Why do we have an Army or a Marine Corps?
That seems like a silly question. The answer appears so obvious that it doesn’t deserve a response.
There are those, however, who are stumped when asked.
These are folks who have little to no understanding of military issues and have trouble grasping basic ideas, such as the purpose of having a standing armed force to protect the nation and its interests.
These are the same people who are pushing to integrate women into combat arms.
Before you get into a tizzy, please understand this is not a screed about how women don’t belong in the military. That is not true. Women have served and will continue to serve in the armed forces with bravery and honor. Many have given their lives in the line of duty and deserve all the respect and accolades that can be bestowed on them.
That doesn’t mean, however, that women belong in the infantry.
Yes, the world’s most powerful and effective military has set a course for a mythical destination where men and women are equally qualified to serve in combat. And we seem determined to get there despite what evidence and common sense tells us.
The most recent evidence of this folly came a couple of weeks ago when the Marine Corps announced it was delaying the implementation of a new physical fitness standard that would require female Marines to complete a minimum of three pull-ups.
Even though the Marines have been working on this standard and training for more than a year, a whopping 55 percent of women wearing Marine uniforms failed the three-pull-up standard. Yet, those that think having women in the infantry remain undeterred by the reality that there are basic differences between the genders.
So far, about a dozen women have made it through the Marines enlisted infantry course. None have been able to complete the more rigorous infantry officer course. I’m sure, however, that some exceptional individuals will be up to the test. Not many, but a few.
That’s what this is all about really. There will be some women – a few – who have the desire, mental toughness and physical strength to meet the same basic standards as their male counterparts and qualify for infantry duty.
Is that a good enough reason, however, to change the entire culture of the combat infantry?
The military already has the data from years of having women in uniform to know why this will not work. Women – on average – cannot perform the same physical tasks men can. Female soldiers have a higher injury rate than male soldiers. In addition, women are far more likely to be deemed “undeployable” for health reasons, the biggest being pregnancy.
I’m not arguing that women can’t be brave or tough or patriotic enough to serve. I also think there are a lot of important jobs that women can do and that they already perform that will place them in harm’s way.
But the infantry is not one of them.
The infantry is not a place for a few exceptional individuals. The infantry is a culture where each man is the same. Each soldier is just as dog-tired, unwashed, fed-up and miserable as the next. It is a brutal, macho culture because it needs to be, because of what these men are asked to do. Adding women to that mixture will change the culture in ways that we can’t entirely anticipate, but you can be assured it will not improve combat effectiveness.
You can be sure that none of the women who have passed the Marine infantry course shared a barracks with the men. You can be also sure the military will jump through all sorts of hoops to create standards and policies to integrate women into combat jobs, while ensuring that they continue to be segregated for gender and privacy concerns.
But everyone knows that is not how it will be in the field or in combat, nor will it ever be.
Armies are for fighting wars. The infantry is the backbone, the tip of the spear.
We have the best fighting force in the world. The question is: how will this make us better?
If we can’t answer that question, we shouldn’t do it.