Last Friday, in the wake of the two-week-old announcement overturning the Combat Exclusion Policy, I attended a panel event about the removal of the CEP and its implications for the services. Having seen the damage that the CEP could—and did—do, I wrote about it both for a blog post and as a news article. The policy’s removal was both anticlimactic and embarrassingly necessary. It’s embarrassing that it took us this long—in a force that hinges on the high expectations and ambitions of hard-working people—to dispose of this policy. Despite an entire system set up to evaluate individuals on merit, the CEP codified the idea that ability mattered less than boy-or-girl.

But now that the CEP is—sort of—removed, what comes next? How do we as a military do this right, without overthinking things or treating people like children? The symposium was planned to address specific concerns about how the changes would impact the force, and to discuss past successes and failures both here and abroad. The main concerns included how to ensure that standards are set and remain high, how to avoid overthinking and micromanaging the process, possible impacts on unit cohesion, and more. It featured four different panels and 17 speakers. Most of the panel members were current or retired military; some are still on active duty and will deploy again shortly. Among the panelists were: Specialist Shoshana Johnson, USA (Ret); Major Mary Jennings Hegar, ANG; Sergeant Julia Bringloe, USA; Specialist Heidi Olson, USA; CAPT Joellen Oslund, USNR (Ret); Colonel Martha McSally, USAF (Ret); and Colonel Ingrid Gjerde, Norwegian Infantry.

Anyone interested in watching can view the videos here. The first and second panels were particularly interesting as they included testimony from American and foreign women who had experience in ground combat, among others.

Opponents of allowing women into ground combat roles have expressed concern that if units become co-ed, when under fire, men will forget their training and rush to help the women, risking mission and unit in the process. But panelist after panelist told otherwise. Major Hegar relayed how she and her crew crash-landed while on a mission in Afghanistan; while defending the crashed aircraft, they came under enemy fire. The crew fought back fiercely, as they had been trained to do. Her gender was not an issue. And why? Because they knew and trusted each other, had trained together and respected each other. Specialist Olson, Sergeant Bringloe, and Specialist Johnson emphasized the same points, echoing that the team is paramount, and that the vital piece was always the training: training as a unit allowed for development of the necessary rapport and respect, something that being “temporarily attached” does not provide.

Physical standards, specifically upper-body strength, have historically commanded the majority of the coverage in past discussions. But as most of the panelists pointed out, physical strength—especially upper-body strength—is only one part of the puzzle. Endurance, mental toughness, the ability to remain calm under fire—these cannot easily be taught yet are critically important, and none are gender-specific. I was sitting next to an infantry Marine in the audience, and on a break he mentioned that in Afghanistan, he’d seen a women break down while taking fire. Yet he’d also seen one of his own Marines fall apart and go into the fetal position, and he’d had to send others in after him, endangering them all. We often ignore the fact that while physical strength is one part of it, mental toughness is another. And mental toughness is not gender-specific.

But the physical aspect is undeniably part of it all. Greg Jacob, a prior infantry Marine, related how he had taken command of a company at the Marine Corps’ School of Infantry and found himself working with women for the first time. Amazed that they couldn’t do pull-ups easily, he started them on a pull-up program, and soon everyone was knocking out pull-ups together; the problem was that the women had never trained for them, since the PFT only required the flexed-arm hang. We can develop strength in people, and we can develop endurance. But we have to train to the standards, and to do that we must set—and not lower—high standards.

And as to endurance and toughness, the panelists’ experiences highlighted how those qualities also come in both men and women. One audience member, a prior Marine infantryman, relayed the tale of a deployment he had to Okinawa years ago. He explained that his battalion had performed a number of long marches in full gear, and as they were struggling up the mountains in the Northern Training Area, they were accompanied by older Okinawan women. These women carried large baskets of water and other supplies on their heads and backs, and generally arrived at the destination in much better shape than the Marines did.

The physical standards were a recurring item for discussion throughout the day. Comments in the press by General Dempsey about developing a “critical mass” and having “enough women” are worrisome, and speak to a different path than what is needed to do this right. As I wrote about in the news piece for USNI, standards for each job must be defined, if specific ones are called for, and those should not shift to accommodate anyone. If this means only one or two women serve in each unit, or none, so be it. Some men may get cut as well if the standards are stricter than, for example, the current standard to become an infantry Marine. But every panelist repeatedly urged our leadership to set and adhere to high standards.

As to fears about unit cohesion, so much of it comes down to leadership, and to training to standards and expectations. Co-ed units have been deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan for over a decade now, and they are strong and successful. Many of the panelists—and many in the audience—had deployed in co-ed units, and those units served ably and confidently. Leadership is paramount, just as it is for everything else we do. Expecting this to be any different is naïve.

Much more was said, but I’ll stop there to keep this from going on longer. At the end of the day, the main suggestions mirrored the panel discussions. Set high standards and stick to them. Expect high performance. Train to higher standards. Treat those serving as functioning adults rather than children who require constant hand-holding. Exercise leadership; as in any unit, the signs are there when trouble is ahead. And so many concerns can be overcome with a small amount of common sense and practicality.

As to the CEP, good riddance. It was a policy proven obsolete time and time again. It caused the “temporary attachment” of women to all-male infantry units that they had little integration or training with prior to deployment, weakening links that did eventually develop, and drove a wedge between those serving, labeling some as less qualified based solely on how they were born vs. actual capabilities. In effect, the CEP held that Justin Bieber is more qualified than Venus Williams to perform the duties of an 0311 (I paraphrased this from Colonel McSally, who used it repeatedly). We’re much better off acknowledging that this is not the case at all.




Posted by Jeannette Haynie in Uncategorized


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  • William Henke

    Women have been demanding equal treatment and promotion opportunities for a long while. Overall, I have no complaints against women going into combat duties – they want equal pay and advancement opportunities, then they should be doing the same duties.

    One concern with the announcement by Panetta, was his statement of women applying for the positions – if a male doesn’t get the opportunity to volunteer but is assigned, then the same should hold true for females.

    As a retired HMC I have some concerns. At my last command before retirement, I did a study – while females accounted for 13% of my command they accounted for 27% of sickcall visits. That could effect unit readiness. Females are immediately removed from shipboard duty upon pregnancy, I am sure all combat units will be the same – again it will effect unit readiness. Finally, will they lower standards or develop new female standards to allow women to qualify? Just look at the variations on Navy Physical Readiness Standards between male and female at the same age groups – large variations (or at least there were upon my retirement).

    • Jeannette Haynie

      Agree completely WRT the assignment of women. I elaborated in the new post (linked above), but equal rights and equal responsibility go hand-in-hand. It’s a volunteer military, women and men should shoulder the same risks.
      The standards are important, but should not be lowered, and I believe that–job-dependent–they should be higher. Right now the “standard,” if we want to call it that–is min passing on the PFT (approx 3 pullups, 50 situps, and I believe 28:00 min for 3 miles). That probably needs to be re-evaluated and made higher if needed.
      And as to the variations on Navy (and Marine Corps) standards, they are large, but this can be addressed by training to the new standards. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the change in the USMC PFT–requiring a min of 3 pullups for women.
      The pregnancy concern is valid, as are concerns about drug abuse, DUIs, ill family members, and any other personnel issue out there that can harm readiness. Given that the rate of pregnancy per woman is much lower among servicemembers than it is for the outside populace, I do not see it as a show-stopper. But that topic would need a separate post.

      • JBAR

        But, is the PFA differences that are currently in place not an indicator of what will really happen? Everyone is speaking of ideals, not realistic results. The commanders have already given the burden to each community to explain why their specific physical standards have to be so high. Is that not another indicator? Why would they even put out that statement unless there was already concern that quotas would not be met? The military and special forces have built up their standards based on needs to be effective, efficient, and safe. Next, if the entire reason for women in combat is equal opportunity for greater advancement, which has been stated since the beginning, is that a valid reason to go down this entire process and make changes that will very likely get people killed, seriously hurt, will decrease efficiency, and will waste time and money? Realistically, how many women will make it to and through some of the tough selection processes? Very few. Is it worth all of the required resources to make this happen? You, as long with everyone else, already know that if numbers are not seen, that changes will be made to ensure quotas are met. No one will wan to be associated with “discriminating” against women’s opportunities. The studies of physical differences, capabilities, and greater physical harm to females have already been completed by our government and by numerous other governments. If this initiative is truly about about a new tool being found to increases our combat capabilities, which it is not, then why not start with a pilot program using the existing male standards and training as all female units?

  • robert_k

    Jeannette,

    Many well intended people prescribe to the theory, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”. What do you propose the MC can do now to ensure these folks don’t start analyzing the population of females in society, females in the service and female in combat-arms units and come up with a percentage of infantry officers that must be females? If the actual numbers are below that artificial standard, pressure will be applied to service chiefs to increase the number and as a result, quality will suffer.

    • http://www.michaeljunge.com Michael Junge

      And it will be the poor leader who gives into that pressure.

      What we “should” do is look at every job, every position, every NEC, every MOS and decide what physical standard is required. Not desired, not normed, not historical…required.

      If infantry requires the ability to carry a 200lb set of gear…then that is the standard. Until someone figures out how to get the gear load down, at which point the standard should be reevaluated and adjusted.

      We have mental and academic requirements that are not gender-normed…it should not be so difficult to reach a point that physical standards are equal as well.

      If we have good leadership, at least.

      • TheMightyQ

        Unfortunately, CAPT Junge, poor leaders abound. That pressure is the exact same pressure that we see every day being applied because the officer corps isn’t “diverse” enough. How will this be any different? I have exactly zero confidence that our senior leadership has the backbone to stand up to political pressure to ensure the “right” percentage of women are in each branch.

      • http://www.michaeljunge.com Michael Junge

        Mistrusting leadership sucks, doesn’t it.

        So, let’s presume that you and robert_k are correct. The question is asked and leadership doesn’t have an answer.

        What then, should those of us in uniform do to mitigate what you fear? What action can we take to preserve standards?

      • Jeannette Haynie

        And right now, anyway, I don’t hear any political–or other–pressure calling for changing (or “norming”) and standards. I hear the opposite, on a frequent basis. So what can we do? Keep saying it, make defensible standards, train to those standards. And what else? Kind of where I was going with the original post, but probably didn’t say it as well as I could have.

      • TheMightyQ

        Within the Navy, I think the current CNO is at least getting the ship pointed in the right direction, no pun intended. Warfighting first. When enacting/enforcing policies, the question that needs to be asked, the ONLY question that needs to be asked, is “Does this policy make us more combat effective?” All other issues are secondary, if not meaningless.

        Strategic comms aren’t just for those people living in the countries in which we operate. So, have senior leadership explain to the military writ large how a given policy makes us more combat effective.

        As far as this current CJCS, that trust is already gone. When he issues comments like this: “[I]f we do decide that a particular standard is so high
        that a woman couldn’t make it, the burden is now on the service to come
        back and explain to the secretary, why is it that high? Does it really
        have to be that high?”(http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jan/25/gen-dempsey-hints-bar-likely-lowered-female-combat/), then he has already decided that standards are irrelevant, and so is combat effectiveness. He would rather have a military that looks great to the ACLU than one that can win wars. That, combined with the comments that Maj. Haynie addressed have torpedoed any trust that many servicemembers, myself included, have in the CJCS.

        Let’s remember, as retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Mellinger puts it, “‘If you want to ride this ride, you must
        be this tall’ must be the mantra, not ‘everyone gets to play.'”

      • http://www.michaeljunge.com Michael Junge

        “‘If you want to ride this ride, you must
        be this tall’ must be the mantra, not ‘everyone gets to play.'” Is fine…but why is the height set that high? What’s the risk if we lower it 1″? 2″? Is there a benefit if we lower it? Or, does it need to be raised.

        “Standards” are arbitrary numbers until someone is able to quantify them with a requirement. Can the services and schools do that? If they can’t be justified and quantified, they are “desires” and “arbitrary”, not “standards” or “requirements”.

      • Jeannette Haynie

        Right now, the standard for the Marine Corps is that you have to pass the PFT. Nothing crazy there. I tend to think that any standard set for ground combat arms MOSs should be higher, and should beapplicable to the actual jobs. But how that gets done, and what that specifically is, I don’t know.
        But it must be justifiable and defensible, and transparent. and not -normed for anyone.

      • TheMightyQ

        “‘Standards’ are arbitrary numbers until someone is able to quantify them with a requirement.” WOW.

        Standards like a dry bilge? Standards like being able to set Zebra in 7 minutes? Standards like the ASVAB score required to get into nuke school? That’s a slippery slope, sir. Now, because all of a sudden, politicians have decided that we are to include women in combat units, “standards” need to be reviewed. There was no call for their review last month, or last year, or 5 years ago. But now standards, in this case physical standards, have to be justified. Nonsense and other expletives.

        “Is there a benefit if we lower [the height of the bar]?” If you can find one example from the military’s collective experience over 236 years of history where lowered standards ever increased combat effectiveness, I will be amazed. The fact is that lowered standards of any kind lowers combat performance.

        As xbradtc wrote above, “No infantry unit ever found they were too physically fit for their mission.”

      • http://www.michaeljunge.com Michael Junge

        Then justifying the standard shouldn’t be difficult. What is there to fear?

        I’d love to take on each of your examples and show how they aren’t timeless and shift to fit needs, but I’m busy shoveling snow and hoping we get power back. More immediate concerns and so on.

      • Jarvis_Jarvis

        The factor that you’re getting at in respect to physical standards, and that I think Jeannette is moving towards also, is that it is important to be able to understand what the standard is supposed to accomplish. Then the metric is tailored to the requirement.

        Based on the way Navy and Marine PFTs are structured, they measure whether sailors and marines are in a certain upper percentile of physical fitness, relative to their age and gender, by performing some common exercises. This implies (to me a reasonable) intent of ensuring that marines and sailors have a generally high degree of fitness relative to comparable members of the general population. It’s a relative standard, and appropriate for broad military membership.

        However, if you’re talking about a standard for a particular job or task, that should be tailored to that task, whether it’s shooting with particular accuracy, being able to hump a certain amount of weight, or simply not being colorblind. The point is that these should not be arbitrary, and shouldn’t be relative either; just making the standard equivalent to the top 10% of male PFT scores wouldn’t make sense. There are job requirements that need to be met, and those who can meet them should be allowed to do the job. Stating clear requirements isn’t easy, because it calls for serious research and judgment, but it will yield defensible policies in a ways that seat of the pants rulings will not.

      • http://www.michaeljunge.com Michael Junge

        Yes!

      • Jeannette Haynie

        Well said, thank you! Said much better than I did on any of my comments or the post.
        Also, I tried to add this yesterday–there’s a blog post over on the Marine Corps Gazette site titled “Humans in Combat” that really hits some great points. I tried to link it but the comment never showed up. Google it if you’re interested., pretty good stuff to think about.

      • robert_k

        I tried to post something yesterday as well… I just assumed Admin banished me again..

        Someone at Time Blog must have been following your discussion on standards.

        “The Navy is moving forward with plans to include Navy women in previously closed billets including the Marine Corps and Special Warfare (Navy SEALS).

        Gender-neutral occupational standards will need to be developed and congressional notifications made prior to implementation of any changes.

        This does not mean that standards will necessarily be
        changed; it only means that occupational standards will be developed and/or tested in billets for which the only previous criterion was being male. These standards would be used to assess and assign Sailors to Marine Corps and other ground combat positions. Note that this could potentially eliminate men from assignments as well if they don’t meet the standards.”

      • Jeannette Haynie

        Thanks. Maybe there was a glitch in the matrix.
        I’m planning to do a follow-up post in May/June after the initial service reports are due, so we’ll see how things shake out.

      • Jarvis_Jarvis

        Thanks, Jeannette. I know there’s a lot of resistance to this kind of change, and I agree with the point you seem to be making that this needs to put requirements, not quotas, first in order to be accepted. The post you referred to pointed out that there really is a lack of a singular standard out there for what the requirements for combat arms are. I hope that leadership approaches this from that perspective and does a deliberate, requirements-based assessment of what NECs/MOSs need to have distinct physical standards, and then make those gender-neutral. I think non physically-intensive NECs/MOSs should stay on the current system, which works for what it’s intended for.
        Of course, I’m not highly confident that it will play out this way; our track record of crafting careful needs-to-requirements strategies is somewhat less than watertight.

      • Jeannette Haynie

        That is the most diplomatic way I’ve ever heard that expressed. But I agree, and thanks for putting it much better than I did.

      • TheMightyQ

        The fear is that whoever is doing the justification will take the CJCS’ words to heart and infer that we should lower the standards just to be more inclusive of women in combat, not because of any actual physical requirement. The quote I outlined above makes it pretty clear that that is what he desires. And of course, someone will take that and run with it. “That which interests my boss fascinates me” and all that.

        If one desired to have a periodic review of standards, in this case physical standards, then it should be unconnected with any political agenda. It is the best way to attempt to ensure impartiality. As is, there is zero chance that a current review of physical standards conducted now will not turn out lower “requirements.”

      • robert_k

        I think it is a policy issue rather than a leadership issue
        and the Marine Corps has three years to figure it out. A few years after implementation starts some senior leader, perhaps General Haynie, will be summoned to the Hill to testify on how that women in the infantry thing is working out. If the response is 0%, I think someone will ask what can we do to increase that number so it appears women are being given an equal opportunity for promotions.

        So you are suggesting having pft/prt for each occupational
        specialty rather than a service wide standard? That may work in the navy but goes against the “every Marine a rifleperson” in the Marines – which is an important part of establishing the service ethos. I seem to recall reading about the navy having an ethos problem recently….

      • http://www.michaeljunge.com Michael Junge

        robert – I don’t think the idea would be as difficult for the Marine Corps, or as easy for the Navy. It’d be challenging because we are so service norms for the PFT.

        For the Marine Corps, it has always been my understanding that the “every Marine a rifleman” included today’s women and that rifleman did not mean the same thing as infantryman. If that understanding is wrong, then my premise would need to be reevaluated.

        But if the premise that “infantryman is not rifleman”, then what’s the issue again?

      • robert_k

        Michael,

        You are correct based on the status quo. Regarding physical standards there are two standards – male and female; regarding marksmanship there is a single Marine
        Corps wide-standard. And most importantly, a single Marin Corps ethos across communities. (I do think there
        may have been a modification to the physical standards based on MOS but that is past my time on active duty – so I may be wrong.)

        However, if the MC were to transition to standards for individual MOSs, an admin clerk would not have to shoot as well as infantryman for example, eventually the commonality that supports “every Marine a rifleman”
        will erode.

        In reality standards don’t play a significant role in MOS
        selection – it is largely based on observation and luck and that process needs to change as well.

      • http://www.michaeljunge.com Michael Junge

        Robert – you’re inferring things, not taking my commentary at face value. I don’t see how you were able to infer different marksmanship standards per MOS based on what I wrote.

        I see no reason not to have a minimum standard for anything. The question we should be asking is, what is the acceptable minimum?

      • robert_k

        Because at face value you didn’t address the full issue. Being a “rifleman” involves more than a PFT score or the weight of your kit. Agree that standards are important but do they need to be general or specific? Or a hybrid of both to support service wide requirements and MOS related???

      • M_Ittleschmerz

        I’m confused…I didn’t think that “rifleman” was an MOS. I also don’t see how the end of CEP changes the basic requirements to be a Marine – unless that is what the USMC wants to take a look at.

      • robert_k

        You are correct. Infantryman is not an MOS and the end of CEP will have no direct effect on the basics of being a Marine.

        I thought it was interesting that someone who published an excellent piece (Semper Huh? Feb Proceedings) on the lack of navy ethos was arguing for a system of MOS specific standards. In my opinion, if this were adopted it would change the Marine Corps wide standards that enable the concept of “every Marine a Rifleman”.

      • http://www.michaeljunge.com Michael Junge

        You need to go back and read that article.

        In the meantime, I’ll go with this…

        Arleigh Burke, William Bligh, Ernest Shackleton, Gary Jobs, Dennis Connor, Alan Bond, and Cornelius Vanderbilt are or were all sailors. They shared a common nautical ethos.

        They did not have equal physical fitness standards, equal academic accomplishments, and certainly not equal bank accounts.

        Michael Murphy and Grace Hopper are both Naval Officers…they both have ships named after them. They did not have equal physical fitness standards or equal academic accomplishments. And neither was a “sailor” like Burke, or Shackleton, or Connor.

        So, why, do you think that the concept of a service wide culture (distinct from ethos or Ethos) is counter to the idea of separated physical standards, when we already have them…and separated academic and mental standards?

      • robert_k

        And Puller, Lejeune and Pvt Jones are Marines – same standards, same ethos, same culture.

        Thanks for your recommendation, I’ll put it on my list.

      • http://www.michaeljunge.com Michael Junge

        I’d like to see some sort of reference that “the standards” were the same for LeJeune and Puller…

      • Jeannette Haynie

        I think it’s both policy and leadership. The policy needs to–as accurately as possible–reflect the performance standards needed for the job. The leadership needs to back that up.

      • Jeannette Haynie

        This is actually one of the biggest strikes against the combat exclusion policy. It created an environment of Marines and then female Marines because of the way it codified ability based on gender, and it was ugly. The gender-normed PFT standards do the same thing, in my opinion–it’s interesting that age-normed ones do not. I know the USMC has been studying this topic–the standards, what they should be, and why–for a while in anticipation of this happening, but I don’t have the full results, only a partial analysis.
        But yes, creating MOS-specific standards that are higher than the minimum PFT standard could be destructive; at the same time, if they are justifiable, perhaps not. I don’t think marksmanship would be a concern, but I think keeping the standard as the minimum passing male PFT for all MOSs, including ground combat arms, would not be enough.
        Perhaps taking the non-gender-normed (or age-normed) PFT score would work–creating a cutoff score. But that focuses on specific PFT abilities that are not necessarily indicators of strength (kind of like how the flexed-arm hang was never an indicator of strength).
        I don’t have any great answers, only suggestions, but I think having the dialogue is critical, and any decisions that are made WRT standards should be as transparent as possible.

    • Jeannette Haynie

      Agree completely that if someone gets the idea that we need to match society, or at least increase the percentage of women in combat arms MOSs, quality may suffer (I say may because, who knows, if we train to higher standards we may also see a rise in capabilities).

      We–the services–overthink this stuff so often that it amazes me. I don’t believe it’s as hard as we make it. Standards should be realistic (as realistic as possible given some of the criteria). Not gender-normed, and probably not age-normed either. People conflate the PFT with actual job requirements. While I think the PFT’s standards could use an entire blog post on their own, I also think that any MOS standards should either closely align with certain (not normed) PFT requirements as well as other tasks that fit the job. And then they should be adhered to by anyone entering that MOS.

      Tangentially related to the standards–and the idea that we might compromise them to admit more women who cannot reach them–is what General Dempsey mentioned about critical mass. Critical mass has no place here. Many women who entered formerly all-male fields did so without “female mentors” or any similar thing to help “cushion” their entry (or any other term used to describe it), and they did just fine. Just like men. Just like everyone else.

      But that’s somewhat tangential to what you are talking about, and I agree with CAPT Junge. The service chiefs should not give into that kind of pressure, and I hope that discussions say as much reach their ears.

      But I am concerned.

      • robert_k

        We share the same concerns and it is good you address the
        issue of “what next”. The debate on “if” or “should” is over, now it is time to figure out how, smartly.

        I recently watched the 2012 Female Cross Fit Competition (for
        research purposes only – honest) and there are some really fit women out there that I’m sure would do well on a PFT. However, watching the equivalent of PT Studs (you will have to come up with a better term) some questions were raised.

        I don’t think many, if any, of them were in the military. How do you make the military lifestyle attractive to recruit these types? If the issue is a training problem as you argue, why separate men-women Cross Fit competitions? How would these
        female specimens hold up in the UFC against some dude in their same weight class – given time to train? Women have been competing in the martial arts for
        decades, in the Olympics for example, and yet there are still separate male/female categories. Passing standardized
        tests may be one thing, but there are still issues to work through in the fleet.

        The Marine Corps should work hard on bringing in the right
        women for the transition and it better have a robust data collection plan to monitor progress at every step along the way so when asked the tough questions on the hill and by the media, they will be able to provide data and facts.

      • Jeannette Haynie

        Female cross-fit competition, huh? And I can’t think of a better term than PT studs. As to recruitment, etc., that’s a great question and a whole separate post (or series thereof). I don’t know that I have any good answers for that.
        As to separating male and female competitors, I’d imagine part of it is just the way it’s always been done, and part of it is that the bell curves are not the same, although they do overlap. In the infantry, just as in any physical (or not) job, you’re going to have a range of ability. Some will always be stronger and faster, and some will always be weaker. The point is to make sure everyone can do what the job requires.
        I hesitate to sign off on the monitoring and data collection simply because there is so much attention on it, and that can lead down the wrong path. But that part is probably inevitable. The lowering of standards (which are really not even established) is not inevitable, and it’s a main concern we need to watch for.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rob.bracknell Rob Bracknell

    The debate over this issue has mixed apples with oranges. The apple is that women have been serving attached to combat arms units for years now, and that 4GW blurs the battlefield, making female engagement in combat operations more common. This is all true. That is very different from the orange of saying that women are capable of being assigned to combat arms units that rely on physical strength at levels most women are incapable of developing and sustaining. The comment about Venus Williams and Justin Bieber says it all — if we could recruit 5,000 Venus Williams’ for the Army, Marine Corps, and SOF, then this policy change would make sense. There are physically capable women who can exceed the performance of most men by light years. Few of them sign up for the military, and even fewer would go into combat arms. So, for the ability to place two fire team leaders and a lieutenant in an infantry battalion, is it worth the institutional cost in other problems that invariably arise in mixed gender units?
    Second, this business about standards is perplexing. On one hand, I hear “change the policy, but keep the standards.” On the other hand, I hear “we need to look to see if the standards are needlessly tough.” Needlessly tough? In the infantry? How about letting the infantry decide the standard for the infantry? So long as there’s no evidence it’s tough to exclude women, but rather it’s at a certain level because commanders believe that’s what is required of infantrymen, let’s leave the standards alone. Moreover, does anyone with a straight face and an open mind on this issue really believe the standards won’t change over time? It’s inevitable and unavoidable, it will creep into the force, and it will work to the detriment of readiness and capability over the long haul. We need to unhitch our wagon from “the end of war” and think about capabilities we will need for the next 20-30 years or more. We may be headed in the wrong direction.
    I’m a progressive guy. I supported the repeal of DADT, but the data didn’t show there would be any measurable effect on readiness, and the effect that would exist could be disciplined away. To that end, we have had zero instances of gay-related violence in the Marine Corps since repeal. With women in the combat arms, however, we also have tons of data which suggests that some huge percentage of women — 95%? 98% — just aren’t strong enough to make it in the infantry. There are tons of MEN who aren’t strong enough to make it in the infantry, but we’re able to produce the raw numbers required to round out the units. What is the cost of training and screening 100 women to find 2-3 who can make it? OK, fine, what if the number is 10? Is that a cost a resource-challenged force is prepared to eat?

    • totalitat

      “How about letting the infantry decide the standard for the infantry? ”

      How about making sure that the infantry isn’t setting standards explicitly to keep women out?

      • TheMightyQ

        If the standards remain the same, is that considered “setting standards explicitly to keep women out?” Probably, to many politicians and service chiefs.

      • totalitat

        How were the current standards set in the first place?

      • http://twitter.com/xbradtc xbradtc

        No infantry unit ever found they were too physically fit for their mission.

    • Jeannette Haynie

      Yes and no. The fact that women have been serving like this in OEF and OIF (the apple) underscored the need to change the oranges, so to speak. Can most servicewomen perform at the same level as most servicemen? Probably not. But the bell curves overlap, and making a blanket policy like the CEP was is just shooting us in the foot. I think many of those who supported the change are not viewing it as a peacetime, end-of-war policy, but as the smartest step to ensure we have the strongest, best force 20-30 years from now for any conflict.

      But what is next? That’s my point…it’s a concern. The over-thinking and over-measuring we tend to do could really mess this up. When I hear comments like those from Gen. Dempsey about “critical mass” and “one-of-one” women, I worry. We aren’t one-of-one, we’re Marines. Or Sailors. Etc.

      I had an XO once who pulled me into his office to tell me that he expected me to be available to handle problems of the younger female Marines. But that was the job of their chain of command, not me specifically (I was outside of their chain). That’s along the lines of this “critical mass” idea that you allude to in your last paragraph, or the idea that we need to find qualified women and ensure they have female buddies in each unit. We don’t need that. We overthink this stuff completely. I don’t think we need to train/screen women or spend tons of money “revamping” spaces to accomodate women who don’t need accomodation.
      And the standards–right now, to be an infantry Marine, you must only pass the PFT (male standard). I don’t have numbers, but from my experience I’d say the majority of female Marines could do that handily. and if they can’t now, by Jan 2014 they will. So is that standard too low? I think it is, for some MOSs. But that needs to be determined, and to be determined smartly and defensibly. And then stuck to.
      I think the best thing we can do is continue to voice these concerns, as you did above, so that the leadership pays attention and that–above all else–this does not compromise the force. It has the potential to do that if we implement it poorly, but if we do it right, it’ll make us that much better.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-J-Sudbeck/100000201591982 Kevin J. Sudbeck

        Do you also support women required by law to sign up for selective service, like men are required to do? Or is this another case of equal privilege, but unequal responsibility?

      • Jeannette Haynie

        Go back and read the post, and read the news article. Equal rights = equal responsibility. As I’ve stated before.

  • GIMPGIMP

    It’s about time. The American ideal is for everyone to be treated equally and they should be. All standards are by definition gender neutral unless they require the involvement of genitals. There’s no need for physical privacy. Surely no woman ready for combat cares if she has to squat in public, just like men. Just make everything exactly equal and be done with it. How hard can this possibly be? Make it or don’t. If you’re in, you’re in and you don’t rate any more physical privacy than any man and guess what, nobody will give a damn. About time that we throw man and woman away and leave it at Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and Marine. Identical standards, identical facilities, identical privacy, and eventually identical grooming standards and uniforms. There should be exactly zero difference between the sexes just like there’s zero difference between the paychecks the sexes cash.

  • Jeannette Haynie

    Feel free to listen to the testimony given through the C-Span link in my article. It may change your mind, but given the tenor of your past comments, I doubt it.

    I do think that those who have seen firsthand the costs incurred by the continuation of the CEP might think that any “costs” incurred by removing it are negligible and well-spent.
    Regardless, it’s nice to see that people do occasionally read every comment.

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