Women in Combat Arms Units comes to the fore

« Previous story
Next story »
Women in Combat Arms Units comes to the fore

Unless you've been living under a rock the past 36 hours, you know that Leon Panetta is dropping the combat exclusion policy for women:

The U.S. military is ending its policy of excluding women from combat and will open combat jobs and direct combat units to female troops, multiple officials told CNN on Wednesday.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will make the announcement Thursday and notify Congress of the planned change in policy, the officials said.

"We will eliminate the policy of 'no women in units that are tasked with direct combat,'" a senior defense official said.

Here's a discussion on CNN about it: 


From another CNN article, reviews are mixed:

Julie Weckerlein, who has served more than 13 years in the Air Force and did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, thinks the change reflects the military catching up with the times.

Women supporting supply missions have been drawn into battle in Iraq and Afghanistan, where there are no physical front lines.

Now, Weckerlein said, "people will be able to serve in the career fields they are qualified for, and they won't be turned away because of their gender."  [...]

Rep. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, has said he doesn't think women are physically capable of combat duty.

"To have women serving in infantry ... could impair the mission essential task of those units, and that's been proven in study after study," he told radio host Laura Ingraham this month. "It's nature -- upper body strength and physical movements and speed and endurance and so forth."

My friend Jonn Lilyea took the middle ground:

Jonn Lilyea, one of the founders of the military blog "This Ain't Hell," wrote that he thinks it was an "ill-considered decision."

Lilyea, a former sergeant who fought in Desert Storm, wrote that he is opposed to women in combat units, not because women are a distraction but because he thinks the Army and other services will be required to accept more women than are qualified or can be trained.

"If we're doing this to make the military better, fine, but if we're doing it just to beat our collective chest and show how just we are, then that's how a lot of body bags are going to get filled," he wrote.

 The American Legion's position, embodied in  "Resolution No. 36: Repeal DOD Policy Prohibiting Women From Combat" at the Milwaukee Convention in 2010, states:

RESOLVED, By The American Legion in National Convention assembled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 31, September 1, 2, 2010, That The American Legion shall initiate efforts to encourage the repeal of the Department of Defense’s policy governing the assignment of women in combat situations.

The key of course will be ensuring that the standards required of various MOSs (Like Infantry, Special Forces, SEALs etc) does not get changed.  That is covered by "Resolution No. 139: Military occupational specialty standards":

RESOLVED, By The American Legion in National Convention assembled in Indianapolis, Indiana, August 28, 29, 30, 2012, That The American Legion strongly believes that the Department of Defense and all branches of the military services must maintain the current physical and mental requirements and qualifications for acceptance into military service that have created the best and most respected military in the world; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That the mental and physical qualifications of all military personnel, regardless of gender or age, should be held to a single duty position specific standard depending on Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) and not be amended without Congressional authority; and, be it ...finally

RESOLVED, That The American Legion believes that without such Congressional hearings and oversight there exists the distinct possibility that changes will be made to lessen the current standards or set a double standard, one for men and one for women, for the sake of accommodating personnel for "social experiments," therefore, reducing our nation’s military effectiveness.

Our official statement on this has been released as well:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 -- The leader of the nation’s largest wartime veterans’ service organization has reacted cautiously to today’s announcement that the U.S. military plans to expand combat roles for women in the military.

“Women in the military are performing magnificently in Afghanistan and in U.S. military units throughout the word,” American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz said. “Women comprise nearly 15 percent of our active forces and we simply would not be able to accomplish our missions without them. That said, we do not believe that the administration should precipitously change long-existing policies without careful review and oversight from Congress.”

Delegates to The American Legion National Convention last August passed a resolution that called on all branches of the military services to maintain the current physical and mental requirements and qualifications for acceptance into military service that has “created the best and most respected military in the world…”  It further called on all military personnel, regardless of gender or age to be held to a single standard based on their MOS and that the elimination of the combat exclusion clause for women come only after congressional approval.

The most important aspect to consider in changing existing policy, Koutz said, is if it enhances the military’s war -fighting capability. “Political or career considerations should not enter into the equation,” he said. “The bottom line is: ‘Will it make us a more capable fighting force?’” 

Membership in The American Legion has been open to women who are serving or have served during wartime periods since the organization’s founding in 1919. Women Legionnaires were eligible to vote for their national commander before they could vote for the president of the United States.

NOTE: Picture at top is from the DoD and is captioned

U.S.   Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Sienna De Santis and U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd   Class Heidi Dean, both with Female Engagement Team, India Company, 3rd   Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, greet children   during a patrol in Sangin Valley, Afghanistan, on Oct. 29, 2010. Marines   conducted security patrols to decrease insurgent activity and gain the trust   of the Afghan civilians. The battalion was one of the combat elements of   Regimental Combat Team 2, whose mission was to conduct counterinsurgency   operations with the International Security Assistance Force.   DoD photo by Cpl. David   Hernandez, U.S. Marine Corps. (Released)







Posted in the burner | 191 comments
« Previous story
Next story »


* To comment without a Facebook account, please scroll to the bottom.


If the past is any indication - standards will be lowered to meet quotas. So many issues ie. hygiene, housing in field environment, upper body strength etc. They have a definite place in the military and should serve in many positions but not in specific combat roles. Take time to integrate and make sure capability not degraded in declining military force structure.

Speaking as a female Legionnaire, I see a lot of patronizing comments for a lot of the men who are merely paying lip service to the idea that women are equals in our society.

Lifting the combat exclusion acknowledges the reality that women are often in combat in a theater with no discernable frontlines, but whose duty as such is not administratively reflected in their assignment records. This matters when women, whose duties have actually involved engagement with the enemy, are up for promotion and whose duty does not receive the appropriate acknowledgment. Since when is recognizing operational reality a problem?

Also, each occuaptional specialty has its own physical standards based on its operational needs regardless of gender, which means no one physically unqualified for the rigors of the job is given that job. While there are some women who might be up to that physical challenge, it's highly doubful women will be lining up to enlist or reclassify to combat arms MOSes that wouldn't also provide a practical civilian occupational outlook.

As for the argument I've seen from some commenters about how our culture supposedly "protects our women," that is absolute hypocrisy. With military sexual assault being such a problem within our own ranks, how "protected" do you suppose women feel when their own colleagues view sexual access to them as a right? The claims that men feel a duty to protect us ring hollow, when by "protection," you refer to us as "our women" as though we were your livestock, rather than sovereign individuals. The claim rings hollow if your idea of protection is place us on a pedestal on which we can't move, unless we want to risk falling and breaking our necks. Even the idea that we are expected to defer to men for our protection is the same argument as telling a gun owner that he should give up his weapons and solely defer to lawenforment officials for all of his protection needs.

Your comment about sexual assault is like saying that because some people drive Fords everyone feels equally about them. BS. If I am on a battlefield and on my left is a woman who got shot and on my right is a man who got shot, I am going to try to save the woman. Even at the risk of my own life. It is why we volunteer for service in the first place. If the women are going to go out and put themselves in combat, I/we can't protect them and there is no worse feeling for a real man. It makes us feel hopelessly stripped of all sense of worth, destroys the ability to continue to fight, and thereby destroys combat effectiveness.

Inadvertently erased my name before hitting post. Did not intend my comment to be anonymous.

So, again, the romantic and patronizing idea that all men in our armed forces are chivalrous knights and all women are damsels in distress. The reality most women in the armed forces experience is far different from the alternate universe you are speaking from. Women understand the risks of being captured by an enemy, but we sure would appreciate not being raped and sexually harassed by those you think "protect" us; your own colleagues and battle buddies. THAT is what kills morale and unit effectiveness.

Scores of children of unknown origin of captured US women will be the prize of Mr Panetta and Barry Obama. . Will they suport them with my money or theirs? Ha ! Not a real question with this crew.!!!!

I can see being in a fox hole with a beautiful blonde and taking my mind off the enemy for one moment and getting my head blown off, worst yet, getting it blown off by her if I try to make a move on her. And please tell where are they going to go to the bathroom? Last, but not least with sexual assaults up in the military, I do not believe women in this role are going to bring them down.

If you are that distracted when your life and the unit's mission depends on you being able to concentrate, then it is YOU who are the liability, not her. It is YOU whose lack the discipline to concentrate, YOU who lack the discipline to respect her boundaries and not "make a move on her."

I think a lot of men object to the idea of women in combat because they'd rather excuse their own cad-ish behavior, rather than exert some self-control and man up. The only man who is truly powerful is the man who can control himself.

I guess the dumb SOB never considered that our women will be groped and probably raped if they are captured. Unfortunately, it will happen. Combat is an ugly thing and people do brutal un-natural things. I deal with the effects of combat everyday and I know I would never, ever want my daughters or my son for that matter, to experience what I and thousands of other military members have experienced.
Policies like this are in place to appease a few to the detriment of many. Many officers at the O-6 level are politicians in uniform hopefully being political enough to be nominated by the SecDef and the president and confirmed by the senate for a promotion. Naturally, the JCS is going to sign off because it's the political thing to do.
For those that want to argue the equally issue, don't bother, combat is bad enough for men, it is not for women period.

Equality in pay should mean equal risk. I completely support this decision as long as capabilities are not compromised, and standards - especially physical demands - are not once-again lowered (for political correctness and qualifications artificiality). Since most of society no longer has traditional morals or values, and it's today's women who are willing to take the risks, I say welcome them into previously male-only career fields - just as long as readiness isn't lowered.i

That was the issue all along; women assuming equal risks in combat that extends the entire depth of the battlefield, but not being acknowledged as having done so, in their assignment records.

In my experience, the MOS physical requirements are irrespective of gender.

"Traditional morals or values," as you imagine them, were often not aligned with reality. How many politicians have lauded "traditional morals and values," while hypocritically violating them?

Well what the heck, we have watered down everything else why not combat? Now they can bleed and die like the rest of us. Of course I'm sure we won't lower any standards to accommodate this decision. I saw it happen in the fire service. Anything to perpetuate political correctness and secure more votes for the liberal agenda.

Will there be more illegitimate children/rapes by contact with enemy troops that with comrades in their own platoons, do you think?

If women want to be in combat MOSs then all women should have to sign up for Selective Service as males do when they hit 18 yrs. old

Before retirement, I was a head pressman on a 4 color press. I did not like women on my crew. It wasn't that most weren't qualified, but I found that the men would bend over backwards to help them, thus neglecting their own jobs. Management was well aware of my feelings & were dumbfounded when I recommened a women crew member for a raise. This women did her job as "one of the guys".

I would venture to say that the opinion of those veterans who have served in combat would be mostly against this. But why listen to those that have been there when we have all those DC experts, who have never been there, and are only looking for the next headline. Yes all training will be down graded to allow them to pass.

Let's face it...women have been in combat for a few years, we just didn't acknowledge it as such. I was in a VP squadron in the Navy, and we had female A/C Commanders, as well as Mission Commanders. No, it's not the same as being the point of the spear, but they are still in harms way. Now, if you want to put a fully qualified female batallion in the front, I might have a few problems with it. Equal ability, equal right, but lowering the requirements to "make them equal" is NOT alright.

It just goes to show you that many politicians do not care what the cost will be or who loses their lives because of this. It is the wrong thing to do.

Why aren't there coments from women since they are the ones who now face this challenge? Most of you are showing your bias.

History tells us that this will not work, Biology tells us that this will not work, and the bible tells us that this will not work. A poor excuse of political leaders and a controlled media will tell just the opposite.

Since everyone knows that women cannot handle the hard & tough jobs like artilery, tanks etc. Because of this they will be getting all the "soft" jobs behind the main battle lines. As an ex-marine I would be kind of pissed off if I'm breaking my ass and the women are partying in the rear.

Very WRONG, Stupid people that we have running our Government and military. Protecting rights of Women so they will be treated the same as men, stupid all trying to get the votes from women. This is not like the "right to vote"! Glad I got out in "75"!

To respond to a comment already posted. I have worked many an MOS with women who were supposedly qualified to meet the physical standards of the job. Reality is and was that they were not but it fit the agenda.

Can God bless a country that refuses to obey Him? Can God bless a military who violates His will and His word? The bible clearly states that this is no place for a woman.

"Can God bless a country that refuses to obey Him? Can God bless a military who violates His will and His word? The bible clearly states that this is no place for a woman."

Anonymous???? Since you're throwing out Bible verses: "For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38

Are you too ashamed of your God and Savior that you can't let people know who your are?

Another Military Screw up on the way. Men will go out of there way to protect women in combat and the enemy will take advantage of women in hand to hand combat. If I had to pick between a man and women in combat I'm picking a man.

I served 27+ years during the days when it was not allowed, and totally agreed with it then. In 2009 I left retirement and served a tour in Afghanistan. Women were performing missions they would never have been allowed to 20 years ago. Most performed admirably. My wife, who is currently a Battalion Command Sergeant Mzjor with the Army National Guard held the position of First Sergeant in a HHC Infantry Brigade Task Force. Everything will be fine until several are captured or killed at the same time. If that would occur I would expect an
immediate change back to forbid women in Combat units. Can you imagine the outrage if there had been just a squad of women assigned to the unit the day SSGT Dakota Meyer performed his many acts of bravery?

If a gal can't even protect herself from her peers in the form of rape or sexual harrassment in our own military then how in the world is she going to protect herself from an enemy?

Would NOT try to change the status quo. I served with some outstanding women who pulled their weight and then some. As mentioned there is no rear area anymore, so they have and will see combat. Certain situations may require them to be up there. But is it really necessary? If the nation was in dire circumstances, then by all means. I do think of my self as a progressive man, willing to shed prejudices and keep an open mind in these changing times. But it was a distraction being up front, for a long period of time, whle trying to ignore the opposite gender, being away from home. I wan't the only one who felt that way. It sucked having to deal with a fallen comrade, we cleaned up, grieved, and moved on. We raise a glass now, and remember. But having to do this with a female was tough, and I don't think I'll ever "get over" it. This was a huge, tremendous PTSD trigger for all of us who made it home. I never forget thinking, was this truly necessary? And thinking it again, and having to lie to the family when I got home.

We should be doing what we can to lower the PTSD triggers for the troops. Its tough going over there, having to kill others, then having to deal with fallen comrades, and then coming home and trying to ratchet things down. Lets not add to the mix unless it's truly necessary...

My vote for women in combat is no. God forbid women are taken hostage. If so they are prime target for multiple rape from the enemy.
In a fox hole a women may be strong and a expert marksman but the answer is NO women.
There is that women's point of view and a male point of view. Not fun in combat. Where do they make a head call.

The serious comment: It's about things like body strength, and ability to drag a heavy wounded guy uphill. If women were equal in such things, there wouldn't be such a thing as Men's and Women's events in the Olympics.

Less serious: Now that we have women in combat, can we send all the guys home?

i,m sure they could do the job. but to really thing about it and use common sense. IT,S is really not a good idea. when things start to go hay wire and confusing. i,m sure that some women could handle it and there are some that would be so scared they couldnt even fart if they had too. i think there should be some kind of special training that the women should go thru before they are put on the front lines. i maybe wrong. but it would take a lot of thinking and common sense before you put a women in that kind of situation and you have to think about the men that would have to be serving with them. that may cause alot of problems there and get alot of trouble started. i really just dont know. it would have to take alot of soul serching to put a young pretty girl on a front line battle unit.

I think it is a bad idea. And I think that it is odd that this decision came out while congress was raking Hillary across the coals about her incompetence. A classic distraction. Doesn't congress have the final say about this decision, because I didn't think the SecDef had this kind of absolute power. I do not think America is prepared to see their wifes, daughters, sisters, granddaughters, cousins, and aunts being raped, mulitated and dragged down some dusty road in some third world country and strung up off of a bridge after they are captured. I also do not think America is prepared to see their wifes, daughters, sisters, granddaughters, cousins, and aunts bodies come down the ramp at Andrews in a flag draped coffin.

The current physical standards (APFT, height/weight) for males MUST be applied to females as well, and not just to those assigned to Combat Arms units but to ALL servicemembers. Speaking as a combat vet, I know of a few women--but not many--who possess the upper body strength required to "carry their own weight" (literally) during combat operations.

Also, ALL females should be required to register for Selective Service upon their 18th birthday and not just males. Eliminate the double-standard completely, and not just where it would give females an advantage over males. I would guess upwards of 90% of the women currently serving could not meet the male APFT standards for push-ups. We would undoubtedly lose most of the women currently serving, but we would end up with much more physically capable females, and a better fighting force, in the long-run. You cannot say on one hand that women should have the same opportunities as men in the military, yet allow them different (easier) standards.

I feel there is lack of forethought here. Men will risk themselves to save a woman. We are still men first and it is in our nature to do so. Also and more importantly I fear for them if captured. We see what animals we are fighting now and how they treat men. just imagine what awaits a woman placed in their hands. We men stink in combat from lack of sanitary conditions. I would hate to imagine how they would feel..Just the thoughts of one old G.I.

I feel that women can do 90% of the duties required to serve in the military but no matter how you spin it , 99% of women just can not perform as a grunt in any combat situation. It is not lack of will, it is just that they are unable to maintain the physical requirements to hack it. Some men can't do some of the jobs that women can. Stop this madness before it is to late.

I am a VN vet. I was in a infantry rifle platoon in Vietnam and I was in all the typical infantry struggles, and in very intense combat many-many times. So I belive I have some credencials here. First, no doubt there are females that are physically able to do the job. I do not doubt that for a moment. But I would think those to be very few & far between. The infantry is the NFL of the military - one cannot be too strong, have too much endurance, be too quick, or too merciless when needed. For mutual survival every member in an infantry squad needs every other member to be the best physical & mental specimen possible. I also cannot imagine a female, in true front line infantry, unless she doesn't mind dying, crying, bathing (as we did in snake & leech infested stink holes), and performing all basic bodily functions in full view of her squad mates - even deficating in her steel pot when necessary. And doing all thsi for a period that can be weeks, if not months, in length. The medics job will be made more complicated. Their training, & what they carry will also need some serious updating. I won't touch on the obvious sexual attaraction/jealousy conflicts that would arise in that intimate level of service. I really think our policy makers, and those that are promotng this move, have seen way too many modern action flicks where females are consistantly shown as kicking the butt of every male, villian or not, in sight. In general, a very bad idea in my view.

There have been many study's on this subject and they have shown that it would be a bad idea to place women in direct combat units. This is a big mistake and we must never forget who implemented such a plan. This is a life or death situation in which other lives are dependent upon the performance of their comrades.This should not be another social experiment.

With God out the country and Christian morals on the hot seat there is no wonder that decisions are made like this to affect the balance of God's nature and the Military force: Marines, Army, etc and their readiness by which these forces have to sustain. I am not prejudging whether women can do this or not but is is right for them to do it that is the main question.

Absolutely NOT. How many soldiers will have to die because the idiots in Washington want to garner a few extra votes by appeasing a few women. What happens to our female soldiers when they get captured? This will destroy unit morale and lead to non functional combat units.

all the veterans should be against this as definately women should not be in combat. majority of women do not have the physical strength men have and americans have been taught to be protective of our women. I feel that this would put most men in harms way to protect them and them being captured would be the same as old west days of saving the bullet to be used instead of capture.

The way Congress and our leadership in Washington has been trending, that is, bowing to media pressure, it is no surprise that this has come to pass. Can women physically meet purely the strength required to do the job ? Not based on what I have experienced in combat. Infantry soldiers and special operations teams must perform at a more physical level in general.EPFM

Leon Panetta is an idiot. Its hard enough for little boys who used to pull the wings off butterfly's to see and live the horrors of war but totally unnecessary for little girls like my granddaughter who serves me make believe tea and cookies and will hopefully someday be a mother. War is a mans game.

Unfortunately our country is not ours any more and our opinions do not matter. The ban will be lifted, women will be moved closer and closer into harms way. "Gays" will be promoted and accepted changing the rules and the laws, and some transgender males will insist on wearing a female uniform in formation, this too will be allowed. Gays will kiss in uniform, feminists and gays will protest the government while on active duty and UCMJ will be ignored for these radicals. Next American muslims will kill their fellow US soldiers on a US base and on US soil but it will not matter. They will even demand to grow a beard while in their US military uniform.

This is such a bad idea. Women who want to be in combat have no idea what they will be experiencing. It's not like going on a hike or playing war games like we did when we were kids. More men are going to be killed or injured because a woman does not carry her weight. Even if a woman passes all the physical and mental tests in training does not mean they will hold up in combat. Teh Joint Chiefs are nothing more than politicians this far into their careers. They are just telling Obama what he wants to hear.

As a war vet from Vietnam I have mixed emotions about the policy. I know I did not relish the thought of seeing women come back maimed or killed and that is a cultural thing. However, I also believe that there has to be rigorous physical requirements for them to be fully qualified. I know that modern warfare is more technological then ever but with all the mini-guns and such in Nam there was still hand to hand combat. In a foxhole you can be the most proficient fighter with a bayonet but you could be stabbed in the back if your teammate falters.
Contrastingly, I know that women nowadays want to make the military a career more often. And they are citizens with the duties that come along with benefits. So we shall see.

I think that both men and women will suffer a disservice. It is in our culture to protect women. Men will feel that they will need to take more chances to protect the women in their unit. Men can physically in most cases take better care of themselves in a combat enviroment. Not all cultures have the respect we have for women. You have to consider the fact that soldiers are captured in combat.

To the Young Grunt that said look Doc I know I am going to die; can you just talk to me so I feel normal. It didn't mean a damn thing if had ovaries or testicles. Just that I was there and I took care of my Marine. The bottom line is if you have the stones and the bones whether female or male : have at it.
Just as what was discussed above if the job requires it then the physical standards are the same for all candidates regardless of gender. To my fellow vets a death is a death a KIA is just that- that was someone's family child parent or spouse it leaves no less hole. To fit in I had to make all standards for the respect of who I served with: I was respected because I did my job and knew my job. That is the bottom line for anybody. Not every man and every woman is meant for the military or it jobs. Lets not sexualize this just hold people to standards and screw how PC everything has gotten.

The one thing I have heard over and over passes me off: If a woman CHOOSES combat, they should be allowed. That is BS. They should be subject to the same orders as anyone else: You get orders to a combat arms unit, you go to combat. No way, no how should a woman ( or anyone else) be able to say no thank you.

Women want equal rights an opportunity. Fine. Also, physical requirements for certain units (SEALS, Rangers, EOD, Scout Snipers, etc. must be identical for women and men.

Dying for ones country should be open to ALL CITIZENS.

About Goddamn time!


Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.
Have a tip for us? A link that should appear here? Contact us.
News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.