04 December 2015
A MOST DISTURBING DECISION
As reported in Politico and elsewhere, the Secretary of Defense has placed the liberal agenda and Democrat Party politics above National defense. He has decided that our Country will be militarily stronger and more secure if women are ordered to serve in the infantry, armor, and artillery branches. To get to the meat of the article, zip through Politico’s normal “This Town” emphasis on the “Republican Reaction.” The reaction is interesting, but generally irrelevant.
This decision saddens me, because I generally respect Secretary Carter as a leader. It disturbs me because it represents a threat to our national security. Politics has no place in the front-line foxhole.
Ignoring the “draft” red herring, I write about the Secretary’s decision to ignore the advice of the Service Chiefs, men who have spent their entire lives mastering the nasty business of warfare. I worry, in particular, about the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Joseph Dunford, USMC, who was Commandant of the Marine Corps as the decision was being made. Secretary Carter and the White House have ignored and simply wished away his reasoned and reasonable objections.
Remember, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the principal military adviser to the President, Secretary of Defense, and the National Security Council (NSC). This is important when one recalls that none of the current Service Secretaries has ever served in the armed forces, nor have the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security or the National Security Advisor. All tend to be career politicians or bureaucrats. The National Security Advisor, a former member of the Obama presidential campaign team, is serving in her post, which, unlike all the service Chiefs (including Defense and Homeland Security) does not require approval of the Senate. Because of her misleading, if not outright false, statements on behalf of the White House concerning the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, she could not have been confirmed as Secretary of State. National Security Advisor was her reward for political loyalty.
Therefore, when it comes to dealing with the realities of close combat, the civilian secretaries have special need to listen to the advice of those who have had that experience.
Now, I recognize that people will say that General Dunford was the only Service Chief to object to opening all Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs) to women. There are several possible explanations for this.
The Air Force Chief of Staff is a career fighter/attack pilot and the Chief of Naval Operations is a career submarine officer. Their branches do not regularly participate in direct, 24/7, close combat and the two chiefs reflect that mentality. Pilots go back to air bases for showers, hot chow, air conditioned tentage, and when they are in combat, it is from several thousand feet. As the Air Force pilot I know best once told me in a letter from Saudi Arabia regarding their basing arrangements, “Dad, we are the Air Force, not the Marines. We don’t do suffering.” Likewise, submariners live a cramped, crowded life, but they have not been in combat since WWII.
The Army Chief of Staff is a little different. He is an infantryman, but spent most of his junior officer career with Special Forces (“Green Berets”). He has commanded a brigade and two divisions, but his only combat experience is as a division commander. More importantly, the Army surrendered on the issue of women in the combat arms several years ago. He may have seen the issue as the bell that cannot be un-rung. The Department of the Army is a huge bureaucracy, and most of its policy making professionals are either people who have never served in uniform or those who have never served in rifle platoons, rifle companies, and infantry battalions where the dirtiest of the dirty work is a professional constant.
General Dunford has done it all. He, alone, can speak to the day-to-day effects that this new policy will have on unit effectiveness, morale, and discipline. And he was ignored! This in spite of a year-long test conducted by the Marine Corps in the field, which is the combat infantryman’s work space, that showed that in units at all levels, mixed gender units did not perform as well as all male units and were not as effective.
Ineffectiveness in combat results in needless death and injury. As an officer of Marines, General Dunford has lived a life dedicated to two things: accomplishing the mission and taking care of his Marines. No Marine infantry officer I have known in my now-fifty years as a Marine would ever tolerate someone who is, in any way, a threat to the effectiveness of his unit, even if that individual really, really wants to be there.
I speak from experience—I had a Marine in Vietnam who could not tolerate C-rations. His weight plummeted. We sent him to the rear, but before the helicopter that would take him to An Hoa came in, he sneaked along on a combat patrol. When we were ambushed, we suddenly had to take care of the enemy AND a collapsed Marine. (After the fire fight, he was raving until I clocked him, thus earning the privilege of carrying him in a fireman’s carry back to the Company position.) My platoon at the time was 19 Marines, although the T/O was 42. For number’s sake, and because he honestly wanted to serve, we could have kept him, but the detriment to the platoon as a whole made that impossible.
So, in the face of clear and convincing evidence that introducing women into a fire team, rifle squad, rifle platoon and infantry battalion will most likely deteriorate the combat effectiveness of the unit, all we get is the rosy statement that “Carter noted that about 220,000 military jobs were closed to women and would now be opened, allowing women to operate tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat.”
The infantry is just a job—the same as physician, files clerk, automobile mechanic, and short-order cook? This is just another government jobs program. Ask anyone who served in Vietnam about their experience when the last lessening of standards, LBJ's "Project 500,000" and they will tell you that combat is no place to test social theories.
You see, one does not “operate” a tank. The crew fights their tank as a weapon. If the loader cannot reload as fast because she is not as strong as a male replacement might be, the result is not a missed deadline costing paying overtime to finish the job; it is the death of the tank and its crew. If the mortar crew cannot set up their weapon as quickly as possible because the woman assigned to hump the fifty-pound baseplate (along with the rest of her gear) is slow, several riflemen may be killed or wounded for lack of supporting fires.
Not to worry, we are assured. “[Secretary Carter] said the military would maintain high standards for all combat assignments but explained that some standards were being modified after studies demonstrated they were "outdated" or not reflective of the skills necessary for the jobs.
And there you have it. Standards will be changed to accommodate women. Never mind that centuries of warfare at the lowest levels have demonstrated a need for endurance, strength, simple bone structure are necessary. If we have to do away with pull ups (going over walls, through windows), running at speed (forced marches when all the trucks are down and you just have to cover that 14 miles in two-and-a-half hours), and shorter training days because of increased knee, hip, and ankle injuries ("People, the lieutenant cannot join you in today’s attack because she cannot walk after the forced march. Sorry."), we are less effective on the battlefield.
But as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, when even the reduced standards cause proportionately more women than men to fail to qualify, the proponents of this change will call for getting rid of more “outdated” standards.
Finally, I have personally had the sad responsibility of relieving for cause subordinates who just could not do the job and who were affecting the effectiveness of my command. Just wait for the uproar the first time a woman is relieved for cause, not necessarily for any single error or omission, but simply because she is no good at being a rifle platoon commander. Who wants to bet that the company commander is the one who ends up being relieved?
But, say the proponents of this change, only those women who want to be 0311 riflemen (riflepersons?) will be put in the infantry. Really? Anyone who says that has never been in the armed forces. You may get to express your preferences for MOS and assignment, but the “needs of the service” take precedence. And think of the effect on morale, good order, and discipline, if a man coming out of boot camp who is qualified to be a jet engine mechanic got placed in the infantry simply because the woman assigned there complained to Kirsten Gillibrand that “they are making me go to the infantry and I don’t want to do that.” Arrrrrgh!
No, this is not a decision that is best for the Country or for its defense—the one true responsibility of the national government. It is all about politics and the President’s search for some kind of legacy. As Politico observed, “Carter’s decision represents a major milestone for President Barack Obama, furthering his legacy of making the military more inclusive. The president inherited a military that banned gays from serving openly, barred transgender troops and didn't allow women in units that were primarily involved in ground combat. All three of those exclusions have been or are in the process of being overturned.”