Combative Women.

“Il y a etait un fois” (“Once upon a time), ambitious women military officers wanted to rise in rank, perhaps all the way to Chair-person of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. However, to get to that level, one had to have had combat experience. The military was not granting the highest ranks to people—male or female–who had only commanded office buildings. So a campaign began to allow women to serve in combat.[1]

Now we have the question directly before us. Should women be allowed to branch combat arms in the U.S. military? Liberals—most, but not all, of whom avoid military service like the plague—say “Yes!” Conservatives—most, but not all, of whom avoid military service like the plague—say “No!” So, it is difficult to see this question in an objective fashion. Isn’t there some kind of objective measure to help us decide?

Well, yes, there is such a measure.[2] Kinda-Sorta. The Marine Corps ran a nine-month study comparing the performance of all-male units with the performance of gender-integrated units. In the study All-male units out-performed gender-integrated units on 93 of 134 specific categories. Gender dimorphism played a big role in this evaluation—as it does in infantry combat. Men are bigger and more heavily muscled than are women.[3] Where women fell short was in the multiple physical tasks of combat infantry. The combat load—weapons, rations, water, and other equipment—is standardized, rather than scaled for body mass. It has to be if soldiers are to fight effectively in the field. Smaller bodies shoulder a proportionately heavier load than do bigger bodies. Smaller bodies have a harder time keeping up on the march or in running an obstacle course. It isn’t that women are less mentally tough than are men.[4] The study found that about 40 percent of female Marines suffered injuries striving to keep up with their unit. That is, they pushed themselves beyond safe limits. In the process, they exerted a drag on their own comrades. Other jar-heads slowed down to help their lagging sisters-in-arms. So, if you rely on the Marine Corps study, women can’t branch combat arms without undermining the essential combat performance of the units in which they serve.

Liberal abuse rained down on the Marines after the study was published. What about the two women who graduated from the Army’s elite Ranger School? Well, what about the many more men whom graduated from the school? Conservatives answered that “the facts are the facts.” So, if all but the exceptional woman[5] cannot become an infantry-person,[6] does that mean that they cannot branch combat arms?

But wait! Marines are the quintessential light infantry.   They are troops with flat noses and flat guts. However, among ground forces, infantry are only one of the combat arms. The others are artillery, armor, and combat aviation. Then there is the Air Force and the Navy. Basically, all of these people ride around in death-dealing vehicles. How many gunners, tankers, Apache pilots, carrier fighter-jocks, let alone guys controlling drones from an air-conditioned trailer in Nevada or practicing Armageddon at a missile silo in Nebraska could match the USMC standards for physical performance? Is it possible to use an extreme case to make a judgement about the whole? The question of women in combat arms remains open.

[1] Doubtless, this movement opened a gap between female career officers and short-term females soldiers.

[2] “Women in combat: flunking a Marine test,” The Week, 25 September 2015, p. 16.

[3] “Testosterone! Hero of song and story, Testosterone!”

[4] Otherwise guys would be signing up to attend their wife’s child-birth like it was fantasy football. Nor should they. It’s like that scene in “Aliens.” Jus sayin’. JMO.

[5] See :G.I. Jane.” (dir. Ridley Scott, ). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ObR1c1Nza4

[6] OK, I admit I’m being a jerk here.

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