Last week 60 Minutes ran a feature called Women in Combat: Cracking the Last All-Male Bastion of the US Military. The segment, led by David Martin, focused on Marine Infantry Officer training. He finds that, although the Marines are required to integrate women as a result of the removal of the combat exclusion, no women have made it through the rigorous physical training requirements. This re-raises key questions around women in combat:
*Do women have what it takes to serve in combat? and
*Should the military adjust its standards to accommodate women?
Physical standards are- by far- the greatest sticking point when it comes to debates on women in combat. Opponents of gender integration have long argued that the average physical differences between men and women are proof that women are inferior. They also argue that any adjustments in the current physical standards would be tantamount to ‘softening’ ‘diluting’ or weakening the standards and thereby reducing military effectiveness. Focusing on whether women can meet the current physical standards maintains a stalemate in terms of their full integration into the US military and limit the military’s ability to develop standards that reflect modern warfare. There are three reasons for this:
1. Physical standards are out of date and disconnected from the job.
2. Physical standards are not as objective as we think.
3. There are no exclusive combat roles, and therefore no need for exclusive combat physical standards. Let me explain: Continue reading
Contenders for the Marine Corps Association’s Major General Harold W. Chase Prize, ($3000, publication, and a plaque) are supposed to “propose and argue for a new and better way of “doing business” in the Marine Corps. Authors must have strength in their convictions and be prepared for criticism from those who would defend the status quo.”
Therefore it came as a surprise to many military professionals when the 2013 winner was Marine Captain Lauren F. Serrano, whose winning essay was an opinion piece that called for maintaining the status quo and excluding women from the infantry.
But in the month since her article was published, it’s worth noting that five decorated military officers (Marines, Army, male and female, infantry and other specialties) have weighed in to dispute her claims, while not a single officer has written to corroborate or support Captain Seranno’s opinions, which appear to have been formed absent research, evidence, or personal experience. Continue reading
Despite numerous calls to ‘Let Women Fight’, internal reviews of the policy, and growing evidence of women’s contributions to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the January 2013 announcement that the combat exclusion would be removed was not entirely expected. For years leading up to the announcement, Congress and the Department of Defense had justified the exclusion as essential to national security. Moreover, less than 12 months before the decision to remove the exclusion, then–Pentagon press secretary George Little announced that although 14,000 new combat related jobs would be opened to women, infantry and direct combat roles would remain off limits.
- So what did the ‘policy change’ mean and why was it initiated?
Rather than speculate on the rationale and motivations behind the policy about-face, it is more important to understand that by the time it was announced that the combat exclusion would be removed, it no longer existed.
In fact, the announcement to ‘let women fight’ should be seen as a PR stunt rather than a policy change. Here’s why… Continue reading
As the military grapples with how to implement the reversal of the decades old ban on women in “combat” specialties, one of the data points that many people are using (especially in and around the Marine Corps) is the performance of the only two female Lieutenants to have attempted to complete the Infantry Officer’s Course at Quantico.
The first dropped out on one of the first days of training during the grueling Combat Endurance Test; so did 26 of her male classmates. The other female Lieutenant made it about one-third of the way through the course before being sidelined by a debilitating stress fracture in her leg. Neither is any indication that women are any less suitable than men for service in the infantry.
What is the basis for that bold statement, you ask?