National Security

Social Engineering Arsonists in the Military Firehouse

What women in combat units do for unit cohesion.

Charles Paige · Sep. 14, 2015
Female Marines in GCEITF

In response to an Oct. 1 deadline for requests for exemptions to a Department of Defense-wide policy change that opens all previously close military occupational specialties to females, several experiments and studies conducted by the services have recently come to a close. The results are unequivocal, but they will be ignored.

The saga of two female soldiers’ (both officers) successful bid to complete the Army’s Ranger School has been well documented and has already led the Army to lift restrictions on female participation in future Ranger School classes, if not (yet) for infantry units or the Ranger Regiment itself. Similarly, the Marine Corps provisionally opened its Infantry Officers Course (IOC) to females, with none of the candidates enduring beyond the initial stage.

While the Marine Corps’ nine-month Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force (GCEITF) study was arguably more ambitious (and relevant), it was conducted with atypically little fanfare and has just begun to receive significant media attention. Rather than assess the performance of individual females in a school environment as the Ranger School and IOC experiments did, it placed carefully screened females in units that are currently closed to females, put them through a mock training “work up” at their home station and then a simulated combat deployment (to the Marine Corps’ desert training center in California).

Given that combat is a “team sport” — albeit one with life and death consequences — the GCEITF results are much more compelling than those of the individual Ranger School successes or IOC failures. The GCEITF study reported similar attrition due to physical issues as the other two, but far more importantly noted a breakdown in unit cohesion, the holy grail of small infantry units.

Coming on the heels of many other recent changes — implementation of counterinsurgency and irregular warfare concepts and lifting restrictions on homosexual and transgender personnel, not to mention the chaos wrought by Barack Obama’s foreign policy — it would seem prudent to at least pause before imposing another significant stressor on the troops at the tip of the spear. Alas, despite the services’ good faith efforts to objectively answer the question raised by DoD, some pundits and politicians want us to ignore the results and place the self-esteem of a small population of females above the national security of the nation.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus is the lead cheerleader for the group — or as one writer termed it, “an arsonist in the fire department” — and unfortunately is in position to impose his personal, politically driven views on the Marine Corps, studies be damned. He chalked it up to sexism, saying, “It started out with a fairly large component of the men thinking ‘this is not a good idea,’ and ‘women will never be able to do this.’ When you start out with that mindset, you’re almost presupposing the outcome.”

However, as one wise Marine Corps General Officer who commanded infantry units from the platoon to division level and opposes changing the current policy observed, “If I’m wrong, the cost may be denied opportunity to strong and impressive young women. If you’re wrong, our national security is shaken and there is a butcher’s bill to pay. Make your choice. The line forms on the left.”

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