After my first GI Jennifer blog about opening combat arms positions to women I received numerous emails and comments from all sides of the spectrum. One thread that kept reoccurring was that if a woman could meet the standard, she should be allowed to enter the combat MOS, whatever that may be. For elite units, this argument is fine, as they are all volunteer organizations, but for the average combat arms position, such as Infantry, Field Artillery, or Armor, the more I thought about it, the more unfair I realized the argument is. Believe it or not, it’s setting up gender discrimination the opposite way – against males.
What is being discussed right now is opening up combat arms to woman who want it. In effect, to those who volunteer, but even now, that number isn’t very high. In a recent Army – wide survey, few women wanted a combat assignment, with fewer than 8% saying they did. Out of that, more than 30% percent who did say they wanted combat, wanted to fly with TF 160 SOAR, something I wholeheartedly support. Very few said they wanted to be in other combat arms positions like the Infantry. Some have said the survey was skewed, but from my experience, that’s about the same as the males. In my first Infantry platoon of thirty-two men, only seven said they wanted the Infantry. The rest ended up there because there was nothing else available (see below), or they didn’t score high enough on entrance exams for another technical MOS (or they were lied to by the recruiter – something that did happen. In my initial counseling, I actually had three who told me they wanted to be Forest Rangers and the recruiter told them the Infantry was perfect training). I was shocked at the time, because I certainly wanted and fought to get Infantry, but it didn’t mean they served any less admirably. The germane fact is that they didn’t get a choice. Why shouldn’t that be the case with the females? Why should the males be forced into the Infantry, while the females are allowed to volunteer? If we’re saying that everything is gender neutral, and females can serve in all combat arms positions, then why the voluntary choice? The original lawsuit stated that the females were being discriminated against because they weren’t allowed to serve in combat, but there’s a flip side to being “allowed”, and that’s being forced.
Take this hypothetical example: A male who grew up working with computers graduates high school and goes to the recruiter looking for a computer programing job in the Army. At the same time, a female with no special skills walks into the same recruiter’s office. For the sake of simplicity, say there are two positions available: an Infantry MOS and a computer MOS. The two recruits take initial entry exams and the male scores significantly better than the female for the computer MOS. Under current considerations, all of that is irrelevant. Unless the female volunteers for the Infantry, the male will be told the only position available is the Infantry MOS and the female will, by default, obtain the computer MOS because she’s female. In effect, no matter how much better suited the male is for the computer MOS, he will be forced into the Infantry or not join the Army – all because of his gender. Is that fair and equal treatment? If we determine that females can do the mission, then they should get the mission whether they want it or not, just like the males. The initial assignment should be based on equal testing and skills regardless of gender.
Take that one step further: In the event of a draft for a large-scale war, the primary MOS needed will be those involving grunts – the combat roles for such things as the WWII Normandy invasion or island hopping in the pacific. If we’re proposing that females should be allowed into combat arms like the males, then shouldn’t they also be subject to the flip side and be forced into the combat arms role in the event of a draft? If everything is equal, then why is it only males that are required to sign up for the selective service? Shouldn’t the females also be subject to the draft? Think about that the next time someone says a female shouldn’t be discriminated against by not being allowed in the combat arms role. There is a flip side, and if we’re saying everything is equal then let’s really be equal. I’ve heard the comment over-and-over from females saying, “I couldn’t do it, but if someone else can, they should be allowed to.” But that’s not really fair. The males don’t get that choice. In the event of a draft, they’re getting a one-way bus ticket to Fort Benning and an Infantry MOS. They won’t get the option of saying, “I couldn’t do it…” Now what’s fair and equal about that?
The initial reaction will be, “That’s extreme, we won’t have a draft and Brad’s just using scare tactics”, but take a look at what’s happening right this minute: We’re drawing the Army down to the lowest levels since before World War II, and the world isn’t getting any safer. Russia is pushing in the Ukraine, North Korea is testing our boundaries in the Far East, and Syria still threatens to destabilize the entire Middle East. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had a pretty good quote about the United States military predictions. He said “Our record of predicting where we will use military force since Vietnam is perfect — we have never once gotten it right.” Just because we don’t think there will be another major high-intensity conflict doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
This entire issue is larger than simply allowing select females to get what they want. If we’re truly arguing that gender is irrelevant, then the primary mission of the military should come to the fore: protecting the nation. And that mission has more to it than simply career aspirations. Fighting for the “right” to serve in combat could have unintended consequences beyond our current perception of what’s “fair”. There might come a time where our sons AND daughters are on the bus to Fort Benning.
Of course, this is all hypothetical food for thought, as this issue is truly about political correctness and not fairness. I don’t believe for a minute that any of that will happen. The US population is happy to allow others to seek their dreams out of choice, but will in no way stand for their own daughters being forced. It does bring up an interesting dilemma, though. If females are allowed into all combat MOS’s, I wonder if the ACLU will take up the case on behalf of the male who was discriminated against solely because of his biological gender, just as they did for the four female service members?