The Right Opinion

Women in Combat

By Walter E. Williams · Feb. 6, 2013

A senior Defense Department official said the ban on women in combat should be lifted because the military's goal is “to provide a level, gender-neutral playing field.” I'd like to think the goal of the military should be to have the toughest, meanest fighting force possible. But let's look at “gender-neutral playing field.”

The Army's physical fitness test in basic training is a three-event physical performance test used to assess endurance. The minimum requirement for 17- to 21-year-old males is 35 pushups, 47 situps and a two-mile run in 16 minutes, 36 seconds or less. For females of the same age, the minimum requirement is 13 pushups, 47 situps and a 19:42 two-mile run. Why the difference in fitness requirements? “USMC Women in the Service Restrictions Review” found that women, on average, have 20 percent lower aerobic power, 40 percent lower muscle strength, 47 percent less lifting strength and 26 percent slower marching speed than men.

William Gregor, professor of social sciences at the Army's Command and General Staff College, reports that in tests of aerobic capacity, the records show, only 74 of 8,385 Reserve Officers' Training Corps women attained the level of the lowest 16 percent of men. The “fight load” – the gear an infantryman carries on patrol – is 35 percent of the average man's body weight but 50 percent of the average Army woman's weight. In his examination of physical fitness test results from the ROTC, dating back to 1992, and 74,000 records of male and female commissioned officers, only 2.9 percent of women were able to attain the men's average pushup ability and time in the two-mile run.

In a January report titled “Defense Department 'Diversity' Push for Women in Land Combat” Elaine Donnelly, director of the Center for Military Readiness, points to U.S. Army studies showing that women are twice as likely to suffer injuries and are three times more undeployable than men. Women are less likely to be able to march under load – 12.4 miles in five hours with an 83-pound assault load – and to be able to crawl, sprint, negotiate obstacles with that load or move a casualty weighing 165 pounds or more while carrying that load. Plus, there are muscle-challenging feats, even for men, such as field repairs on an M1A1 Abrams tank.

Then there's the pregnancy issue, which makes women three to four times as likely as men to be undeployable. And once deployed, they often have to be medically evacuated, leaving units understrength. Finally, there's another difference between men and women rarely considered in deliberation about whether women should be in combat. All measures of physical aggressiveness show that men, maybe because of testosterone levels 10 times higher, are more aggressive, competitive and hostile than women. Those attributes are desirable for combat.

Here are a couple of what-if questions. Suppose a combat unit is retreating in mountainous terrain in Afghanistan, where a person's aerobic capacity really makes a difference, and the women in the unit can't keep up with the men. What would you propose, leaving the women behind to possibly be captured by the Taliban or having the unit slow down so the women can keep up, thereby risking causalities or capture? What if a male soldier is washed out of the Army's Advanced Infantry Training program because he cannot pass its physical fitness test whereas a female soldier who can't perform at his level is retained? Should male soldiers be able to bring suit and be awarded damages for sex discrimination? How much respect can a male soldier have for his female counterpart, who is held to lower performance standards?

There's another issue. The Selective Service System's website has the following message about draft registration: “Even though the Secretary of Defense has decided to allow women in combat jobs, the law has not been changed to include this. Consequently, only men are currently required to register by law with Selective Service during ages 18 thru 25. Women still do not register.” How can that, coupled with differences in performance standards, possibly be consistent with the Defense Department's stated agenda “to provide a level, gender-neutral playing field”?


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DaneChile in Unknown said:

Fine. Let´s do it. But none of this "selective equality" nonsense. Require women to register for the draft. The draft WILL become necessary when men decide not to volunteer for duty with homosexuals and women. Then all the libs with daughters being called up will remember for whom they voted.

For the reasons cited by Dr. Williams, we should make a unit vulnerable due to a few women in its midst. So form companies composed strictly of women. When they get wiped out in combat, oh well... It´s what they wanted.

If the above policies are implemented, we will see a most dramatic drop in the number of women who woluntarily enter the Armed Forces. That, coupled with the decrease in men, will necessitate the draft again.

Way to go femenists, homosexuals and hussein.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 1:52 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

One of the things never mentioned when talking about women in combat is what happens to the unit when she gets pregnant and has to be sent home. I can tell you that during peacetime someone had to step in and do both their job and hers. In a combat situation that would make the mission more dangerous because of her not being there pulling her weight. 22 years in the Army tells me this is not a good policy change.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 6:58 AM

fred in oregon said:

geeeze. women in combat. this above most else i read, is by far the dumbest idea yet. dumb dumb dumb. while i cannot speak directly to the subject,as i have not been in the military, i can speak about what i observed at my police accedemy class. we had 5 women in training to be cops.the "standards" in physicle fitness and ability were considerably lower for the "ladies" than the men. the women continually failed in the physicle areas. yet they were given a "pass" through the entire course of instruction. on the last day, before we were to be awarded our diplomas, all of us were required to do "felony" traffic stops on suspect vehicles with hostages in the vehicles. 3 out of 5 of the women in my class, REAPEDLY, after INTENSE INSTRUCTION on who not to shoot, shot everybody in the vehicles. not 1 time, not 2 times but 3 TIMES. the men were not allowed to make a mistake even 1 time. if we shot 1 of the hostages, just 1, we were washed out of the program and did not graduate.
now i know shooting people is not the same as "carrying" a combat load, but it did appear that the 3 women that did not graduate became too flustered and confused, and simply eliminated the threat by killing everybody in the cars.
and now the government wants women to do combat. if it wasnt so serious, it would be laughable. i was taught that women are special, to be protected, seems that is also gone by the wayside.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 7:53 AM

fred in oregon said:

pardon me, i forget to add the following. the 2 women that did graduate, did not last 5 years on the job. they wisely decided to get married, have babies and be moms. the women i did work with, were often using excessive force during and after an arrest. and were ALWAYS given a pass. theres something about smacking a guy with your night-stick after hes in cuffs, thats just not right.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 7:59 AM

rab in jo,mo said:

Great article as usual, Dr. Williams.

If women want equality, then equality they shall have. No reduction in fitness levels, no maternity leave (this should earn a female soldier a dishonorable discharge as a violation of their terms of enlistment). Pregnancy is 100% preventable, becoming pregnant while on active duty and depriving one's unit of the skills for which one is trained is dereliction of duty.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 8:06 AM

Diane in Tx replied:

Just an FYI, when using birth control to prevent pregnancy it is 99% effective. Only abstinence is 100% effective. When you ask for the same standards are you saying both men and women will be celibate while enlisted? Even if they are married? Many won't stay past their first enlistment if that is the case. Also, if she does get pregnant, are you going to DD the male who got her pregnant too?

I think the idea of women in combat reduces the effectiveness of our fighting force for many reasons, but I don't think getting pregnant is grounds for a dishonorable discharge.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 12:29 PM

rab in jo,mo replied:

So, only abstinence is 100% effective - you act as if this is an impossible standard. It is something to consider then, before enlisting and signing up for a combat MOS. Last I checked, the military is a voluntary commitment, don't like the rules? Don't enlist. I am not saying men and women both must be celibate, but if a male soldier impregnates a woman, the military does not lose the combat effectiveness of that soldier. If a female soldier becomes pregnant, then that soldier is out of commission for some time and the effectiveness of the unit is impaired. What about all the training time and effort put into that soldier, then when she's needed for combat, she's going to call a "time out" for a preventable medical condition? Who takes up the slack then? I'd consider that being derelict.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 2:23 PM

Chuck in TX said:

A senior Defense Department official said the ban on women in combat should be lifted because the military's goal is "to provide a level, gender-neutral playing field." I'd like to think the goal of the military should be to have the toughest, meanest fighting force possible.

It is all right there. I agree with your goal and anything that detracts from that should be dismissed accordingly. Leave the gender neutral stuff for the post office and other government departments. Only someone who has not served could think it is the same thing.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 9:42 AM

wjm in Colorado said:

The marxists are truely insane, the evidence is equating combat with a playing field. They cannot comprehend that it is war, not recess. Who has the war on women? They will cause more casualties and diminish our ablity to fight, I believe it is intentional. Traitors!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 9:46 AM


Right on Mr. Williams!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 11:55 AM

Arabiascott in Indiana said:

When have our enemies ever indicated special respect for our diversity sensitivities? Has any enemy combatant ceased firing out of consideration for fairness? What idiot DoD planner decided our military would be more effective if it deployed women in combat roles? What war are they trying to win, exactly? Do they think the enemy will reciprocate and deploy women in the interest of a level playing field of fire? War is hell, someone rightly said. I haven't raised my girls to die in battle.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 12:08 PM

Patrick in Houston replied:

In answer to your questions:
-President Obama and his administration
-The war to overthrow the United States Constitution from within
-of course not

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 2:55 PM

B Hall in Harrisville said:

There are many, many ways "to serve your country in the Military" for females, the front lines IS NOT the way to do it ! Take a good look at ALL the countries that our military has a 'Physical Presence' in, WHICH, if any, hold their own women up to any respect or importance ? Middle Eastern countries loathe & despise America (except for what $$ they can weasel out of us), if 'females' are engaged, WHO DO YOU THINK THEY ARE GOING TO GO AFTER FIRST, TO CAPTURE, RAPE, TORTURE, & KILL ?????
Imagine, if you will, the diabolical "Bataan March" or "Hanoi Hilton Imprisonment", IF THERE HAD BEEN WOMEN IN THE INFANTRIES CAPTURED ?? The Abu-dhabi (sp ?) incidents had female soldiers present when the enemies were "humiliated" & that infuriated & inflamed the exposure & punishing of OUR soldiers. In the Middle Eastern world, to question or infer a lack of SUPERIORITY to the Male Culture of Dominance begs problems & putting women there, only heightens & increases the risks to ALL of our Military Personnel in that part of the world. Yes, the pregnancy issue is one factor, but then I might go on a limb here and suggests that the majority of the females (?) who are pushing for this change are NOT as likely to get pregnant as supposed, and have "butch" partners, or ARE the Alpha partner, & want 'to prove' they are as "macho" as their male counterparts. This is REALLY more about getting gay partners on the roles of Military Benefits & Retirements, if the truth be told.
The fact that they are already talking about concessions for Physical Fitness, weight loads carried, drafting personnel, etc.says volumes. We are carrying this "Neutral-gender" puke waaaay too far already, just to appease 2 % of the population, (just look at what has been stirred up with the Boy Scouts of America) ! Demi Moore did us no favors making "G.I. Jane", & considering where her life is right now, she did herself no favor either. (Can you imagine her in the platoon led by John Wayne, invading "The Sands of Iwo-Jima" ?) I just can't see Martha pushing off in a row boat across the Delaware, or Julia Grant riding to Appomattox, or Beatrice Patton riding in the tank behind George's, or Jean MacArthur wading onto the beach, or Brenda Schwarzkopf heading out with a "pack" across the sand. When the chips are down, I want a red-blooded American MALE on the front lines as they have been doing since the 1700's. Don't "fix" what ain't broke.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 1:47 PM

Tapdaddy in Indiana said:

"A senior Defense Department official said the ban on women in combat should be lifted because the military's goal is "to provide a level, gender-neutral playing field."
No, the military's goal is to kill people and break things to beat into submission, our enemies, there is no playing.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 2:07 PM

MajorStu in Peru, IN said:

Amen, Dr. Williams.

It is obvious from the physical training standards that the Army is already dismally failing at their goal "to provide a level, gender-neutral playing field."

I served in the first days of platoon gender-integration in ROTC (1976). The standard then was men run 2 miles, women run 1 mile. Although running isn't my strongest suit, my personal goal was to finish my first mile before any of the women, and I made it. I have no doubts that one of two options will happen - either there will be separate gender-normed standards, or the battle-tested standards for the men today will be watered down. In either case, it will compromise the ability of the combat units to accomplish their mission. I know the argument about the biggest and strongest women overlap the physical abilities of the smallest and weakest men. And I knew some women in the Army that could kick the butts of just about anybody who crossed them. But shouldn't policy be based on the norm, and not the exception?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 3:32 PM

Master Gunny in tifton GA said:

From over 30 years of military service I could recount dozens of stories about why women in combat is just a terrible idea but no one in the fantasy land of liberal thought would listen or understand. It is truly tragic that the people making these decisions have never served a day in the service nor been any closer to combat than the Saturday night fights. They are not just putting our servicemen and women in grave danger they are risking the safety of the unit and perhaps the nation. Liberalism is a mental disorder and sadly seems to be untreatable.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 3:41 PM

Travis in Texas said:

Women in combat? ...BIG MISTAKE! the ban on women in combat should be lifted because the military's goal is "to provide a level, gender-neutral playing field." WHAT??? Are you kidding me? The physical differences should enough to put this argument to rest. What are they going to try next, force the NFL to allow women on their teams? Physical reasons aside... What about the social/sexual dynamics introduced on the battlefield?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 3:54 PM

XCpt in the ether said:

Gender neutral. Does that mean that a preference isn't provided to one gender or the other? Like that will ever happen.

The military currently operates under dual standards of fitness for men and women. You can expect that to continue and that combat unit readiness will suffer because of it. The twisted view of fairness that they envision allows for a woman to be on the front line of combat but somebody else has to do the heavy lifting.

The obvious solution is to take the 535 members of Congress and parachute drop them onto the front lines in Afghanistan so they can get a first hand look at how their concepts of fairness actually play out in the real world. That would be an episode of Survivor that I would actually watch.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 5:28 PM