GI Jennifer Part II – Careful What You Wish For

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?


By |2014-04-16T16:55:31+00:00April 16th, 2014|Blog|13 Comments

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  1. Clif April 16, 2014 at 5:16 pm - Reply

    Well put and true. I think all is needed for a full fledged world war to happen is for North Korea to go nuclear and Iran jumping in to the fight. I won’t debate the likelihood or why, but if that happened we would be drawn into a massive world war. We would need women in combat roles. I don’t see the youth of today charged with that same will to fight like in WWII for either gender is my only concern.

  2. Joanna Istrate April 16, 2014 at 5:40 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this post, I don’t think I’ve ever considered that position. All I’ll say, in regards to selective service, YES make women sign up. All of us. Not “if you want to”. The majority of men in this country don’t want to serve, but have signed up by law. The same should go for women, absolutely. Do I want to join the military, honestly? No. Would I have the guts to join if we were in a time of crisis, or if a massive war broke out, necessitating a draft? Maybe. I have no way of knowing. Regardless, the government should have access to every single one of our citizens in times of crisis, including me. I’m no more valuable than my brother or any other man.

  3. Steven Gibbs April 16, 2014 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    Sect’y Gates is wrong. I do not believe we have correctly predicted where we would fight since the Rainbow plans of the 30’s. That correctly predicted we would be pushed out of the Phillippines and that it would be a 2 front war against Germany & Japan. No one expected Korea. Vietnam was expected to be advisers & SF only but then LBJ lost his head and sent in the troops. So with that stellar record I confidently predict that we will join the Union of South Africa against Zimbabwe! Or perhaps intervene in the civil war of New South Wales against the rest of Australia. Maybe the Andean border war between Chile and Argentina? I know we will invade the Yucatan and British Columbia simultaneously. Sorry, I’m losing control and veering off into utter silliness. But my record is as good as the DoD’s.

  4. Bette Barr April 16, 2014 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    I don’t believe women should be in combat positions. I don’t believe women should be serving, on the “front lines” with men. I do believe women can serve in support but that’s it. Call me old fashioned, but fighting is a man’s job, no matter how “tough” a woman can be. I think we have gone insane with political correctness and if we don’t correct it soon, we are destined for the trash heap of history!

    • R.B.S July 23, 2015 at 2:26 pm - Reply

      Bette, I respectfully disagree. The military isn’t about men, or women, or your (or anyone’s) personal ideology about gender, race, sexuality, etc. It is about serving and protecting our nation. If a women is skilled enough to become a SEAL (just an example, same applies for all other so-called ‘front line’ jobs) then by all means she should be allowed and encouraged to serve the country! How is letting willing citizens serve the country with the best of their ability regardless of gender a path to the ‘trash heap’? I feel like you are more concerned with making sure what the military, and women in general, do reflects your view than coming up with the best ways to make sure our armed forces are top-notch? As I’ve said before, if a woman is good enough to protect us Americans on the front lines, then let her and thank her like any soldier!

  5. Rachell April 17, 2014 at 3:38 am - Reply

    I agree with you Brad – if women are to be allowed into what were ‘men only’ roles, then they should be held to the same standards as the men. They should register at 18, and if they join the military, they shoutd take whatever position they are deemed suited for – even if its infantry. To not be fair about this would foment resentment amoungst the other men and cause innumerable problems.

    It just seems to me that in todays society, women are concidered more valuable than men, which is why the military has sought to exclude women from combat roles – so they can stay ‘safe’

    As a mother of 2 fabulous boys aged 16 $ 17, I can tell you that I value my sons lives just as much as a daughter’s, and if they had to go to war, I would be equally scared for both of then.

  6. Matthew Barber April 18, 2014 at 10:24 pm - Reply

    Clif wrote: “I don’t see the youth of today charged with that same will to fight like in WWII for either gender is my only concern.” This is the sort of thing my generation of veterans has to deal with every day. The romanticizing of World War II (or any previous engagement) over current conflicts and the complete disregard for the sacrifices we have made is a common complaint we hear all the time. The view that our current batch of warriors is somehow less than their forebears is a stigma that is as timeless as war itself. My generation’s warfighters are motivated to carry out the mission and serve our nation proudly and it shows through their sacrifice and professionalism. We have no draft. We are an all-volunteer force and arguably the greatest military power the world has ever seen. By command of logistics, leadership permeation and technological capability, my brothers and sisters are waging war in the same spirit as their ancestors. They are fighting a conflict that has low public support, a devious enemy and a civilian leadership element I can only characterize as weak. They are bleeding the same blood on the same ground as those who came before. So, you must understand that while we have been at war these past thirteen years, sacrificing family and friends for sake of duty, it is rather irritating to hear the lamentation of our efforts by those who are clearly not our peers.
    What sort of will do we lack? The will to win? Certainly not as we have won every single battle this war has offered. The will to persevere? The GWOT is our longest running campaign ever and we still fight it with honor while enduring back-to-back deployments, Stop-Loss policies and a public that has almost no interest in our war. The will to fight? Surely you have heard our names: Marcus Luttrell, Chris Kyle, Dakota Meyer, Kyle White and the list goes on. We have the will.
    It is popular right now to criticize the young men who are fighting your wars for you. We are lazy, maladjusted, complacent and a danger to everyone around us once we return to civilian life, or so the nightly news would have you believe. Our war is not sexy like videogames would have you believe World War II was. We are not headbutting Nazis on the beaches of Normandy. We are not fighting an enemy as obviously black-hat as the World War II veterans did. Our enemy has been much more cunning and elusive and unconventional. We are, however, fast-roping onto buildings full of muj’ and dropping Tangos at the cyclic rate with less casualties than ANY previous war of similar scale.
    The next time you think to make reference to my generation of warriors, please use some care. Most of us gave everything we had to our war. Many of us did not return home. We are still fighting a different war even now, as civilians. The spectre of war haunts us all. Comments carelessly aimed at the spirit of our warriors while we are still actively waging war is not just a faux-pas, it is an insult. Perhaps you would make amends by finding the next young warfighter in your local pub and buying him a beer and wishing him well. If not, merely keep your negativity to yourself. We still have a war to fight.

  7. Dawn Reinhardt May 3, 2014 at 8:37 am - Reply

    Wow Brad my head hurts from thinking so seriously and hard this early in the morning. Firstly, about the computer position and male vs. female getting it, I’d have to agree with you and if things changed then it should go to the most qualified, in this case the male. Secondly, stop-loss, its happening all the time because of lack of new recruits. There is even a movie called Stop-Loss with Channing Tatum & Gordon ….Levitt. I own it. Its where I learned about the concept. I had NO idea the government could do that to someone. Lastly, draft without distinction of sex. I have issues with a draft in the first place but understand it is a necessary evil.I get what you are saying. My head says that its only fair but my heart is my 15yr old daughter. This is a tough one for me. I am torn. You have given me much to rhink about.

    • Brad Taylor May 9, 2014 at 8:38 am - Reply

      Thanks! For the record, there is no stop-loss anymore. It was a temporary thing done for an emergency. The movie made it out to be much more than it really was. Currently, there are plenty of new recruits. In fact, the current problem is just the opposite: The Army is drawing down and now giving people the pink slip because they no longer have a position for them.

  8. Piper Bayard May 12, 2014 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    Spot on. If women are classified as suited for combat, preferences should be no more relevant for them than they are for men.

    As a mother, it was a bit of a jolt to have my 18-yr-old son’s college grades held hostage until he registered with Selective Service. He is more than capable of serving and willing to do so, but I am a mom, after all. When I heard combat positions were being opened to women, my first thought was to wonder if that meant I would soon see my daughter registered, too. What Western globalization advocates fail to consider is that people in other parts of the world just might see “globalization” as a world where THEY are in charge. While it’s not a given that we will ever enact the draft again, it’s hubris to assume that we won’t, and in that event, having large numbers of young women and men serving together in the infantry in combat situations is just a can of worms we may not want to open. Thank you for your thoughtful post.

  9. Linda Maye Adams May 17, 2014 at 7:31 pm - Reply

    I’m a Desert Storm veteran, so this is going to be a little bit of a different perspective. War is a terrible equalizer. It doesn’t care what gender you are. If you get shot, the gun’s not going to check to see what gender you are first.

    But with the ban on women in combat, that also effectively barred women from the very senior ranks where combat was part of getting promoted. That may, in turn, have contributed to the problems with sexual harassment today. Not only do the senior leaders not have enough diversity within their ranks; they end up hearing only one perspective. Plus, it inadvertently sends a message to the male soldiers that women can’t be trusted and that they will always be second class citizens, which further encourages sexual harassment.

    Now personally, I think the army needs to reevaluate its standards. They were designed specifically for men, and maybe that’s not the way to go. I’m talking about making them smarter and better, using the skills of both genders. I used to give physical training tests. The women would struggle with the runs, which are more suited for men; meanwhile, we always had men who wouldn’t run regularly to stay in shape ace the run anyway. One time we had a woman who taught aerobics, so she gave PT one day. Man, we listened to all the guys whine about doing “girl stuff,” and one of the problems was that they couldn’t ace the aerobics! It was actually hard for them and didn’t play to their strengths, so they didn’t like it. Surely there’s a better way than this kind of thing.

    • Brad Taylor May 18, 2014 at 3:30 pm - Reply

      First, thank you for your service. I think you hit the nail on the head with your second sentence. In the end, we don’t need to find standards that are suitable for any specific gender, but develop the standard that war demands, whether it’s running or aerobics. It doesn’t matter what we would like combat to be, only what it is, and that is what we should train for, regardless of gender. I don’t agree that not having combat prevents you from getting promoted, as I said in the first blog on this subject (GEN Eisenhower never heard a shot fired in anger – ever – yet he attained the highest rank of any general we’ve ever produced), but I do think you have a valid point about developing a mindset of a second class citizen. And that very well might be contributing to the sexual harassment problem we now are seeing. Thanks for the comment.

  10. Rachell June 11, 2014 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    I don’t know if any of you are familiar with American Ninja Warrior, but it’s an obstical course with a huge focus on upper body and hand grip strength and even includes a 14ft warped wall that competitors need to run up — many male athletes (professional and Olympic) can’t even finish the course — and this year, TWO women have.

    I have no idea what physical challenges are included in special forces training, but for those of you who say woman shouldn’t be allowed to tryout for Special Forces based solely on physicality should check out these two women on the American Ninja course. Granted, VERY few women could do it — but I feel these two women definitely prove its possible.

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