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Women in Close Combat Units – 1

My comments for today’s show and those for the following three weeks will address the decision made by our Executive Branch to place women in close combat units. Each of these comments will be placed in my blog after the show is aired. I hope you find this useful; our nation is at great risk.

The outgoing Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, decided that what would be best for the defense of our nation is allowing women into close combat units. This will undoubtedly earn him and his president a huge number of Political Correctness points, but it will really hurt our military’s ability to defend us.

This change isn’t about civil rights, equal opportunity, or any of the great things America has done in the past 50 years to remove false barriers within the military. This is different. It’s a purely political act that will make our military — and military families— much weaker than they are today.
Panetta acted in response to feminist demands that women be able to serve in any capacity men do because women are properly denied promotion to the higher ranks if they lack combat experience. There are a large number of women of flag rank among the services, some at the four-star rank. But there is a “glass ceiling” in the combat arms that women haven’t broken through.
However, the military “glass ceiling” is streaked with blood. If women are to be warriors — and thus earn the right to command other warriors — they have to train like men, live like men, and be able to survive and be successful in the prolonged, intense dangers of the modern battlefield, as many men do. Further, their presence must not detract from the mission of our military—which is to be so excellent at killing people and breaking things that hostile nations and groups will not want to risk being confronted by them. If military women can’t do all these things, they cannot gain the respect and admiration that commanders of warriors must have to be effective. So, how important is it to our nation that women be granted these opportunities?

Let me start with my credentials. I feel this is necessary, because all too many of the folks who advocate this change have never been in sustained, close combat in a combat unit. I graduated from West Point in 1964 and went into the infantry; I graduated from Army Airborne and Ranger schools, and then served 22 years on active duty as an infantryman. More to the point, I served one year in Vietnam as a lieutenant; the first half of the year was spent as an infantry platoon leader—someone who both directed fire against and personally engaged the enemy, and was shot at (and wounded). The second half of that tour I served as the aide-de-camp to the assistant division commander (of the 1st Infantry Division). We spent hours and hours overhead observing and managing combat on the ground—I could see clearly (from a different perspective than that of a platoon leader) all the aspects of close combat. A year after returning from Vietnam, I was back—this time the 101st Airborne Division deployed; I was a rifle company commander. We participated in the heavy fighting around Hue during the Tet-1968 Offensive. Later that tour, I served as a division operations officer—monitoring the activities of all our combat units. As a result of my two years in Vietnam, I was awarded 7 US awards for valor and the Combat Infantryman Badge. In sum, I have first-hand, successful experience in prolonged close combat.

Let me begin by saying that women make good soldiers and are very capable of killing people and breaking things—just as men are. There is no such thing as an assault weapon (as a type of weapon); what makes any object into an assault weapon is what is in the mind of the person holding it–and women, properly trained, are very capable of effectively engaging in combat, on the ground, in the air, or anywhere else. Further, women have the same ability as men to lead in tough situations. Indeed, women have and are presently accompanying some of our combat units—enduring the same risks as the unit they’re accompanying. Men and women can and do work together well as a team. But…

First, the difference between men and women is much more than just the plumbing. There are many, many differences in our bodies; neither is better or worse—just different. However, while the differences are not particularly apparent in a finance unit or a supply unit that lives and works in a somewhat normal environment—the difference is huge in a combat unit, whether it be a rifle or tank platoon, a ranger or SEAL unit, or other similar outfits. First, women have more complex sanitation issues than do men. Then there are menstrual cycles. Yes, endurance is an issue; for a month or two, the difference may not be evident—but over time it is—and we all know that. Think of the 101st Airborne Division in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII as an example of sustained combat.

Of course, there are those who say that at least some women can do anything a man can do—so this isn’t a social experiment. Okay, if that’s true, then why aren’t there women in the NFL, NHL, pro baseball, soccer, basketball and the like? If some women could perform as well as men in those non-lethal environments—then simply the search for publicity and profit would have women on at least some of those teams; but their aren’t. Further, the Olympics still has men and women in separate competition. Then there’s college athletics. Can you see a pattern here? No other group in the world thinks that women have the same abilities physically as men do.

But our president is making our military act like this pretense is true, even though it will virtually destroy our military’s effectiveness. I’ll continue this discussion on Frontlines of Freedom, next week.

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