess a lot. You shouldn’t do this. You’ve been wrong both times you’ve made guesses about me.

            “I don’t care if those people are male or female, gay or straight.”

            You should, as they directly affect the social dynamics of ANY group, which, as much as you’d like to deny it, does in fact affect performance, including combat performance.

            “If they’re qualified and capable, they’re an asset.”

            Yes, “IF”. You’re assuming that it’s not “if”. You’ve all ready reached the conclusion that allowing any woman who meets the physical requirements WILL mean they are “capable” and be an “asset” to the infantry.

            I also notice that you continue to bring forth arguments about the physical qualifications of women, despite that I ALL READY explicitly acknowledged this could be the case in my original argument; for your sake, I’ll repeat my concession from my ORIGINAL comment “Undoubtedly there are some women who can perform well in some infantry divisions and some groups of infantrymen into which qualified women can be integrated.” My original comment was to focus on the social dynamic aspects of having a larger presence of women among men in combat. If you don’t want to focus on that and continue to want to harp on the physical qualifications, there is no reason to respond, as you are NOT responding to MY argument, rather you are responding to the argument you prefer to have.

          • Ken,

            You used the term “random”. I’m not sure how I was supposed to take that to mean “specific”. I don’t think there will be many females who are qualified to serve in the infantry. And to repeat my point, I do not believe the very small number of females who would be qualified for the infantry would harm effectiveness.

  8. 25 Vendetta

    Interesting, definitely one of the better articles I’ve seen arguing this side of the issue.

    I want to say there’s probably some cultural differences at hand between the American and European militaries. Here’s a possibility for why pregnancy is such an issue in the US military as opposed to the Euros: women aren’t joining European militaries with any intent on getting pregnant. But a lot of American women are. In that case, letting them join the combat units isn’t going to solve the problem at all.

    We’d need to look at more demographic data to answer that one.

    • I strongly disagree with your contention that a lot of American women join the military intending to get pregnant. Not saying it never happens, but I need some evidence to support that claim.

  9. Gender will make a difference, Chris. Maybe an irrelevant, immaterial difference, but it will make a difference.

    That argument is the same argument used to say “no gays” also, and I don’t think it sticks.

    I’m not an advocate of telling people that they cannot do something simply because other people might react in undesirable ways to it.

    For instance, telling a gay guy he can’t serve because there might be homophobes in his platoon is stupid. That’s the homophobes’ problem, not his.

    The same reasoning could be used to tell blacks they can’t serve because there might be racists in their unit. It’s retarded.

    And telling a woman she can’t serve because the dudes in the platoon will be lusting after her instead of doing their jobs is no different.

    That being said, it is unwise for a person to ignore the fact that those things will definitely happen. Without a doubt. There will be homophobes, racists, and gender issues in a unit. It will change the dynamic of an infantry unit to have a woman on board. That’s not her fault, and it isn’t fair to say she can’t be in the infantry simply because of the way others will react, but that will be the way it is.

    Some white knight will get himself killed rushing to aid of the fair damsel in distress. It’s kind of hard-wired in a lot of us guys to protect women. I had an instance of this instinct myself, just the other day, when a tatted up dirtbag was eyeballing one of my female co-workers, and I moved to block his view. Didn’t even think about it.

    There are other examples, but I won’t go on.

    But to accept these issues as being, doesn’t mean that you have to use them as a reason to deny service to women.

  10. 28 Peter


    Beg pardon, but I’m seeing an argument here that because we have smaller-than-average, less-fit-than-average and weaker-than-average people in the infantry….. that means that we suffer no disadvantage by bringing in more of them?

    As those females who can make the standard are almost certainly only just doing so, this is an argument for loading the bottom end of the physical performance curve in the unit. That is before we consider the lower ability to exceed those standards as required under the stress of combat, increased probability of injury and more rapid degradation of physical capacity (as described by Capt Petronio.)

    I would support the idea of an all female unit (or units) and let them stand or fall upon their own merits. But until we are ready to do that, we are expecting men to pick up the slack.

    One does not have to have military experience to understand that the issue is not simply about what happens when everything goes to plan, but what happens when it does not. What happens when the machinery breaks down, is not available, or simply is not the best option (as happened to a friend of mine whose deployment included a 20-click insertion on foot over rough terrain carrying over 200lb.) Yes, the military has dealt with human variability for centuries. What it has not done is loaded the weak end of the scale thus forcing the stronger members of each unit to carry a disproportionately higher load.

    The question that I have not seen answered is whether the call for “equality” in this matter is being driven by considerations of cost-effectiveness, or whether it is based on what we can get away with because we *currently* have a degree of mechanical and technological superiority.

  11. 29 Peter

    “That being said, it is unwise for a person to ignore the fact that those things will definitely happen. ………..It will change the dynamic of an infantry unit to have a woman on board. That’s not her fault, and it isn’t fair to say she can’t be in the infantry simply because of the way others will react, but that will be the way it is.”

    Is it fair to insist that we simply reprogram men to account for this? Is it even being honest to argue that the *genetic* predisposition to react differently to women is no different from the *cultural* attitudes represented by racism and homophobia.?

    These are people that we are asking to go into the most stressful of possible circumstances. I do no consider it either clever or fair to impose an even greater burden on them.

    It may not be a woman’s fault that she is female. It certainly IS her fault if she insists on taking that femininity into a place and context where it adversely affects others.

    Sometimes the genetic lottery sucks. I didn’t get to serve in the infantry either. Different bits. Different genes. But still a fair call by the military to exclude me on that basis.

  12. 30 Kirk

    Y’know… It’d be nice if you guys who are advocating for this idea of putting women into the Infantry would actually do the unthinkable, and talk to someone who’s actually had to work through these issues in the real world. Oh, like maybe someone in one of the combat arms branches that has, within memory of serving Soldiers, actually done this kind of thing? You might be surprised by the answers you get, were you to do that.

    Circa 1990, I had no real opinion on the matter. As a Combat Engineer NCO, if you’d put the question to me, I’d have been very likely to hem, haw, and say “Well, let me think about this…”. And, after I’d done some thinking about it, I’d have likely done what I did when my CSM and battalion commander discussed the issue with me out of the clear blue sky one day on the range, and come out in favor of the idea, saying something along the lines of “Well, they’ve had the right to vote for what, over a hundred years, in some states? About damn time they stood up to the plate, isn’t it? I think we could make it work…”.

    Looking back on it, I’m pretty sure that conversation was why they selected the most junior SSG (P) to run the battalion Support Platoon, which was (unbeknownst to me, at the time) slated to get women assigned to it. If there was ever a conversation I wish I could go back and “un-have”, that would be right up there with the top ten.

    At the time, I was generally neutral or in slightly in favor of the idea of women in the combat arms. After actually being one of the idiots in charge of making that integration happen, I am now completely against the idea of such idiocy taking place in the US Army. It may work elsewhere, but it won’t end well with our service, for all too many reasons–Which I’ll outline here.

    First off, gentlemen, you need to remember this: You are not going to get women like Mary out of the US Army personnel pipeline. It does not work that way, and you damn well know it. There are women out there, probably up to about 5-10% of the female military age population here in the US who could probably physically “hack” the requirements of the job. Thing is, those women have a “propensity to enlist” number of around zero, as USAREC likes to refer to such things. What you will be getting out of the pipeline from TRADOC out in the units will be women who are really just there to hit the “gender inclusion” numbers, and who will likely not meet the physical standards y’all are fantasizing about. The recruiters are going to be looking for bodies, the training pipeline is going to be looking for numbers, and you’re going to be dealing with a bunch of women who should never have been selected for those jobs–And, you damn well know it. The system does not have the moral courage necessary to make anything else happen. Period. Why the fuck else do you think we were getting males who couldn’t pass a fucking PT test fresh out of AIT, or who could not keep up on a road march? You think the system is magically going to reform itself, just because Womyn(tm) are now in the pipeline?

    An additional issue here? Even if the Infantry manages to make a standard stick, what the hell do you think is going to happen with all the low-density MOS jobs in an Infantry company or battalion? Do you think you’re magically going to be able to say “All the clerks, jerks, and supply weenies are gonna have to be Infantry-level folks…”. Ain’t gonna happen.

    So, get used to the side effect of having totally unqualified people backing you up. Remember the good old days when your supply clerk could go down to draw gear without having to have a fucking detail to help him pick up stuff? Get ready to lose line dogs every goddamn day to go do what he used to handle routinely on his own, because he’s gonna get replaced by a 90-lb Hmong chick who can’t do what he used to do. Even if she’s the best damn supply clerk you ever saw (which she kinda was…), you’re going to bleed manpower to go do things that didn’t used to be an issue. For us, we went from having to vomit forth a manpower detail every once in awhile to having it be a regular occurrence. Even with the best will in the world, a 4’8″ 90-lb chick is not going to be loading boxes into the back of a five-ton truck down at the supply point. She can’t even get them over the fucking tailgate, so you’re always going to have to send someone with–And, oh-by-the-way, get used to having your male troops in the headquarters elements have the dogfuck worked out of them, because when you replace half your troops with people that can’t physically do the job, shit happens.

    Remind me to tell the tale of what happened when the EO geniuses decided to change the staffing in the I Corps Jump TOC. We went from setting up the TOC in about 45 minutes to suddenly needing three hours, because halving the effective manpower on things like manhandling the camo nets and tents made hitting the marks on time a hell of a lot harder. You might also want to take a look at what happened when the same fucking geniuses decided that 12C bridge crew positions ought to be open to females, particularly on the construction times for the MGB. Time was, the reserve units out in the Mid-west could kick anyone’s ass in the world for their times on constructing those things. Result of a couple of years of adding women to the mix? They don’t even do the timed erection competitions anymore because “…it was bad for morale…”.

    Guy I know from “ye olden days” in Germany back in the 1980s was telling me his reserve bridge company went from a time of x to erect a bridge to a time of 3x on a good day–I don’t remember the exact numbers, but I do remember him saying that their times had gone up to three times what they had been. Just from adding in around 10-15% females to the units. That sort of thing is most carefully ignored and stepped around, because they’ve quit holding the competitions they used to. And, since nobody even does the old-school ARTEP any more, guess what? If we don’t know about it, it isn’t a problem.

    Funny how a lot of that crap came in with the integration of women, ain’t it? Standards? We don’t need no stinkin’ standards…

    This is why putting women into the Infantry in the US Army ain’t going to be at all the same as it is in the Danish Army. Our system and culture is staffed with moral cowards who refuse to accept reality.

    Disbelieve me? Take a look at the whole issue surrounding pregnancy. I never passed a single inspection on my fuel section the entire time I was running the Support Platoon. Know why? I only had a couple of inexperienced privates running that section, when I was supposed to have a fully qualified Skill Level Two NCO to manage that element. Care to guess why I didn’t have one? Because pregnancy.

    The fucking Army is insane. Let’s just get that out there: The institution is fucking insane, and completely unable to function rationally in the real world. My example of that fuel handler NCO is a perfect example. I’ve got one, count it, one slot for that particular low-density MOS out in an Engineer battalion. Make it open to females, and the people at assignments are going to fill that job with a female. They have to–You cannot discriminate against women in these matters. If the opening is there, and she matches the requirements, you get her. So… What if she’s a mid-career NCO, who wants to have kids? Why can’t they put her over in a unit where there are people who can backstop her while she’s pregnant and can’t be around teratogenic petrochemicals? Nope, that little bit of common sense ain’t allowable.

    Know why I think the Army is insane? I brought that little idea up, because I was tired of failing inspections due to the non-presence of a qualified fuel person to run our fuel point–The CSM had her working the S1, because she was a great NCO, and did a hell of a job on paperwork. Trouble was, due to her having her two kids while she was assigned to us, she couldn’t work around the fuel point THE ENTIRE FUCKING TIME SHE WAS IN THE UNIT.

    It’s all fun and games until you start losing key and critical people in low-density skill areas. You think I had it bad, try watching what happened over in some of the med units when they got alerted for “possible mobilization in support of OIF”. With women in the unit, you’ve basically handed a “get out of deployment free” card to every female shitbag in the unit, and they will not hesitate to use it. Which is going to screw over every single other soldier in that MOS across the Army–I’ve got several acquaintances that were in some of those fields, male and female both, who spent the period of 2003-2009 deployed because of that crap. And, who decided to cut short their military careers, because they were getting back from one deployment to get put right back on another one. I know one female NCO who literally came home from OIF I only to be shifted over to another unit that was leaving for OIF II in three weeks. Had to do it, y’see–The people with that MOS in that second unit had both “turned up pregnant”, and it was an emergency re-assignment.

    Care to guess who got promoted to SFC, and who said “Fuck this shit…” three years later, after having been overlooked by the promotion board? It wasn’t the woman who made the back-to-back deployments that made SFC, as a hint.

    Y’all really think that an organization that lets shit like that go on routinely is even slightly capable of setting and holding a standard that might enable putting women into the Infantry without fucking everything up? If so, I would also like to suggest talking to me about my beach-front property that I happen to have for sale in Nevada…

    Bring that one issue, that of managing pregnancy, up at an Army Family program, and even hint at the idea that maybe it would be good to try to figure out a way to work around people’s needs to have kids during their careers while still having functional units that can deploy, and you’re going to perform a career-limiting act. Nobody wants to consider something like this, and they don’t give a flying fuck about unit readiness or ability to perform a mission. Just discuss it rationally? Fuck me… They can’t.

    So–Reality: 0, Fantasy-land: 1.

    The US Army refuses to look this shit in the eye, and even consider dealing with it rationally. We’d rather fuck over the troops who are trying to succeed in their mission and have a good unit than admit that just maybe, opening a field to women who are going to have significant periods in their careers where they can’t work around the materials their job requires them to isn’t a good idea. Nor will the institution even think about or implement common-sense workarounds that would serve everyone.

    And, y’all really think they’re going to do better when it comes to integrating women into the Infantry?

    It is to fucking laugh.

    We aren’t getting women like our Danish Mary in our units. They don’t enlist, because they have other things to do with their lives. We will, however, get Suzy Valleygirl, who hasn’t ever walked anywhere for more than a mile in her entire fucking life, and whose life, pre-military, hasn’t done a damn thing to build her a foundation that might help her survive the experience and come out of it with a still more-or-less functioning body. We don’t get star athletes from colleges who have Olympic hopes, we get that young lady from out in the suburbs whose most extreme physical experience has been being a shift worker at the local fast-food joint, if you’re lucky.

    Which leads into another issue: The pool of man/womanpower that is actually likely to enlist in the Army is not full of people who have spent their lives preparing for it. In a young male, that’s not such a big deal–Biology has blessed him with a set of physical characteristics that enable him to be rapidly built up to an acceptable standard, in terms of muscle strength and endurance. The fact that his bone mineralization and the strength of his muscle attachments aren’t optimized due to his lack of pre-service exercise really only starts to show up if we stress him too much, too quickly. On his sister, however? The margins are so narrow that we are often breaking these women down, and doing so permanently.

    Of the three young ladies I got in at the beginning of the cluster-fuck that the whole thing has turned into, all three were physically broken with long-term overuse and musculoskeletal issues by the end of their enlistments. One of them needed to have both knees and a hip replaced, the other two just couldn’t take part in standard PT. That’s three women in their early to mid-twenties demonstrating issues that most career male combat arms Soldiers don’t manifest until late in their careers. Hmmm. Could that possibly be a sign, do you think? I know it’s anecdotal, but the lack of real research and data in this area tends to make me think that it’s something we’re very carefully ignoring. And, we really shouldn’t be.

    You want to make solid Infantrywomen? Ones that can last, and who won’t be ending their military careers prematurely with debilitating long-term physical issues? I would suggest that you really need to start your program young, about the same timeframe that the Eastern Europeans started their gymnasts, because there isn’t really any way to lay down that extra margin in bone density and strength that you need without doing so.

    I’m not a misogynist, I’m a realist. The issues with this that are being glossed over with all this “Let’s women up the Infantry” are so vast that it’s not even funny, and the denial about the various and very real issues we’ve had with women in the service so far just shows that the US Army is not honest or mature enough to handle them.

    I’m not in the Danish Army, or the IDF, so I don’t know about and can’t speak to their integration of women in their armies. I can, however, speak quite authoritatively about the US Army doing the same, and I’m going to tell you here and now that this whole thing is going to be a fucking disaster of epic proportions, over the long haul. We, as an institution, do not possess the strength of will, or the moral courage to set the standard necessary or keep it. The “social justice warriors” are going to do the same thing that DACOWITS did, back in the day, when they rolled the Army over the quite sensible strength testing standards that they tried to put in place during the early 1980s. That lasted about six months, and the program went out the fucking window. Same thing is going to happen with any sane, rational attempt to set a standard for the Infantry, and keep it.

    One of the things I believed in as an NCO was the idea that I was the custodian of the young men and women I had entrusted to me by the nation’s parents. It should be our job, as leaders, to ensure that our people are properly prepared for war, and that we do not waste their lives in either training or war. Part of that mandate includes telling outsiders unpleasant facts, like “American women in the US Army Infantry is not a good idea, and very likely will not work.”

    It is unfortunate that we have built up a culture that can’t make an idealized concept like this work, but the fact is–We have. Denial of that fact is only going to lose us a lot of good people, along with a lot of money–Perhaps, even a war or two. In an ideal world, all things are possible. Sad fact is, however, that only the functionally insane live in an ideal world, and the greatest part of their insanity lies in their inability to recognize or deal with the world as it is–Reality, in other words.

    And, I fear that all you’re doing with this article, Chris, is giving encouragement to the insane. They’re going to hear what they want to from this, and other such articles, and completely ignore the things that they don’t want to hear, while setting policies that ignore reality. The history of the last thirty years only proves my point–They will not, as an institution, be able to make this work effectively. As such, I think the only really responsible thing to do is to flat-out tell them “No”, because they will never be able to rationally comprehend why it is we need to do the things that we would need to do, in order for us to even begin to make this work.

    • For the sake of argument, fine. Then I assume you support females in USMC infantry, since the Corps is maintaining the standards?

      • 32 Peter


        If you take Kirk’s response seriously, you will notice that he’s talking about issues like longevity, injury and readiness to deploy.

        Those are not the same as fitness standards at the beginning of career. That was the issue that Petronio dealt with, that women – even exceptional women who made the standards initially – were wearing out more quickly, breaking more often and imposing a higher cost on the Nation both during and after their service.

        Now if you were able to test for longevity at the recruitment, you might have a point. But with current technology, we cannot. The best “test” that we have in that regard may well be the possession of a Y-chromosome.

        • 33 Kirk

          The deeper issues of putting women into the combat arms aren’t really even being looked into, to be quite honest. The stats aren’t even being gathered, nor is the critical thinking being done to evaluate whether or not this whole concept is even a good idea, especially for the women involved.

          And, a lot of this comes down to an almost willful blindness. Nobody wants to raise the issues, because it might make some of the Social Justice Warriors unhappy. I can tell you that I’ve seen plenty of anecdotal evidence, over the years, that makes me think this is a really bad idea. But, because we’re not actually out there gathering the evidence, and likely won’t, my opinions are “irrelevant” because I don’t have the hard facts and statistics to back up what I’ve inferred from observation.

          I’m going to make an assertion here that a lot of people aren’t going to like, and that is that putting women into a combat arms unit drastically ups the rate of injury and physical harm to all members of it, male and female. The women get injured because they’re doing their damnedest to keep up, and the men get injured because they’re having to compensate for the girls having “issues”. And, that happens a lot more with combat arms because we’re often substituting our bodies for equipment. Ever notice how few pieces of MHE are assigned out in the line combat arms units, compared to the support outfits? When was the last time you had a forklift to unload a truck, out in an Infantry battalion? Hmm?

          Why does this phenomenon take place? Allow me to provide an actual, honest-to-God real world example, that happened to men and women in my unit, and which resulted in the permanent disablement of one of my more promising young Sergeants, who we subsequently lost to a medical discharge.

          What happened was this: We sent out one of our fuelers, a HEMMT, on a LOGPAC mission. During the convoy, the vehicle was forced off the road, and into hitting a rock which resulted in a flat tire. One vehicle operator was male, my Sergeant, and the other was female. In the course of recovering the vehicle and getting it back on the road, they had to dismount the spare tire and mount the flat back in the carrying rack. Now, do note: Exercise conditions were in play, so they had to behave and conduct themselves as though they were subject to attack–No adminning of anything. In the course of this escapade, the two of them were struggling with the spare tire from the truck. The young lady in question was not up to the task, and she lost control of the tire, basically collapsing under it. In an attempt to prevent her from having it fall on her, the Sergeant had to try to take the full load of the tire/wheel combination. Things happen, and in so doing, he completely fucked up his back. And, I do mean “fucked up”, because we were med-boarding his ass with something like five slipped disks and bunch of other spinal issues relating directly to that injury inside of a year.

          Both of these Soldiers were APFT studs. The problem was, she was just not strong enough, or big enough to do the damn job she was placed in. So, bang, zoom–I lose a damn fine young NCO with a lot of potential to something really, really stupid, and which very likely would not have happened had another male Soldier been there instead of that 110-lb woman. Of course, I can’t actually prove that, but the fact of what happened was pretty damn clear to me and everyone else that investigated the situation. Those tires are big and heavy, but two men routinely deal with them without issues in all sorts of situations.

          Amazingly, the Line-of-Duty investigating officer had the balls to tell me and my now-crippled-for-life Sergeant that it was his fault for “…not waiting for someone else to come along and help…”.

          Yeah. That happened.

          So, the injury rates and reasons for those injuries aren’t tracked. They are sure as hell happening, though. Know what else they’re not looking at, that I also know is going on?

          Long-term injuries and health issues. Seen it, watched it happen, been around the after-effects. But, nobody keeps track of the numbers, and I think that they are doing that almost deliberately, because the system quite literally does not want to know these things.

          None of the young women who were handed off to me in 1994-95 had positive long-term outcomes from their time in a Combat Engineer HHC. The ones who tried to keep up with the standard did pretty well, at first, but they gradually wore down over the course of the time I was there. Most of the time, I had probably a third of my females on a PT profile for various over-use injuries and other problems that I’m pretty sure were related to that whole “transition from sedentary life to military service” issue I alluded to earlier. The gear does not get lighter because a girl is picking it up, and that’s a fact of life nobody wants to acknowledge.

          What’s interesting is that there were nowhere near the same sorts or rates of injuries in the adjacent units that also had women in them. The Heavy Engineer battalion that was our sister unit in the Group? You’d go out to their PT formations, and count up the profiles every morning, and there would be nowhere near the same rate of profiles. Why the hell was that?

          Can’t prove a damn thing, because again, nobody is keeping track of the numbers or researching this stuff, but I’m going to have to lay to the fact that their idea of PT was not the same as ours. They did road marches as a unit about once a year, if that often, and we did our ten-milers once a quarter, with various shorter marches in between as part of PT. Our runs were longer, and we also did more things like casualty carries as a part of normal PT–Typical combat-arms stuff, in other words. They did PT more in keeping with what you see most admin units doing. And, we broke more of our female Soldiers, on a regular basis. And, the outcomes as seen by our medics who were doing the final ETS outprocessing screenings were a hell of a lot worse–I got asked by the PA over at our clinic what the hell we were doing that had so many more of our females leaving the Army with significant issues, and about all I could do was shrug my shoulders and go “Army stuff, I guess…”.

          Honestly, before we start integrating women into the Infantry, we owe the women we’re going to put in those units some good answers about what the long-term effects are going to be for their health. And, of course, we’re not doing a damn thing to try to assess that crap, either.

          The thing that has to be remembered is that you’re not assessing whether or not Suzy Smith can hack a couple of years under a ruck. You have to determine whether or not Ms. Smith has a fair chance of making it to her 20 as SFC Smith, without either crippling herself, or having to leave the career field–Because if you’re going into this with the idea and attitude that it’s just going to be a couple of years for the girls, what the hell is the point? She’s not going to make a career out of the Infantry because of her body wearing out on her early? Why the hell are we asking her to screw herself up to do that, and oh-by-the-way, preventing some young male from starting on the career path while we give her the chance to cripple herself? Women in the Infantry comes with an opportunity cost that needs to be acknowledged, somewhere.

          There are some long-term issues here, that don’t come up in the IDF or the Danish Army. When you’re a short-service conscript force that isn’t worried about building career soldiers for leadership positions down the road, you can do things a lot differently. Not to mention, the physical characteristics of the populations you’re recruiting from–I’ve seen one interesting set of numbers that shows the average young Israeli girl as walking something like ten times the amount that a young American girl will, over the course of her pre-military life. Knowing what I know of Israel, that doesn’t seem that far-fetched, either. So, when you’re talking about the Caracal battalion, and trying to compare that to the US, you’re already talking apples and oranges when it comes to basic raw human material. Failing to acknowledge that, and then conducting things as though Israeli or Danish conditions apply to us, as well? Delusional.

          Honestly, if we were doing this responsibly, there would be longitudinal studies conducted to assess the long-term effects on human health and well-being done before we do it.

          We already know that we break a metric shit-ton of physically fit young men by the time they hit their 20, so why are we thinking that we’re somehow going to get similar or better results by starting from an already-challenged baseline with the girls?

          If we’re going to do this, we owe the young women who are going to put in these positions a good, solid answer as to the likelihood of their making it to their retirement in that job. If we have to say something like “Well, statistically… You’re gonna be out on a medical discharge with chronic stress fractures and blown joints by the time you’re 30, and the odds are that you’re going to have constant problems with stress-related menstrual issues that mean it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll be able to conceive a kid while you’re in this job…”, are we really doing our proper and correct duty to that young woman by allowing her to take it? If we know that these issues are likely to arise, and don’t say anything? Are we “doing right”?

          That bit about the fertility isn’t something I made up, either–Seen it happen, with one of the female medics who was doing a train-up with the line-dogs for Sapper Leader. She was already a bit of a fitness fanatic, but the added in training for that deal caused her to drop body fat down low enough that she quit having her menstrual cycle. Which, given the history of cervical/ovarian cancer in her family, quite scared the shit out of all concerned. I’m going to suggest that the usual stresses of Infantry life are likely going to result in some similar issues, for a lot of the women involved.

          There is a lot that needs to be considered with all this, and I don’t see a hell of a lot of movement towards doing that, as we make this happen. If I were in a position to do so, I’d flatly tell the concerned parties “Stop. Show me the long-term costs and benefits here, as they apply to our military. If there isn’t a clear overall beneficial reason to do this, we aren’t doing it. The costs are not worth it, and I don’t care what it looks like…”. We have to get past this whole “Wow… Wouldn’t it be cool if…” thing, and accept that the costs here are probably far higher than even the theoretical benefits are.

          And, again: It goes back to what your job as military leaders really consists of, which is to prepare the nations human material for war, and then bring it back as intact as we possibly can. If putting women into the Infantry isn’t furthering that mandate, we shouldn’t be doing it. Period.

          • Damn it Kirk, your comments are longer than Stephen King’s books.

            It seems to me that there are two separate arguments:

            1) Are any women capable of being infantry? We seem to agree that at least some are capable. And

            2) Will the Army manage to uphold the standards, or will they cave to political correctness?

            I understand you’ve had some really bad experiences with female soldiers who weren’t kept to the same standard. I’ve had them as well. And I agree that the Army lacks moral courage in far too many situations. My essay wasn’t about how great the Army is, it’s about some females being capable of doing the job.

            “It goes back to what your job as military leaders really consists of, which is to prepare the nations human material for war, and then bring it back as intact as we possibly can. If putting women into the Infantry isn’t furthering that mandate, we shouldn’t be doing it. Period.

            I agree. Where we differ here is that I think putting capable, qualified people into the infantry DOES help, even if they’re female.

          • 35 Kirk

            Chris, it’s not a question that can be answered with a single sound-bite.

            I’ve got grave doubts about the wisdom of putting women into combat arms, period. It’s one of those things where you look at it, and think “Well, if only we could do this, that, and the other thing… It could work…”.

            The sad fact is that we don’t live in that “ideal world”, the one where those things are even possible, let alone likely. Political considerations and pressure groups are going to trump everything, and no matter what the Army or Marine Corps may do, the forces of fecklessness are going to win this one. The reality factor is also there–We have to work with what human material we actually have, not what other armies are able to recruit. And, the facts are not in favor of this working under our current conditions.

            Seriously–I’d like the idea to work. I really would, because as an intellectual idea, it’s important to me that our Army and our combat forces represent the full range of our Republic. However, as a professional soldier, I have to take reality as it is into account, and I cannot reconcile the two. The entire idea of putting women into the Infantry or other direct-combat arms fails on so many levels that it’s not even funny to me, anymore.

            The other issue is this: Cost effectiveness. Why are we going to go to the expense of doing this, when we already have a surplus of healthy young males out there who are willing to enlist? Is there some shortage of qualified applicants for the Infantry that I haven’t heard of? Why the hell are we going to spend the kind of money this is going to cost, in terms of both real expenses and opportunity costs, when the only thing we’re going to gain is a new demographic that has horrendously high attrition rates in training and in service? Why on God’s green earth would we invite people we know are not likely to make the grade to break themselves attempting to? Because, you know damn good and well that the end state of this is likely to include massive incentives for women to try for Infantry, because the Social Justice types are going to demand parity. So, we’re likely to be offering female applicants to the Infantry massive bonuses in order to get enough women to sign up for the job. Does that sound ethical, or like it is a responsible use of our money and manpower?

            We can’t deal with hypothetical or idealized situations. We have to accept reality as it is, and conduct ourselves accordingly. To say “If only the Army could/would do these things, it might work…” is not enough. We have to look at the history of what has gone before, and extrapolate from there. The history doesn’t look too good for the institution being capable of setting or holding a standard in this area. It also doesn’t look positive in terms of whether or not the military will be able to attract the required number of women capable of meeting the standard, either. For those reasons, I would have to strongly advise against this course of action, and encourage others to think very carefully about not just the question of whether it might work for the first few carefully managed and selected candidates, but how this is going to function once the attention is off of the whole thing. Long-term prognosis? It won’t.

            And, if we’re honest with ourselves, we already know that. How many other “hard and fast” standards have been dropped, for convenience’s sake? Shall I begin the litany for you? SQT tests? Awards? Promotions? Does the history of any of those areas encourage you to think they’ll do better, just because it is an issue of putting qualified women into the Infantry?

      • 36 Kirk

        The Corps will not maintain the standards any more than the Army will. They’ll resist a few more years, but they will inevitably fall to the same syndrome that makes the Army such a bunch of slack-jawed cowards every time something like this comes up. Go back to the Doolittle Board era, and see what happened. The Marines resisted the changes that created Task Force Smith in the Army, but fell prey to them inside of another few decades when it came to the Ribbon Creek episode.

        I think you could make women in the infantry work, but it won’t be in the US Army or US Marines as we know them. You want to make it function? You’re going to have to make deep, institutional change in the entire institutions, from top to bottom.

        Case in point: I think we can establish one feature that is inherent to women, which is that they have babies. Can you show me anywhere that the Army or Marines have allowed for that fact, when it comes to unit MTOEs? Or, personnel policies? Is there even a rational acknowledgment that these things happen, babies, when you have girls around?

        Nope. You can’t.

        Nowhere in any MTOE is there any allowance for the fact that an inevitable result of putting women into a slot on that MTOE is that there will be year-long periods where that woman is not available for her job or deployment. If we had said “Okay, the stats show that the average number of women we need in a position requires that we actually recruit, train, and have on hand X number of women to keep Y number of positions filled at all times for duty and deployment…”, and then we actually did something about it, like pay for having those extra women in the force around to fill in for their pregnant sisters, I’d say “Oh, they are sane…”.

        Ain’t nowhere you can show me where any branch of the services actually does that shit. NOWHERE. The assumptions are all made that every troop recruited will be filling a damn slot, and we only need enough of MOS “X” to account for filling the jobs out in the units, and the people who need to be TDA for doing things like schools and PCS moves. There is no allowance made for the people who are going to be getting pregnant and who are thus going to be essentially useless to their units while they are assigned there and pregnant. So, Sergeant Sally Preggers is filling a slot that can’t be filled with someone else, because “someone else” doesn’t fucking exist, and the unit has to keep her on the books as what amounts to a “ghost soldier”.

        So, yeah… We’re operating in denial of basic biology. Ya think they’re going to magically gain sense when the assignments are in the Infantry?

        Personnel policy could accommodate and solve a lot of these problems. Trouble is, nobody wants to acknowledge the facts or be honest about it. Nobody wants to go tell Congress that we need to up the troop strength because the mandate for women to be in the services has this nasty little knock-on effect of leaving us shorthanded. If they were even halfway honest about it, that’s what we’d do. But, then the manpower numbers and the bargains made in service of putting women into the military in the first place would start to look not so good, wouldn’t they?

        The other thing that shows we’re completely in denial of basic biology is that we’ve essentially given every woman who enlists a “get out of your contract free” card, and have nothing in our personnel policies to prevent abuse of this card. I’ve had the signal joy of having to deal with having a young woman who enlisted for a highly remunerative skill on the outside, and who arrived at the unit pregnant. And, who stayed that way through the rest of her enlisted career, never once working inside her job field. It’s not that hard to do, either. Nobody holds these people to account, and if you even whisper the suggestion that doing so might be a good idea, you’re going to have every senior officer and enlisted person in your chain of command coming after you for an EO complaint.

        So, yeah… In the absence of any evidence that any of our armed services are able to clearly evaluate things and deal with them rationally, I’m going to have to say that the placement of women into the Infantry is going go just about as well as anything else relating to the issue. In other words, it’s going to be a fucking disaster.

        You could make it work. I can think of a half-dozen simple fixes that would solve the majority of the issues. Odds of anyone even wanting to discuss those fixes, let alone implement them? Flat-line zero.

        I wish I could say something different, but the current state of the military culture in this country is not capable of implementing any such change to policy. The Marines are going to resist the pressure just long enough to get another pliant Commandant, and then the whole “Congressional Testimony” syndrome is going to take place–Some Congress-creature is going to put the Commandant on the spot, demanding answers for why there aren’t any women in the Infantry units, and then that Commandant is going to start making calls. It’s that damn simple. Of course, by that time, the Army will have likely set up single-mother day care centers in every Infantry battalion in the Army, but, still… It will happen.

        Doubt me?

        Please, point to somewhere that one of our senior leadership has fallen on his sword over an issue. You can’t. Even when they themselves are convinced that something is a bad, bad idea, they flatly refuse to commit even a career-threatening act to stand against it. Go back to General Harold Johnson, who was “considering” a resignation over the Johnson Administration’s handling of the Vietnam war. He conveniently “regretted” his decision not to do so “for the rest of his life…”.

        But, you will be noting: He did not.

        Our leadership is full of moral cowards and the “go-along-to-get-along” crowd. They don’t have the balls to enforce the standards, and you damn well know it. It’s a cultural problem, in our military.

        Disbelieve me? Disagree? Watch what happens when they finally release the results of the Bowe Bergdahl investigation, which despite its completion, is being held until “after the elections”. Mark my words: Bergdahl is not going to punished for his act of desertion in the face of the enemy, and not one single officer in our Army or Defense Department is going to resign in protest of the external civilian pressure that will make that happen. Bergdahl’s misconduct is Army business, and should be handled by the Army with draconian force. But, due to the moral cowardice of the men who’ve been made leaders in our Army, he won’t be. And, they won’t do a damn thing about it.

        Women in the Infantry. Could work. Won’t, in our Army or Marine Corps. And, you can take that to the bank. Assuming any of us are still around to make a clear-eyed evaluation of how this turns out in another generation or two.

  13. 37 Peter

    In support of Kirk…
    My reading indicates that the USMC will be required to “justify” its physical standards if insufficient women pass them. Let’s not pretend that such a requirement is made while acknowledging all past and current experience and research on the matter. This is driven by politics.

    If we dismiss centuries of best-practice and hard results, the only way to generate more hard data is to put women into combat units, send them against the enemy and count the body-bags. Not just the women, but the men who became casualties taking up the slack.

    You have to do this multiple times to have any scientific rigour at all.
    Are you prepared to do this?
    If not, why do you anticipate that the military leadership will when that would require admitting that they let people die to prove a point?

    I think that Kirk is correct and the the USMC leadership will either submit, or be replaced with people who will.

  14. 38 Peter

    What I also believe I’m seeing here is the very old and bad habit of assuming that that the next war will be like the current one.

    We – and I speak as a US ally – are currently fighting relatively primitive opponents and have the luxury of a huge technological and industrial advantage.

    The assumption that because a nation like France, Denmark or Canada can get away with it means that there is no downside, ignores the fact that these allies are currently able to pick and choose their deployments It should not be hard to understand that it would be far harder for them to achieve “success” if they were fighting an enemy on more equal terms or without the support of the US.

    The bottom line – as history shows – is that we cannot assume that all future conflict will be of this type and on this level. If we find ourselves fighting an enemy that is very nearly our equal in balance of power, then the ability of our front-line forces to operate with a capacity and resilience equal to or better than theirs will not be a slight matter.

    I note that the only countries with major war experience of deploying integrated frontline units against an equal (or superior) enemy – Russia and Israel – have quietly dropped the practice.
    (Please, before someone attempts to cite the Caracal Battalion, this unit is not – in practice – used as a frontline unit. It’s standard posting is Israel’s quietest border and its most significant “action” was policing Israeli citizens during the withdrawal from Gaza.

  15. If we find ourselves fighting an enemy that is very nearly our equal in balance of power,

    Doesn’t matter, as this will almost certainly be catastrophic, anyway.

    In World War II, the top of the line, bestest fighter plane we had cost, in today’s dollars, about $500,000 to build.

    What do our jets cost today? The F-22 raptor is estimated at $140 MILLION. You shoot down 50 of them, and you’ve just spent 7 trillion dollars. That’s our GDP, I think. How many fighters got shot down in WWII?

    More than 50, I think…

    A war with an enemy that is our equal would bankrupt us both in the first couple of months.

    We’ve known that for a lot of years now, which is why any time we’ve gotten belligerent with someone that is anywhere near our equal in the last 60 years, it’s been through a third-world proxy of some sort. We supported the Mujedeheen against Russia. Russia supported North Vietnam against us.

    We fought China via a limited engagement in Korea.

    And so on and so forth.

    If there’s one thing I can say that’s a good thing, its that since world war II, our planet’s superpowers have been very reticent to bite a chunk out of each other directly, and I think it’s for this very reason.

    It’s also for this reason that I think our military has been doing it wrong for quite a while, since we keep building a military that looks far more like it’s meant to stop the Reds from charging through Fulda than it does one that is meant to chase non-uniformed insurgents through spider holes.

    Again, this is all the opinion of a guy that never served, for what it’s worth. Maybe I’m wrong.

    • 40 Peter

      The issue with fighting a power that is very nearly your military equal is not that it may bankrupt you in “the first couple of months”, but whether you go “bankrupt” before your enemy does…… and whether you are seen as a good enough risk for others to lend you gold and materiel – as the US did for Britain.

      There is nothing more “bankrupting” than losing a major war. Not only do you have to pay your own bills, but you have to deal with dictated conditions under which you are most likely going to have to pay your enemy “reparations” as well.

    • 41 Peter

      The insight held by a historian who has paid attention to human nature may well be more appropriate than that of a so,dire who “served” but whose insight is limited to his quad, his buddies and his deployment to a very limited part of the war.

      You are possibly right that we are still building armies designed to repel the Reds. (That is necessary, because little guarantees the coming of the Barbarians more than their belief that you are unprepared.) the point being that we get the argument that women can serve in combat mostly based on the vision of mechanised warfare that permits troops to be ferried into battle and have their equipment and consumables delivered by mechanised means. Chris talks about a woman not habit an issue with carrying her basic combat load of 80pounds. But not about insertion on foot over rough terrain carrying 180pounds (and more).

      You talk about “spider holes”, but we are currently fighting people who have looked at “our” mechanised style of warfare and determined that they can avoid defeat by utilising the terrain to defeat machines. If our standard infantry cannot operate in the same conditions as the enemy, then we see offensive operations becoming increasingly the burden place upon our SF. ….. Because they can do this.

      You CAN make a doctrine in which your basic infantry are less capable and less flexible, but that means less effectiveness and lost opportunities.

      The example that I cite of 180lb loads was a case in point. A high-value opportunity was identified by an infantry unit, but a mechanised insertion was ruled out by conditions and the fact that the enemy intelligence was alert to mechanised movement. Keeping the risk profile of the mission within limits required man-carrying enough supplies and ammunition to fight until relief arrived if they encountered a superior force. The mission was an outstanding success.
      Waiting until SF was available would have missed the opportunity.
      Troops requiring mechanised insertion could not have done this. Troops that could not cover ther terrain carrying in excess of their own body weight and arrive in condition to fight, could not have done this.

      Failure to take advantage of opportunities through diminished capacity means that conflict will be prolonged , more battles lost and potentially the war. That means more of our people dead.

      I do t know about you, but I consider that an unacceptable result.

      • 42 Kirk

        Tactics can illuminate strategy.

        Consider the result we got from going into Iraq without proper preparation, namely in terms of procuring modern route clearance equipment and up-armoring our rear-area support vehicles. Despite people in the US Army (and, I was one of them…) militating over this pair of issues for years, going back to Somalia and Desert Storm, we did nothing. No preparations for the kind of war we saw coming were made–They didn’t even want to test the South African route clearance gear, but were forced into it by Congress.

        We essentially offered up a flank to the enemy. They could not take us on in open battle, and were unable to effectively engage our combat elements. So, they observed, and saw that we were “offering a flank”, in terms of our rear area operations and lack of real route clearance capability.

        Thus, they engaged us where we were weak and vulnerable. Had we not offered that flank, and gone into the Iraq war with the right set of vehicles and gear, what then? Would the insurgency have even taken off the way it did? What other vulnerability would they have been forced to address? Would the lack of initial success have discouraged them, and kept them from recruiting as many to their cause as they did?

        You offer the enemy up a vulnerability, and make no mistake, creating Infantry forces that have to move at the pace of the slowest woman on the team will be one, and they’ll take advantage of it. Instead of saying “Well, they’re just as good as some of the weaker male Infantrymen…”, we ought, instead, to be tightening up the standards on those weaker males, eliminating them from the Infantry and other ground-pounding units, and enabling superior performance by those units.

        War is not a game where you set out from the start to handicap yourself. If you turn it into something like that, the question you ought to ask first is, why?

  16. 43 defensor fortissimo

    This was published a few years ago, I don’t necessarily agree with it, but he brings up some good points

  17. 44 boatguy

    Great write up, Chris. I hate to sound like a sycophant, but I have been in agreement with just about everything I have read on your site.

    This is obviously a hot button topic, which anyone could see before reading any of the comments on here. I am a recently retired Navy SWCC, and spent my last 2 years on instructor duty at a SEAL command. When it was announced that women would be integrating into BUD/S and SWCC training, there was a decent outcry from the guys I worked with. The prevailing sentiment was some version of, ‘First woman who walks across the quarterdeck wearing a Trident, I’m turning mine in’. And while I understand the objection to an extent, that comment – in my mind – is rather short sighted.

    I agree completely with your assessment of females in the combat arms. If they are held to the same standard, then more power to them. I’m a little split between your views (recruit all qualified personnel regardless of gender) and Aesop’s comments above (how does this increase unit readiness and effectiveness?). I see both points, and agree with both. To quote from an independent study funded by NSW on this subject, the focus should be on opening opportunities to women, and not on creating female SEALs. These are obviously two very different statements.

    The problem with this whole argument: we know from past experience that this will be heavily politicized, standards will be lowered, and women will be forced through – in order to ‘prove’ that it works. There already exists a double standard for women in the military when they are allowed to have a lower PRT standard. Does every member of the military need to be in the type of physical shape necessary to the infantry or NSW? No, but if we follow the concept that we are all warfighters, then there should be a decent standard. If women are held to the same standards, then it will be a onesie twosie accession to the combat arms, like you mentioned. There will not be a sudden flood of women into front line units (let alone SOF units). At the platoon level, for quite some time after implementation you would see maybe one woman in a platoon and she would quite possibly be the only one in her battalion. This brings up the issue of culture.

    Those of us in combat arms (and especially SOF) have a different, sometimes twisted sense of humor. Yes, you could call some (or most) of it sexist and racist, but it is not done maliciously and it is usually behind closed doors – within the brotherhood. I have to filter myself heavily when I am around regular Navy folk, and especially around most civilians (except EMS and some cops – they seem to get it). Even the woman who thinks she is rude and crass will probably end up offended by something said in the team room or field environment. So now you are telling me that an entire community of 2-3000 men (speaking of SEALs here) has to change their culture for a handful of women, lest they find themselves being reprimanded and possibly charged for remarks that were made in jest? Tiptoeing around certain members of your unit does not promote unit cohesion, it in fact degrades it.

    While Mary sounds like she would be an awesome chick to party with, you and I both know she is an anomaly. If and when this goes into effect, I would hope we get a bunch of Mary’s as opposed to the typical chick like I mentioned above. Personally, I would have no problem working with a woman like that. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening. I foresee a bunch of people who have never served – let alone been in combat – making up the rules and then increasing the pressure on the top brass to ‘make it work’.

    • 45 Kirk

      You’re exactly where I am, then. Putting women into the Infantry and other jobs with high direct-combat probability codes could work, if the system were capable of setting a high standard, and then maintaining it.

      The problem is, as we both see it, is that it has not done so in the past, and will be highly unlikely to do so in the future. As such, granting these Social Justice types even a toehold in this regard is a huge mistake.

      The track record is clear: The institutions here in the US are completely incapable of thinking clearly and rationally about women in the services, and thus are also unable to set common-sense policies about the intrinsic differences between the sexes. Just the issue of pregnancy alone, and how it is handled shows that. Why is it that we allow women in the military the “out” of pregnancy and maternity leaves, while ignoring the very real costs those factors present to unit commanders? Would it not make sense to have policies that would enable the institution to fairly deal with these requirements of nature that are inherent to the female sex?

      Why, for example, does time spent on restricted duty for deployment and daily operations still count towards contract time? Pregnancy is not precisely the same thing as someone who is injured on the job, and then unable to deploy; why should the individuals who become pregnant whether by poor foresight, accident, or intent be allowed to count that time that they are militarily useless towards their retirements and/or contract completion?

      The system still hasn’t adapted to the idea of women being on active duty like men, and still treats them indulgently, as though they were small children without any responsibility. If males were able to do the things women can do with a pregnancy, we’d have rules in place putting a stop to it. There is no equitable treatment before the law with regards to this–If I were to willfully render myself unfit for a deployment, I’d be charged under the UCMJ. Women? Room is made for them on the rear detachment, and they go on with their careers without a blemish. There aren’t even limits on how often they can pull this shit, over the course of their careers.

      We had a real POS of a senior NCO in my unit before OIF I. He’d used the “Sole Surviving Son” regulations to get himself out of a deployment to Korea. When he found that that pretty much stopped his chances of promotion, he got himself removed from that status, only to reach out and grab for it again when we were alerted to go to Iraq in 2003. His career ended right there, as it damn well should have, when the CSM about lost his mind over that BS, and the Colonel backed him up. What was funny as hell about that crap? We had something like four or five females come up pregnant, some in key positions, and not a damn thing was done to them over the same sort of malfeasance. One of them was in a low-density MOS, and was heard discussing the fact that she’d gone off her birth control with the intent of getting pregnant to avoid the deployment. Nothing done, at all–She came down on the SFC promotion list a year or two later, still undeployed. And, with her third kid… Think about that for a second–She does her 20, and retires the same as you or I, and yet was allowed to strategically select three separate occasions where she was unfit for duty or deployment for around a year, with all the pregnancy/maternity BS factored in. So, in effect, she’s getting the same damn deal you worked 20 years for, only at a cost of 17 years of service where she was fit for deployment. Mmmmhmmm… Tell me how that’s either sensible, or fair?

      Issues surrounding pregnancy are only one area where they’ve completely dropped the ball when it comes to women in the service. And, I guarantee you that the moment someone moved to address it, they’ll be ending their careers–Because not one person in Congress, or the bureaucracy has the balls to admit that there’s a problem. And, of course, we can’t be seen to be interfering in the little darling’s reproductive rights, now can we?

      If we treated women like adults, and not feckless, irresponsible children, you could probably make a lot of things work. We won’t, we can’t, and we’ll never change this side of a truly existential crisis or major defeat. You can bank on that, too…

      Yeah. Get back to me about this “girls in the Infantry” about the time they fix everything else with regards to integrating women into the military. Because, until they do, I’m going to continue to hold that they will not, and can not make this work–Not for the men, and not for the women they’re going to try this idiocy out on.

  18. 46 bushcraftercz

    You understand that most of the women in infantry are NOT like Mary… They DO complain when not having separate toilets, DO refuse to carry weight and go for sick leave if you try to force them? Sorry to say that, but Mary is bright exception…

    • Women in the infantry, or military women in general?

      • 48 Kirk

        The answer could realistically be either.

        I’ve got a question for you, Chris: Have you ever served in a unit with significant numbers of women who were not carefully selected or who volunteered for service in specific deployments? In other words, where you’ve had to deal with the good and the bad, not just the exemplary few?

        I hear a lot of myself, pre-practical experience with this issue, in your words, ideas, and attitudes. Intellectually, the idea of women in the military has a certain appeal, and you really want the idea to work, as I did. After exposure to reality, in terms of how the institution copes with the varying issues involving women, I have changed my mind. I suspect that if you spent a couple of years dealing with these things where the rubber meets the road out in the line units of the Regular Army, you might change your mind. I know I sure as hell did.

        The institution hasn’t quite finished adapting to having to deal with multi-racial servicemembers, and that’s been what? Damn near sixty years? It hasn’t even begun to come to terms with the idea of women in the ranks out in the support branches, where the issues don’t really affect whether or not we can win on the battlefield. I would say that this entire concept is pushing too far, too fast, and that the institution won’t be ready for this crap for another couple of generations, if it ever really is.

        If I saw some sign of a grasp on reality in terms of just administrative regulatory practice, I’d probably take a different position on this. The fact that things like motherhood (which, last I looked, was a basic feature of a human woman) aren’t taken into account and dealt with rationally? Yeah, that’s a sign that the entire system isn’t ready for it. Get back to me when someone finally says “Hey… This pregnancy thing? We need to cope with it, and adapt to the fact that it happens, instead of denying it…”.

        It doesn’t even need to be that draconian, either–Just tell the young ladies that time served while pregnant and under a limiting profile doesn’t count towards either time in service or promotion. Same-same for some idiot male who goes out and breaks his body doing something stupid off-duty–They’ll get paid, but as long as they’re unfit for duty in their assigned position, the time doesn’t count. And, if some little knucklehead gets herself into a single-parent trap on her first enlistment, and can’t finish her term? She needs to pay back Uncle Sam for every dime spent on her training, period. Just like the male dipshits who desert or “fail to adapt” should.

        If you’ve never been in a unit with a fair number of “average women”, you have no idea how disruptive accommodating all these “petty issues” becomes. It’s really fun when you’re trying to conduct support operations that rely on low-density MOS skills, and find out that half your key low-density types are female, and half of those aren’t worth the time or powder to blow them up with.

        • 49 boatguy

          Have to agree with Kirk on this one. Worked with females on a co-ed ship early in my enlistment, and it was exactly how he states it. Some were hard chargers and would put some of the guys to shame, but most were physically unqualified for the jobs they were doing or just way too lazy to be an asset anywhere.

          I was a Gunner’s Mate working in weapons department, we would constantly get these skinny little undesignated seaman chicks (no job/MOS, they do all the deck work – hauling klines, picking rust, painting over it, etc). They never saw us on deck doing anything (because most of our day-to-day was inside the skin of the ship), so they assumed it was a cake job. They would come down and express interest in striking GM, and we would let them start OJT. Once they were doing OJT with us, we would schedule an ammo move or magazine inventory (i.e., take every single can of ammo out of the magazine, count it by lot numbers, and then put it all back). As soon as they had to do something physical, we would never see them again.

          During my time in Naval Special Warfare, we had a little bit better time with females at the Teams. They were support (obviously), and were usually pretty motivated to do their job. While there isn’t a support screening/selection process per se, the detailers did a superficial record scrub to try and prevent sending us worthless personnel (of either sex).

          While I would have no issue working alongside a Mary, experience tells me that if/when females show up at the Teams as operators, the Mary’s will be few and far between. The vast majority will refuse to disrobe in field conditions (like Mary described), so there will be issues from day one – beside the fact that not a single senior NCO/officer who plans on staying in will tell said woman to do so.

          Put two SOC-R’s (riverine special operations craft – YouTube ‘SWCC Jeff’s Boat’) in a three day hide surveilling river traffic in some third world shithole, and you are confined to the 33 x 9 foot area of your boat – usually sacking out right below your assigned gun mount. Once you are in, you don’t get off to go find some privacy for a piss or a dump, everything is done right there next to your brothers.

  19. I want that Elcan sight

    • Several people commented, “That’s a machine gun sight, it’s not for an M4” when the post was first published. I guess they didn’t know there’s an M4 version. And of course didn’t bother to check.

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