Women in Combat Arms Units comes to the fore

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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)







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I think there is a need for women in combat and don't see any problem with them being there. They play the same role as their male conterparts and contribute just as much. I am a Vietnam Vet and just from my combat experience there I believe they are needed.

Hi Michael, I to 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. Firstly, 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 mutiual survival every member in an infantry squad absolutly 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 rivers), and performing all basic bodily functions in full view of her squad mates - even deficating in her steel pot when necessary. The medics, their trainng, & what they carry will also need some serious updating. 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 bad idea in my view.

You closed "Women are needed" but did not say for what. Since we have fought without them in combat positions for over 200 years, where are they needed and what are they needed for? There is NO NEED for them, only their desire to serve or have other women serve. They provide a benefit in that they weigh less and their fighting equipment is faster more agile, but in an M1A1 probably cannot differentiate the 60 or so poundage difference. CLJ Captain (SEL) USN (RET)

Dangerous and foolish. This will compromise the safety and manuverability of any infantry unit. I'm a USMC VietNam Vet.

As a 26 year, and still counting veteran, I have no issues with it as long as the training requirements are across the board. Women will have to, at minimum, meet the current male standards to be qualified to fill the position. In todays military there is not an abundance of personnel to take up the slack for individuals who cannot keep up with the required pace. I have seen both genders exceed the standards and both fail to meet them. Do not lower the current standards and do not level the playing field to accommodate a specific group of individuals.

Agree 100%. Standards are standards. They should apply to males and females, and they should not be relaxed. That's not to say that they should not be changed at any time either. What if combat arms and equipment get light enough so that anyone can carry them. Should we still require a relatively heavy weight standard? Do all combat effective troops have to carry that (current) weight? If a small person is needed to infiltrate, with less equipment than usual, are not women small? Inflexibility is our worst enemy. We learned long ago, for example, that sending troops at each other in lines with single shot weapons was a poor combat technique. Our military has, for the last few decades, been able to make the change to a more mobile force, not tied to a huge naval fleet to move them from place to place. Times change. We need not to lock ourselves into fixed positions. If this idea (women combat troops) doesn't work, drop it. But don't drop it before it's tried out first.

A great idea that has been long in coming. Women will add another perspective to combat. and to shore
up our military.

Do they realize what will happen to them if captured? They can't scream rape or abuse since their captures won't care. How would they like the sex trade, especially if they are blondes. Some countries would love to capture one and sell them. I believe I would want only support positions if I were them.

No problem as long as there are no special provisions to accomodate them, like special weight packs.

From a Vietnam Vet. There is no place for women in combat. Unless you have been there, you won't understand.

David, I agree completely with what you said. A lot of the commentators, like the polititians, seem to have not been up close to it or there at all. They haven't 'smelled' it. Otherwise, they would not wish this on their daughters. Or their neighbors daughters. How could they? Women are valuable in the armed forces. There is no doubt of that. We shouldn't let PC cloud our judgement and lesson us as human beings...

If this society wants to increase PTSD to GIGANTIC proportions, just let what is written below happen to 'girls/females' before the eyes, ears, nose and throats of the boys/men you send into what most will never ever know or understand about real war. You CANNOT convey it with just words:

A Memoir by Robert Peter Thompson (USMC 1967-1969)

An excerpt from the chapter: "IT DON'T MEAN NOTHIN"

"There laid out shoulder-to-shoulder on the red ground before me, the red ground illuminated in strobinar flashes of ungodly light, six Marines on their backs, pressed against the blood soaked soil, being administered to by the corpsman who had just arrived that day from Alpha Battery, on his way home on a thirty day leave after being awarded a bronze star for heroism in the field of fire, when Alpha was almost overrun. All of the six Marines were alive and all of them had bloody stumps where their feet were supposed to be.

There was no sound."

An excerpt from the chapter: "RED LIGHT"

"The dark shape drew me down and as I bent my legs to a crouched position to identify the object lying there on the ground before me, it seemed as if the pre-dawn light had intensified ever so slightly. There before me as my eyes flexed to focus on the object for as much detail as the slender light would allow, lay a large mat of what appeared to be hair. Human hair. And my mind went through a whirl of: "What the hell is that? It's hair! Where did it come from? How could it be? Why would somebody scalp someone?"

"I didn't know what else to think. I was nineteen and I had never been in a real battle before and my brain actually translated what I was seeing from images instilled in my mind from old Western Movies seen as a child, where the Indians would during warfare, skin the scalps off their victims. As a trophy and as a warning to their enemy. As an act of terror. And as I took the scalp into my free hand these were the confused thoughts that were sailing through my brain, until I turned it over and I saw the ants.

I let it fall from my grasp."

"“The light continued to increase. A few stuttering steps forward and I once again came to a halt and this time there was no ambiguity. It was a helmet. A helmet lying top side up on the ground as if someone had simply set it down, except that the whole back of it was missing. . . As if it had been neatly cut away with a hacksaw in a perfectly circular pattern. I lifted it with my free hand and slowly rotated it and there on the inside evenly spread throughout the interior of the helmet was a thick coating of what I immediately recognized as brains."

When you wind up in hand to hand the stronger and bigger you are is an advantage. rgardless of the sex a Man usually has the advantage. women could man, equipment, electronics etc in a combat situation but hand to hand I would rather a strong man watching my back.

A great decision, long overdue. They can do it!

Nothing wrong with it, most other countries woman have been in combat roles for years.

We are just catching up.....

Name other countries that put women in front line or special ops units, and don't say Israel. They stopped.

I can't believe the military chiefs of staff have without duress approved the stupid decision to authorize women in combat positions. The Legion approved this action only with the proviso that the standards would not be lowered. Are you kidding me? You know darned well that will happen now or in the future. Then it will be too late to get "the camel's nose out of the tent." Rescind this order NOW!l

As long as they go through the same training exactly, it fantastic idea.

When will this stop? I was a fireman after I got out of the Corps, and had to train and review the first women firefighters,they had to lower the standard of training so they could pass. In combat, the men will feel that they have to protect the women in situations where they should direct their attention to the mission. There are already problems with rape during training and families divorcing, if you have to share a foxhole with the opposite sex,that makes for a bad mix. Not only that, it is bad enough that men come back with broken bodies, why or how is it right to expect women to suffer the same horrors of war? I thought we were more civilized than that. I am part American Indian and war was conducted by the men not the women. Why is there so much violence today? Because, women have chosen to disreguard the most important jobs of their life, teaching the children right form wrong,and providing a good home. Wake up people

i couldn't agree more

Any comparative info from the Israeli military? Believe women have fought in the combat arms for many years?

Somebody needs to be there to rear the children in a moral environment! What happens if both parents are in combat?

This will allow the women to officially recieve infantry (front-line) training, and may help to increase situational awareness. It will definately open up rank advancement to women. My mind still has a hard time getting it's arms around the potential increase of mmothers coming home in body bags. I must be just old fashioned. However, any soldier coming home in a body bag is not an exciting prospect for me to contemplate either. Yes, I realize it is a possibllity, as I am a veteran, it's still a somber experience for me. I have yet to see anyone get out of this life alive, so it happens to everyone, sometimes sooner and sometimes later.

Have you ever witnessed women in the military who had a hard time making rank?

If woman are able to compete against men in the ultimate contest, life and death, why don't they compete against them contact sports. I spent twenty years in the Infantry, every time they opened more MOS for women they lowered the physical standards for them. Political correctness does not win wars. It gets soldiers killed.

Somebody needs to be there to rear the children in a moral environment! What happens if both parents are in combat?

Or even non-physical competence. I firmly believe women are capable of almost every act required of them in a combat situation and I know several that are deadly shots on the range. And as long as women can pass EXACTLY the same physical requirements, then go for it.

However, I have not seen a lot of women capable of dragging a 200 pound (plus gear) wounded soldier 30 meters away from the line of fire over rough ground. Have you?

How would you like being that soldier? With a squad of women backing you up?

I am so happy and impressed to see the overwhelming responses here are for equality in all respects, and the opportunities and responsibilities that accompany that. The military is all about TRAINING, QUALIFYING, UTILIZING OUR TALENTS and PERFORMING AT ONE's BEST! At last, ALL our talents and capabilities will be utilized!!! I vote for the most qualified and well trained to take jobs, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or any other arbitrary disqualifier. And, thank you to ALL our men and women who serve our country every day around this globe!! WELL DONE!

Throughout the media I'm hearing and reading some of the same lame-brained, prejudiced excuses I read concerning "allowing" the blacks to fly combat missions in WW2. Israel, Eritrea, to name a few, have no limitations on combat based on gender, just on cappability, which is real-time validated in training exams, etc, prior to the intended combatant becoming officially billeted prior to combat orders.
Sure, give 'em the "go ahead" and back them up with our support and prayers as civilians did for us when we, ourselves, were in the direct line of fire.

I am a woman and have been in combat. I have mixed feelings about it. There are many MOS's that women can effectively serve in combat operations as service support and direct support. I agree with many of you that in front line fighting that women could be a liability or distraction. Taking into account that combat arms are less than 25% of today's military, there is a huge area for women to serve in combat. I have served for over 20 years and have seen huge changes in the role of women in the military, we are a force muliplier for sure.

I see no problem with qualified women on the front lines exposed to the same danger as men. I do see a very big problem when it comes down to tactical assault teams sent in behind enemy limes. When hand to hand combat comes to play, woman should not participate. They may be able to shoot just as good, run almost as fast, but when it comes down to hand to hand close quarters lethal combat woman by genetic design are at a severe strength disadvantage no matter how well trained.

That is just an age old fact that will not change (unless steroids and male hormones become the standard intake for the woman in the military behind enemy lines). Outside of that one issue I do not see a problem in all other respects.

If a woman enlist in any branch of the armed services, there is always the potential for them to be in combat. However, certain positions may require physical attributes that a woman might not possess, essentially due to their physical stature and those positions are best reserved for their male counterparts. Yet there may be many combat roles that women can be assigned to that do not require physical prowess, and they should not be precluded from these positions.

Woman are woman and men are men. It is not a question of ability or right from wrong, if you want to have more sexual assaults, lawsuits and mistreatment of fellow soldiers, then you will have your wish if you allow this to happen. Again, not condoning any misbehavior, but it WILL happen...

This decision is another in the series of feel-good actions brought to us by social engineers. The purpose of the military, especially front-line combat units, is present overwhelming military power that subdues the opponent as efficiently as possible. Incorporating females into this challenging assignment will only weaken the forces we array against our enemies. Females may have equal or superior ability in less physically demanding roles like communications, radar, medical and the like. But not front-line combat. Not all men are capable of such assignments. Those MOS's should be reserved only for those who meet the stringent requirements relevant. They should not be "opened up" to females solely to allow them the same career and promotion tracks. If this imprudent strategy is embraced, however, more casualties will surely result. But not only more casualties, but needless, avoidable casualties. We should not do this.

Women have been in combat for thousands of years. The Israeli Defense Force has had women in combat roles for decades--the same for the Chinese, the Taiwanese, and the South Koreans. To falsely claim that it is political correctness or that women are not up to the job is ludicrous based on history and facts.

I would have to say I had hoped it would not come to this but since it has, all I can say is please, make sure they are qualified beyond being female. I would reference the Russian snipers of WWII and say they did a superb job. As to women being SEALs and the like, pleae. rest assured that if they don't want you there they will find ways to wash you out, ways to insure you DOR, etc. IF - and a bif IF - they are qualidied and if they can cut it, I would say "Welcome aboard!"

If one looks to history, one will find that "women" make the most fierce worriers.

This decision is another in the series of feel-good actions brought to us by social engineers. The purpose of the military, especially front-line combat units, is present overwhelming military power that subdues the opponent as efficiently as possible. Incorporating females into this challenging assignment will only weaken the forces we array against our enemies. Females may have equal or superior ability in less physically demanding roles like communications, radar, medical and the like. But not front-line combat. Not all men are capable of such assignments. Those MOS's should be reserved only for those who meet the stringent requirements relevant. They should not be "opened up" to females solely to allow them the same career and promotion tracks. If this imprudent strategy is embraced, however, more casualties will surely result. But not only more casualties, but needless, avoidable casualties. We should not do this.

I have no problems as long as these changes do not eventually force my wife, daughter, grand daughter etc. to join the military. I spent enough time in the U.S. Army to realize some women can do as well as the average guy in most endeavors. if there are some foolish women who want to serve on the front lines, and they qualify as a man must, then let them.

A second reason I have for allowing women to serve in the combat ranks is, assuming some of them are captured by the enemy, maybe our country will not turn its back on the POW/MIA issue as it did in the past ( In particular the Vietnam War POW's). Possibly I am being too optimistic, but I have a feeling there would be a lot more pressure on our Commander In Chief's to get our POW's back if they included females. By the way, does anyone know yet what happened to the 300 or more POW's that were left behind in Laos? How about the top100 Major discrepancy cases in Vietnam? Say thanks to Senators Kerry and McCain for burying the POW/MIA issue so that we could begin economic trade with Communist Vietnam. Maybe women POW's will make it more difficult for turky's like Kerry and McCain to succeed with their deceit again. Am I wrong?

Women have been serving in combat since the U.S. unleashed the unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They may not have been assigned officially to combat units but sheer necessity has put them in harm's way alongside their male counterparts. More than 150 women have come home in body bags and a thousand others have left parts of themselves on the battlefield.

Secretary Panetta's announces really formalizes the existing reality and gives female soldiers and sailor a better chance to earn promotion. Who knows who will be the first woman awarded the MOH.

We have volunteer armed forces and when women volunteer they realize that their lives may be the price they pay for their service.

We owe it to our women to let them do their best and to be rewarded for their service.

I guess I'm not surprised... equal rights, equal opportunity, equal pay... I guess women aren't the weaker sex or will they only engage in hand to hand combat against women opponents... what a joke! This sure was a better society with a lot less problems when we had stay at home moms and being there while their children were growing up. Hey, we might as well now scrap Title IX in sports and let the women play on the men's teams and dictate that each team must have an equal roster of men and women. That would eliminate the need to have both women and men's sports at each college, save some money, and maybe lessen the cost of tuition. If they can hold their own in combat then surely they can hold their own on playing fields and courts. With decisions like this, and we wonder why government is screwed up!

I still see her face, but not anymore than any of the others.

If women are to be integrated into front line combat units they should have to meet the same physical standards as their male counterparts, which has not been the case in the past. They should also be required to register for the draft and not just have the right to choose whether or not they will serve if conscription becomes necessary. Take the good with the bad or get off the pot.

Unthinkable! God forbid if the woman gets captured. She will risk being gang-raped by the enemy.

And that will people more people in danger trying to rescue her

as a former Marine, I dislike any women in the jobs of combat/deployment. Due to pregnancy, single Momhood, etc,, when the woman cannot deploy, either the unit goes shorthanded or it picks up another man that might have just got back/ rotated. This happened many times. I do agree that if the women are to be held to the same standards as men, go for it. NO EXCEPTIONS... This has to be the case.

Has anyone even asked women if that is their desire? I honestly doubt it. I have run across a few women that I would consider pretty rugged, but only a couple of them that I would consider 'manly'. Women now belong to police & fire depts. but they still bring up the rear even there. It would be pleasant to share a fox hole with a couple girls, but not in war time, I'd look for another hole.This is only political BS and another voting block for the future. What next, gays in the military? People of the same sex getting married? Prayer banned? D'oh!

Last time I was in combat I did not see any women' s bathrooms, some of the LZs were not a pretty sight or smell, I for one can't see any women there

There are a number of reasons that should prohibit women serving in combat units on the ground. Flying aircraft or on combat ships may be justified. However, here are some considerations to think about: 1) Physical capabilities. Women are (for the most part) less capable physically then men and should be held to the same standards. 2) Emotionally. The death of a woman will affect a young man far more greatly then another man. In the age deographic (18-25 yrs) hormones are raging and men will be more emotionally attached to a young woman (lust?) 3) Hygenically. In a combat unit in the field there are no toilet or hygenic facilities, and having a young woman going to the bathroom in the open in front a battalion of horny young men is trouble looking for a place to happen. 4) Economic penalties. In this age demographic you can expect a large percentage of women to be pregnant or non-deployable due to a recent birth. This means that a unit must either go to combat at less then optimal manning, or over man the unit to compensate for the shortfall. 5) A society can lose half of its young men and still stay viable, but if it loses half its child bearing women it is in trouble and may not recover.

Just because some women want to fight in combat doesn't mean all women want togo to war. And if my 18 y/o son gets drafted then your 18 y/o daughter should also get drafted if the restriction is removed. This is a stupid idea being driven by the liberal politically correct imbeciles currently in power. Panetta should be sent to the front lines so he can personally experience the reality of war rather then the idealism of a few idiots.

While they may be well in fact capable, do we want to bury mothers who died in combat? Is this where we are now? What do we tell their children? That their mother was sent into a hot LZ in the name of parity?

Having served in units that contained women and didn't contain women, I am certain that this will erode our ability to wage war. There should be no higher priority for our military. I'm sure Panetta understands this; he just doesn't care.


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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.