The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

February 6, 2013

Women in combat

Bob Harper

ROCKY MOUNT — It sounds like our government has made the decision that women should serve in combat and it has become politically correct to fully support this and very politically incorrect to even question the validity of this decision.

I discovered very early in life that there is a difference between us males and females, and I really liked the difference…as the French would say, “Viva the difference.”  That difference spills over into the military, but we are now asked to ignore that difference and fully support the decision to allow women to serve in combat.  Perhaps before we accept that completely we should make note of some clear and concise reasons why this might not be such a good idea.

Here are some of the augments that maybe this isn’t such a great idea after all:

1. They may change the physical requirements so women can serve.  For example, an infantry man carries an average of 100 pounds of gear on his back.  Also he has to carry that load for a long distance and be able to scramble over walls with that weight.  A few women might be able to do this, but how many?

2. The Marine Corps has become more concerned about this than some others.  Male marines listed as some of their concerns as; fraternization, and personal issues that could affect the unit before they are sent to the battlefield.  Both male and female marines mentioned intimate relationships and the male marines feeling an obligation to protect female marines.  Women marines also questioned hygiene requirements and if they were captured would they be likely to be sexually abused?

3. Some requirements are straightforward. A tank shell weighs 40 pounds, and a member of a tank crew would need the strength to take the shell off the rack and load it in the main gun…and do this over and over again.  Again some weight lifting, body building women might be able to do this, but how many.

4. Former infantry sergeant John Lilyea, who served in the Persian Gulf war, said he believed that physical standards will be relaxed “in order to force the acceptance of women in the combat arms specialties.”  He also said that he didn’t think nearly as many of those in the military that say they support women in combat really feel that way.  His exact words: “I’m sure they all stood and saluted and said ‘yes sir’ and marched out smartly, but I don’t think they’re all 100 percent  behind it.”

5. In the Israel Defense Forces it was stated that their reason for removing female soldiers from the front lines was due less to the performance of female soldiers, and more due to the behavior of the male infantrymen after witnessing a woman wounded or killed.  The IDF saw a complete loss of control over soldiers who apparently had an uncontrollable, protective, instinctual aggression, severely degrading the unit’s combat effectiveness.  Maybe this was a result of the men being raised to be gentlemen and to respect ladies.  Should this be changed?

6. When it comes to basic training and infantry training, will we be called on to spend a great deal more of money in building new facilities?  If there are 100 soldiers in a training company then there would be about fourteen who would be women.  I don’t know how it is today, but when I lived in barracks, during my basic training, the latrines had about a ten foot long urinal and maybe 6 commodes lined up beside each other. I don’t think this would be the case today and certainly not with women in the same training company.  Would we then build separate barracks for the fourteen women? Since the liberals in congress love to spend money I suppose we would.

But, all women are for these changes that put women in combat, right?  Not exactly.  Elaine Donnelly of the conservative Center for Military Readiness and vocal critic for the new changes going into effect said that surveys showing results favoring women in combat asked the wrong questions.  The troops themselves should have been asked if they favored it and would it make a more effective force.  She said that the questionnaire relied on the “mistaken belief” that training standards will remain the same, which Donnelly said is not realistic given the physical abilities between the genders.

At this time we have an all-volunteer military, but this could change in the future and probably should change.  I personally feel that every physically fit and mentally fit high school graduate should have sixteen weeks of military training.  Even today males between the ages of 18 and 25 are still required to register for the Selective Service, and that’s a good thing.

To really be fair shouldn’t women, when they become 18 be required to register for the draft?  Anne Coughlin, a law professor said, “…there is no legal justification for saying that men alone need to shoulder that burden.”  And Col. Peter Mansoor, a professor of military history at the Ohio State University added, “If women are accepted to serve in combat, they are acceptable to serve whether they volunteer or not.  You can’t have frosting on the cake and not the cake underneath.”

But, we must remember that declaring that women should serve in combat is now politically correct and to be against this is politically incorrect.  So this new directive will stand.

(Bob Harper is a Tarboro resident who writes a column of general interest.)