Women in Combat

I haven’t blogged about this, because I’ve been a bit busy lately, so I’ve contented myself with just pointing out anti-gun stupidity in lieu of real writing. However, I got a note from a buddy of mine with whom I was deployed a few years back, and he wanted to know about my opinion of women in combat. I can tell you it’s not going to be a popular one, and I’ll probably get a lot of criticism about it, but it’s my opinion, so… there.

If you didn’t already know, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta decided a few days back to allow women to serve in combat roles in the armed forces. There’s been a lot of reaction on both sides, and I had to think long and hard about whether I supported such a move. According to Gallup, nearly three-quarters of Americans support allowing women to serve in combat.

Arguments range from the threat of sexual impropriety or infidelity, to sexual assault, to weakening of the unit, because a woman is naturally not as strong as a man,to pregnancy, to… well, you name it!

I had to think about this one. We did have quite a bit of sexual “impropriety” going on during deployment. I remember coming home from an early-morning gym session with the SGM and my battle buddy, and my roommate informing me that there was a panty raid while I was gone. The MPs actually searched rooms (the claim was they were looking for a missing Soldier who had a Red Cross message) and found quite a few couples doing the dance.

We had a few pregnancies happen as well, but not as many as people believe. I think most people were smart enough to use contraception at the very least, but there were a couple who got pregnant and got out. It happens. It happens without women being in an actual combat situation. It happens on base. It happens outside the wire. Humans will be human.

When I was just out of college, and considering a career in the military, I saw a movie called Navy Seals. It was one of my favorite movies at the time – and not because of the pervasive male pulchritude that was present in that film (a much younger, hotter Charlie Sheen, Michael Biehn and Dennis Haysbert) – but because I all of a sudden was inspired to start working out like a fiend and meet those standards. Yeah… I was nuts… don’t judge.

I wound up joining the Army, not the Navy, and I obviously didn’t become a SEAL a la GI Jane. I completely destroyed my knee (torn ACL, MCL and meniscus) showing off on a confidence course in Basic Training, so my HOOAH! career was in some jeopardy as I worked on rehabilitating my leg.

Fast forward to my last deployment. I did rather well on everything, but the run. But I ran and I passed. By female standards. I passed both the push-ups and the sit-ups by male standards, so one could say I was pretty damn strong.

But… would I have been good enough for an actual combat role? Hell no! Had I been an Infantry Soldier with those scores, I probably would have faced all sorts of disdain from my fellow troops! Not because guys are dirtbags, as a general rule, but because when you’re in an Infantry unit, you need to carry your own weight – you need to be at your best and at your strongest – and you need to make sure no one else has to compensate for your weakness.

Sorry, ladies, but men are naturally stronger than women. Sure there are exceptions out there, but fact of the matter is they are. They’re generally better suited for combat – naturally. However, from what I’ve read, women endure pain better, and my drill sergeant in basic training told me that women, in general, are better shots than men – mostly because they listen and learn much better, as most of them have never even held a firearm before joining the military.

That is not to say that a woman – with a lot of work – cannot be as strong as a man. But she needs to be 100 percent committed to her fitness and to her endurance, and the standards need to be the same for both in combat units. When a woman can meet those standards, carry the same weight and run or walk the same distance, I have no problem with her serving in a combat unit. But she needs to pass the same tests – no help, no special dispensation. I’ve known women like this. It can happen.

But if you’re a woman who just wants to be special – to serve in a combat unit with guys and be a HOOAH Infantry Soldier – but by only meeting the much lower and easier FEMALE standards, do us all a favor and stay the hell away from the Infantry!

I’m not worried about infidelity or whether two Soldiers are going to screw in the field. Personally… I think when you’re exhausted, dirty, have been  in the field for days without a shower or a decent meal, the last thing on your mind is sex. Your mileage may vary, but for me… no thanks! Does it happen? Sure. It happens now, when women do not serve in combat roles, but are in close proximity to men in a war zone. I doubt that will change. Humans will be humans.

I’m not worried about sexual assault. If our guys can’t control themselves with a female around, they shouldn’t be in the military. But there will be crass jokes and general grabassery that goes on in any environment filled with a bunch of guys. So if you’re a female who is easily offended and will file hurt feelings reports at the slightest sexual innuendo, stay the hell away from the Infantry!

I think men and women will eventually get accustomed to one another. I think they’ll probably even become comfortable changing around one another. They’re Soldiers. They learn and adapt.

That said, the dangers of having separate, lower standards for females in these units is asking for trouble. Every Soldier in a combat unit needs to be able to carry his or her own weight. Every Soldier in a combat unit needs to reliable – able to do the job without his or her buddies picking up the slack. If you’re a woman who can meet those standards without needing the guys to help you out, more power to you. Otherwise, stay the hell away from the Infantry!



4 responses

  1. Thank you Nicki. Wery well said, and I agree with you 100%. I say that as a veteran myself. There are many other worthwhile roles that wemen can and do fulfill in the military. But I guess the military is where all social experiments are tested first, to the detriment of our troops.


    1. Well, all that said… If I hadn’t injured myself early on, I would have loved to have served in a combat unit! I don’t think women should be barred completely. But there should be no standard disparity.


  2. Long time coming.

    Who else is gonna make chow and do the laundry? 🙂

    (You know that is a joke, darling. Agree with all you said.)


  3. klasco, please specify these “detriments”. What detriments occured when african-americans and other “minorities” were integrated? That was a “social experiment”. When homosexuals were allowed to be themselves and serve openly?

    Arguably, when women were allowed to serve broadly, some things changed for the worse. But this was demonstratably due to watered-down standards and requirements, things that weren’t done with the other “social experiments”. But Nicki already covered that: one physical standard, that required to do the job, no exceptions for gender.


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