On Women In Combat

This week I hosted a panel of female veterans to discuss Leon Panetta’s recently leaked ruling allowing women in combat roles. At least, that’s what the headline is; the meat of the order doesn’t seem to accomplish much of anything, notes the Wall Street Journal

The announcement will mark the largest expansion yet of women in combat roles. But defense officials said they don’t expect the change to result in women being allowed to serve as infantry troops.

So it’s an announcement that doesn’t actually change whether or not women will be allowed  to serve as infantry. What’s more, the military has until 2016 to request an exemption for certain departments that would like to keep their roles closed for male inclusion only. Personally, I’d feel more comfortable with this decision if I felt it were being made with the goal of strengthening the military, rather than by satisfying a politically correct agenda. Ultimately, I trust our military leaders, folks who are there serving daily, to make these decisions as they have a better understanding of what will or will not benefit our fighting forces.

I spoke with Virginia Kruta, who served in the Army for 10 years, and Stacy Washington, who served in the Air Force.

Kruta made an important remark: “The military remains strong because it is discriminatory.” This I know. My husband tried repeatedly to enlist when he was younger, visiting every branch of our armed forces. He suffered a horrific football injury as a high school senior, basically bending his knee the opposite of how it actually operates, and required extensive surgery. He was politely declined from every branch. After trying to enlist with the Air Force, he was also informed that his sight was not good enough to pilot a jet. Oddly, he still received numerous sports scholarships. No one wanted to chance possibly risking lives or a mission objective because he wasn’t able to keep up with his fellow male soldiers. They already make choices that may seem unfair out of the context of military service, but it’s with the singular goal of developing a strong, cohesive unit. They want the fittest of the fit, the best of the best.

Says Kruta: “Every move to make the military more politically correct has weakened the strategic strength of the military.” She writes:

I could go on citing statistics and studies that discuss gender differences - both physical and psychological - in high stress situations, but I don’t think they really address the heart of the issue. The fact is that there are women who CAN handle the stress and rigors of combat. And just as true is the opposite: there are men who CANNOT. But the real issue is this: do we want a military that is first and foremost a formidable fighting force or one that is first and foremost dedicated to enforced equality? We can’t have both.

The military is strong in part because it is the most discriminatory workplace in the nation. You can be kept out, fired, or barred from promotion simply for being too tall, too short, too thin, too fat, too sick, too injured,too stupid, and the list goes on. Every move it has made in the direction of political correctness has been a move away from strength.

From the very first day that women were allowed to serve in the military, they have been held to a lower standard than the men who held the same positions. Even as far back as WWII, by regulation the bench seats in standard transport trucks were designated to hold eight men. The same regulation stated that only seven women would fit on the same bench seat, in an effort to ensure that female Marines were given enough space to remain comfortable during transport. Today’s Army physical training tests require much higher standards of men than of women - men are required to run faster and do more push ups than women who have the same MOS (military operational specialty).

Every time a job is opened to women in the military, instead of demanding that the women meet the same standards set by the men, they create a new (nearly always lower) standard for the women. As more and more women qualify for jobs based on these lowered standards, the efficiency and overall performance of the unit as a whole is decreased. To add close combat jobs to that list is asking for an Army that cannot help but be weakened as the standards for such jobs are lowered in the name of “equality.”

Panetta has said that women must be held to the standards of men. There are certainly exceptions with strong women who could hold their own in combat, just as there are likely men who cannot. However, as the panel Thursday noted, policies should not be based on the exception over the rule. As Washington observed, the decision should fall to those leading the military while wearing the uniform as they serve daily with our men and women, not civilian advocates.

Listen to the panel discussion below.

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