I suppose it’s an indication of how jaded I’ve become at each new Obama initiative that I barely turned my head to the television when the news blared that outgoing Secretary of Defense Panetta announced that combat positions would now be open to women.
I get it. Women are “already on the front lines.” The face of warfare has changed, and after over a decade of war, we’ve been fighting without a distinctive front. Women have been in the line of fire from snipers and IED’s from the beginning. All this change in policy is amounts to a de facto acknowledgement of what has been going on in Iraq and Afghanistan for years.
I should preface this by saying that during my many years in the military, I served with women in all matter of positions, both as subordinates and supervisors, and there was no job in the units I served in that a woman couldn’t do. But those units were not combat arms units.
It’s one thing to be in a war zone, and it’s another to open up combat arms positions to women. Those jobs are extremely physically demanding. How physically demanding? Demanding enough that two female officers who attempted to go through the Marine Corps Infantry Course both dropped out. It’s no shame to drop out of a course like that. It’s demanding enough that the course loses 25% of its male candidates, but it doesn’t bode well as a proof of concept that women are capable of making through that course and others like it. If this was a project that would work on the merits we would have seen women in the NFL years ago.
The physical realities of maintaining a high performance in a combat zone, were well detailed in a much spoken about article in the Marine Corps Gazette last July by Marine Corps Captain Katie Petronio. The article, titled “Get Over It! We Are Not Created Equal,” got the ball rolling in the military. The article, which I highly recommend, is Captain Petronio’s personal experience while deployed in Afghanistan, and the physically debilitating toll that the experience took on her body. Her argument is that the cost to the services of dealing with the long term physical deterioration of females put in those grueling situations isn’t cost effective or the best use of resources.
And she’s just talking about women who can make the physical standards. I’m more worried about the women who will have the standards adjusted to allow them to make it. Yes I know, Panetta and JCS Chairman Dempsey said that wouldn’t happen, but I just don’t believe it. Contrary to common opinion, The Department of Defense isn’t a conservative organization. Following O’Sullivan’s Law (any organization that is not explicitly conservative will become liberal over time), the military is about as liberal in direction as the private company I work for, with its constant profiles on diversity and emails celebrated it’s perfect score by the Human Rights Campaign on LGBT issues. The Pentagon would like to get a perfect score on LGBT issues too, but first you have to walk, not run, so they are going for gender equity.
Currently the services are reevaluating their Physical Fitness Standards as well as the physical fitness standards for each Military Occupational Specialty to justify what standards should be required for each military job. I’m pretty sure the standards will be tweaked until the Pentagon can get what they consider the right number of women into combat arms jobs.
Think that I’m wrong and the Pentagon would never purposefully degrade the nation’s military capabilities for some fuzzy affirmative action goal?
In November 2009, I wrote about the aftermath of the terrorist attack at Ft. Hood committed by MAJ Hasan. At the time, Army Chief of Staff General George Casy said on Meet The Press, “Our diversity, not only in our Army, but in our country, is a strength. And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.”
So yes, an Army General is saying that it’s better that 13 soldiers were killed then trying to scrutinize terrorists in the ranks. Such an organization will make sure that their shiny new women-in-combat policy succeeds. And they won’t worry about combat readiness or people’s lives to make sure it does. Any Colonel who dares say publicly otherwise will never see General.
Sometimes the military’s can do spirit can make incredible things happen. Sometimes it can make stupid things happen. I’m pretty sure I know in the years ahead which one this is.