Women in Combat?

While there are many issues more directly related to the 2016 campaign that I would love to write about, one recent move by the Department of Defense really caught my attention in light of the ongoing debate within both parties over how much we should spend on our military. After doing a little research, thinking, and praying about it I discussed it with my wife and then decided to share our thoughts with you.

On December 4th, the following letter was sent out to members of the U.S. Army :

Full Integration of Women in the Army

Yesterday the Secretary of Defense directed the full integration of women in the Armed Forces following a thirty-day review period required by Congress. The purpose of allowing all Soldiers, regardless of gender, to serve in any Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) for which they are qualified is to increase our military effectiveness. The Army will provide our final, detailed implementation plan to the Secretary of Defense no later than January 1, 2016. Subject to his approval, we will begin implementing our integration plan to open all MOSs, career fields, and branches for accession by women as soon as practicable following January 2, 2016, but not later than April 1, 2016. Our best qualified, regardless of gender, will now be afforded the opportunity to serve in any MOS. Our detailed and deliberate implementation plan will maintain the readiness of our force and ensure we remain a standards-based Army. This methodical plan will establish and enforce MOS-specific and gender neutral standards based on the rigors of ground combat. Done properly, the integration of women into all MOSs will improve combat readiness and make our Army better. Readiness is our top priority. Our Army exists to fight and win the Nation’s wars. An incremental and phased approach by leaders and Soldiers who understand and enforce gender-neutral standards will ensure successful integration of women across the breadth and depth of our formations. We are honored to serve with all of you who have taken an oath to support and defend our Constitution and demonstrate the values which make our Nation great. ARMY STRONG!

Signed: Daniel A. Dailey (Sergeant Major of the Army), Mark A. Miley (General, United States Army Chief of Staff), and Eric K. Fanning (Acting Secretary of the Army).

At a press conference discussing the decision, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter explained, “They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat … and everything else that was previously open only to men.” President Obama voiced his approval, stating that “our armed forces will draw on an even wider pool of talent” and will therefore be stronger. The Pentagon was not entirely unified behind this decision, however. General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Marine commandant, had voiced concerns and objections to women entering infantry and armor positions and was absent from the conference due to his differences with the administration over the issue.

Though several studies have been done on the issue, with differing conclusions depending on the specifics being assessed (here is a summary of several such studies by an advocate for women serving in combat arms: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cibtp4-FxdU), the universal consensus is that men, as a group, are more physically capable to handle the physical rigors of serving in a “front-line” combat unit. One recent notable study with the Marines found that:

  • All-male units performed higher than mixed-gender units on 93 of 134 tasks, or 69 percent; gender-integrated units performed better than all-male units on two tasks, which were not identified.
  • All-male infantry squads were faster in each tactical movement, with differences more pronounced when crew-served weapons such as machine guns had to be carried in addition to the standard assault load.
  • All-male infantry rifleman squads were more accurate shots, with notable differences in all weapons except the M4 rifle.
  • Men in the provisional infantry platoon who had not attended the infantry course were more accurate marksmen than women who had, hitting 44 percent of targets with the M4 rifle versus 28 percent among women trained at the infantry schoolhouse.
  • All-male squads were notably better as a group when tackling obstacles and evacuating casualties; “When negotiating the wall obstacle, male Marines threw their packs to the top of the wall, whereas female Marines required regular assistance in getting their packs to the top.”
  • The men had an average of 20 percent body fat, compared to 24 percent among women.
  • Women had an average of 10 percent lower peak oxygen uptake than men.
  • The musculoskeletal injury rate for women was 40.5 percent, compared to 18.8 percent for men.
  • None of the 29 females who attempted infantry officer training through April passed, compared to 71 percent of men who graduated.
  • Female enlisted Marines in the entry-level infantry training course had six-times the injury rate of male counterparts.
  • Of 402 female volunteers for the Infantry Training Battalion course through June, 144 passed – a 36 percent graduation rate compared to 99 percent among men during the same period.
  • Of 14 female volunteers for the Artillery Cannon Crewman course, 12 passed – an 86 percent graduation rate, the same as the male rate.
  • Of seven female volunteers for the Tank Crewman course, five passed – a 71 percent graduation rate, compared to 99 percent of males.
  • Of seven female volunteers for the amphibious assault vehicle AAV Crewman course, five passed – a 71 percent graduation rate compared to 94 percent of males.

Source: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2015/sep/10/marines-women-in-combat-task-force-results/

These findings are nothing new: The Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Services stated in the November 15, 1992 Executive Summary Conclusion in the Report to the President: “The case for assigning women to combat fails for the very basic reason that it is grounded principally in the concept of equal opportunity. When national security is at stake, however, the need to maintain a strong military must take precedence over concerns about equal opportunity … mixed-gender units, particularly as [they] get closer to the combat area, have lower deployment rates, higher attrition, less physical strength, more sexual activity, higher costs, et cetera.” As then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney said: “It’s important for us to remember that what we are asked to do here in the Department of Defense is to defend the nation. The only reason we exist is to be prepared to fight and win wars … we aren’t there to run social experiments.”

It is important to note that in these experimental studies, the women evaluated had passed the physical fitness tests to be included in infantry units. One female combat veteran who worked extensively with Infantrymen in a combat environment, Marine Captain Katie Petronio, has argued that due to the physical demands of combat, women should be excluded from certain positions due to their different physical make-up: “Which once again leads me, as a ground combat-experienced female Marine Corps officer, to ask, what are we trying to accomplish by attempting to fully integrate women into the infantry? For those who dictate policy, changing the current restrictions associated with women in the infantry may not seem significant to the way the Marine Corps operates. I vehemently disagree; this potential change will rock the foundation of our Corps for the worse and will weaken what has been since 1775 the world’s most lethal fighting force … for the long-term health of our female Marines, the Marine Corps, and U.S. national security, steer clear of the Marine infantry community when calling for more opportunities for females. Let’s embrace our differences to further hone in on the Corps’ success instead of dismantling who we are to achieve a political agenda.”

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/07/12/12684555-women-in-the-infantry-forget-about-it-says-female-marine-officer?lite

https://www.mca-marines.org/gazette/blog/2012/07/05/get-over-it-we-are-not-all-created-equal

http://www.businessinsider.com/female-troops-against-women-in-combat-tammy-duckworth-katie-petronio-2013-2

While the evidence supporting the argument that including women in our military units makes us more combat effective is found wanting, others argue that opening up combat positions to women is a victory for women’s rights. While it is true that increased opportunities for deployments and combat experience can (but not always) help advance a military career, it is important to remember that with equal opportunity comes equal responsibility. Legal cases requesting that women be required to register for the selective service equally with men are already being heard, and women who join the military may end up being forced into a combat position even if they have no desire to do so. Does this policy change increase women’s rights or is it actually a major step towards forcing women to change who they are in the name of “equality” and thereby destroying their rights?

Of course, there is also the issue of sexual tension and activity (including sexual harassment and assault as well as rivalries and broken relationships) in mixed-gender units, particularly in close-quarters, that can lead to a breakdown in morale and trust within the unit. This is already a huge issue in the military even without the decreased oversight and added stresses and intimacy that come with a combat environment. As Congressional foreign affairs advisor Daniel McAdams commented, “It’s hard to have the strongest military in the world when the barracks are turned into frat houses.”

Inevitably, with sexual activity also comes unwanted pregnancy, which could further diminish combat unit capabilities. This has also already been an issue during deployments: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/23/pregnant-military-unplanned-women_n_2534873.html   http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2560898/200-women-troops-sent-home-pregnant-MoD-wont-impose-war-zone-pregnancy-tests-privacy-fears.html

Other things to consider, especially from the Christian perspective, are that the sexual, family separation, and unwanted pregnancy issues that result from combat deployments in mixed units often result in broken families and abortions.

While all of these practical issues are important to consider and discuss, much more important for the Christian is considering how God’s Word speaks to the issue: opening up all combat Military Occupational Specialties to women rejects God’s design for women (Titus 2:4-5; 1 Peter 3:1-7; Deuteronomy 22:5) and weakens the military’s effectiveness (Nahum 3:13; Jeremiah 50:37). The Bible makes it clear that men (after the example of Christ for His church) are to give themselves up for their women and children as a demonstration of their love for them. Nehemiah 4:13-14 speaks of men who were exhorted to “remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses.” Furthermore, husbands are exhorted in Ephesians 5 to “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”; such love was defined by Christ as being willing to lay down one’s life for the object of that love (John 15:13).

As Christians, we need to look at the facts and the truths of Scripture and realize what is at stake here: women in combat isn’t just a matter of increasing opportunities for women – it is an issue of redefining manhood, womanhood, and even the marriage relationship (which is the sacred picture of Christ’s relationship to His church). We, especially the men, must decide where we stand and who we are called to be in Christ and ask ourselves some hard questions:

  • Are we a set-apart redeemed people (Titus 2:11-14) who cherish women as those who should be protected at all costs or are we willing to literally “throw them to the wolves” and expose them to the horrors of combat and all that comes with it?
  • Are we willing to speak out on God’s design for men, women, and marriage with “all authority” regardless of the criticism (Titus 2:15)?
  • With accelerating military challenges from the likes of China, North Korea, Russia, Iran, and ISIS, is now the time for social experimentation in our combat units?
  • Are we justified, at a time when we are faced with approximately $19 trillion in national debt (and counting), in continuing to argue that the solution to our military challenges abroad is continued increases in defense spending while knowingly diluting our combat readiness through the integration of women into combat units?
  • What does it say about the state of our government and our military leadership, when our President ignores the findings of the studies he requested and then our military leaders comply by knowingly misleading the public through their rhetoric?

While this issue is not yet one of the hot-topics of this campaign, it shines a light on the direction our society is headed and should be a wake-up call to us as Christians to increase our prayers for our nation (particularly the Christians in our military and government), our courage in taking a stand in whatever place God has put us, and our efforts in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. As David Horowitz, a former Communist radical, warned our nation: “I was dedicated to the subversion and overturning of every American institution … We were successful in subverting and overturning every American institution but one – it was the military institution … Why don’t you wake up? Women in combat … is to finish the job on the only institution that survived the ’60s and ’70s revolution intact.”

—– UPDATE —–

Just a few days ago, some of the top leaders in our military stated that women should be required to register for the draft equally with men:

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/02/03/465404486/army-marine-corps-generals-say-women-should-have-to-register-for-the-draft

 

In Christ – Samuel and Lydia

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Women in Combat?

  1. No problem!

    Essentially, my point was that treating women “in general” is an obvious over-classification. There’s no question that, in general, women physically inferior to men. But individuals do not qualify according to their “group’s” fitness — whether ethnic, gender, or other classification — and must instead meet specific qualifications *individually.*

    Now, the way the military currently evaluates female capacity may be skewed. If the metrics for women are lessened to account for the fact that most women are not physically as capable as men, then the purpose of that test is lost. And there, I’m sure we agree! That lack of standardization likely explains the various data you shared in bullet form; if many of those women are expected to meet lower combat standard, then it is no surprise that their units perform with less excellence.

    (The report cited in the article you mentioned, which is actually linked here — http://cdn.sandiegouniontrib.com/news/documents/2015/09/10/MCFIP_1.pdf — is a pretty unimpressive attempt at real science. It’s apparently missing quite a few data points, isn’t peer-reviewed, etc. That should raise flags for all of us).

    Having said all of that, however, if the standards for entry into, say, the infantry, were consistent and standardized across the board — candidates had to do the same number of push ups, successfully conduct the same maneuvers, accurately fire the same weapons, carry the same amount of equipment, etc — then I don’t see why a woman, who meets those standards, should be disqualified because her “group” generally does not.

    Also, I think if we’re going to address a sexual issue within the military, we ought to start with the culture of sexual abuse that remains hidden the surface. It’s a real issue, and one that much of the DOD’s leadership refuses to address meaningful. I would recommend “The Invisible War” on that subject — http://smile.amazon.com/Invisible-War-Helen-Benedict/dp/B009I371U2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1454677472&sr=8-2&keywords=invisible+war

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  2. Thanks for your comments. To your first point, my personal experience has shown me that, yes, there are a select few highly physically fit females who are physically capable enough to keep up with the somewhat physically fit military male on most physical and military skills requirements. However, this argument fails to deal with the sexual and unit morale issues that will inevitably come about as mentioned in this article (and I have personally witnessed them take place on a regular basis – including in units that I have led). Of course this is a huge issue in the military and believe me, the military is spending an enormous amount of resources on dealing with it already – and I would agree very inefficiently, just like with anything else a huge centralized bureaucracy touches haha. Just another reason why we shouldn’t be further compounding the problem and detracting even more resources from preparing to fight and win our nation’s wars. That’s not even addressing the biblical problems with the concept of women going to war…

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