Women in Combat: Can versus Should

Such a fierce debate, so emotional, and so many points to think about. For those of us out in the Hinterlandthe general publicall this fuss over women in ground combat makes you wonder, who should we listen to?

Should it be people like Loretta Sanchez and Martha McSally, or even Tammy Duckworth? I mean, for God’s sake, she lost two legs in combat. Or should we listen to the Pat Buchanans and the Robert Maginnises of the world? Or perhaps someone like Kathleen Parker. She’s nationally recognized, certainly quite intelligent, has a long list of points, and she’s not alone.

Here is a look at things in plain English, without the intellectual buzz words or the politics or the emotional posturing and unspoken stereotypes. Remember, we’re talking about combat here: Fighting hand-to-hand with bullets flying. There are a lot of arguments out there, but most of them come down to two words: Can and Should.

Can Women Fight?

This, it happens, is a foolish question. Women have been fighting successfully since at least 480BC (see Artemsia of Halicarnassus). In a lot of cases they had to pretend to be men to get the chance, but the record of combat effectiveness and bravery (included being wounded and dying) are unequivocal. That includes fighting in organized units. In fact, detailing all the examples would fill a book.

Here are some relevant examples:

In the Dahomey Empire, female shock troops numbered up to a third of the army, and were feared. They were also noted to be exceptionally cruel torturers.

In Russia during World War II, in addition to front-line women snipers, women flew squadrons of highly-flammable, flimsy bi-planes to bomb German trenches all night long, at low altitude, into spotlights, while living themselves in trenches and bunkers during the Russian winter. And, yes, the mechanics were women too, lived out in the same freezing temperatures. World War I, Maria Bochkareva, and the Battalion of Death are still another story.

During Eritrea’s war of independence with Ethiopia, up to a quarter of frontline infantry were women. Supplies for dealing with their menstrual periods were part of the logistics supply chain.

And, of course, American women have been winning the Silver Star since World War I, when it was called the Citation Star, with the most recent awarded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester was awarded hers for leading an assault into direct enemy fire, at close quarters, after being ambushed.

No matter what you believe, women are on the verge of gaining real equality of opportunity in the military. It is inevitable. The only real question left is: How is it going to be handled?

Should Women Fight?

Here’s the real argument being waged. The ‘public’ arguments for not putting women into ground combat can be summarized as:

  • They just aren’t strong enough
  • They have sex
  • They get pregnant
  • They destroy unit cohesion [which covers several points]

Then there are the hidden, more visceral arguments:

  • Women are mothers, nurturers. They’re supposed to give life, not take it
  • Women are soft and gentle by nature, not tough

Essentially, all this can be summed up as: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. For a lot of people, there’s an even deeper, emotional feeling, a very powerful one that lurks just below the conscious. It can be expressed as: It’s just wrong! Unfortunately, the “should women fight” question is ultimately as futile as the “can” question.

Will Women Fight?

There is actually only one important question left at this point, and that’s “will.” Will women be fighting in ground combat, in the US Armed Forces, in the not-too-distant future? Well, take a deep breath. Whatever your views on the subject, no matter how strong they are, the answer is obvious. Women serving openly in the combat arms (Armor, Artillery, Infantry) is here, right now, on the event horizon, staring everybody in the face. Just ask the Army Chief of Staff, or the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Nobody knows what these two gentlemen think of all this in their heart of hearts, but they clearly see the cultural handwriting on the wall. And, no, they are not just temporarily caving into political pressure. If you believe that, you haven’t looked too closely at what’s happening behind the scenes.

That’s the real point here, and don’t let all the professional pundits (or the amateurs) fool you. The move towards integrating women in combat units is not happening because of feminist activists. And it is not happening because of a left-wing conspiracy to force change. It’s not even happening because of the actions of “the liberal media.”

It is happening because of a sea change in American culture. Right or wrong, the younger generations have a vastly different attitude about both women, and equal opportunity. It’s the same sea change that has so swiftly changed the landscape about gay marriage and gays in the military. It’s toppling all sorts of things that were virtually unthinkable just a decade ago.

Its here now, staring us in the face. No matter what you believe, women are on the verge of gaining real equality of opportunity in the military. It is inevitable. That’s the only word that applies at this point: Inevitable. And the only real question left is: How is it going to be handled?

Is it going to be opposed tooth-and-nail, dragged out as much as possible and made as ugly as possible for as long as possible? Thats certainly a possibility. We have a situation here with a lot of strong parallels to racial desegregation post-1948, parallels in terms of scope of cultural change, depth of emotional resistance, stress on unit cohesion, and the force of cultural inevitability (though obviously not regarding fraternization and pregnancy). That integration certainly didnt go well, faced as it was with a deep emotional/cultural resistance within the military, a general over my dead body attitude that dragged on, in one form or the other, for decades. Will we see that again? We certainly have a core of professional pundits and politicians circling around, a core with a vested interest in stirring things up, more than willing to provoke it to the bitter end.

Or have times changed? Have our leaders learned from the past? Is the military itself different now? Racial integration was forced on the military by their civilian superiors in both the late 1940s and the 1960s. Are military leaders at all levels going to take a deep breath, apply a bit of foresight and get ahead of the curve this time? Are people going to stuff their emotions in the closet and take a longer view of the change for the good of the service? Are they going to face up to the deeper cultural implications and move on them? Is what amounts to an inevitable social change going to be guided with some wisdom through the steps needed to create ultimate success?

And make no mistake. Real wisdom is needed. This won’t be easy. Change of this emotional depth will push a lot of buttons on a lot of people. Some pretty big things are at stake. And no matter how difficult this looks now, a lot more lies ahead. Were not anywhere close to the end of this. We’re probably not even looking at the mid-point yet. Anybody who thinks they know what all this is going to look like 20-30 years from now, no matter their viewpoint, is deluding themselves. Maybe SEALs will still be all male. Maybe there will be integrated teams. Maybe there will even be all-female teams. The possibilities are almost endless.

But again, that’s not the point. Women are going to gain equal opportunity to all specialties in the US military. People can argue till theyre blue in the face about unit cohesion and pregnancy and the like, but its all still going to happen. And when it does, women are going to fill a lot of positions they don’t today, a lot of them will be in the combat arms, and in time that will seem normal, as women on ships does now. And at that point in history, whenever it comes, all the current uproar will look like a curious blip.

No, all that matters now is how we get there, how long it takes to get to ‘blip’ status, how much unnecessary stress and pain we expend along the way, how quickly we find the right way to handle it. That is the real debate that matters, and it has only just begun.

A final thought. The real issue here isn’t women in combat at all; it’s our fundamental definitions of what it means to be a man or a woman. Thats whats really changing, and its changing in a deep, fundamental way that is unsettling for a lot of people. That’s what’s driving this whole thing. Women in combat are just the symbolic tip of the spear.

[Photo: Flickr CC: US Navy Seabee Museum
March 2012: A team of seabees selected to build barracks high in the Afghanistan mountains was made up of eight women and no men. Military officials say they are the first all-female construction team to take on a build from start to finish in the Seabees 70-year history. And they did it record time in the barren rocky mountains of the Helmand Province, a Taliban stronghold and the focus of recent combat efforts.]



  1. Wes 10 August, 2015 at 11:18 Reply

    Thanks for your service in Vietnam and thanks for writing for this site which I enjoy. But I think you missed this. The constant focus and goal of the military and specifically infantry and combat fields is to be the absolute professionals of applying precise violence. We should be focusing on how to make those elements more elite. Combat is a physical violent business. When women are starting linebackers for the Pittsburgh Steelers then I think you can argue they should be in infantry squads or SEALs. I wish we were raising the physical standards even higher and requiring professional athlete level fitness. While there are examples of professional female athletes that I’m sure could hold their own (Ronda Roussey Comes to mind) the existence of the WNBA and the Lingerie Football League show that all things being equal, they aren’t.

    • Ellen 10 August, 2015 at 18:42 Reply

      I find it amusing when people compare the average infantryman to an NFL linebacker. I was in the Army for 30 years but I never met any NFL caliber athletes. We’d have a pretty small Army if infantrymen had to be NFL linebackers. The fact is that 10% of all infantrymen today are 5’5″ or shorter and weigh less than 150 lbs. That’s the average size of a woman in the US. In two weeks two women will likely graduate from Ranger school. They are both average sized women.

      • James B. 12 August, 2015 at 14:48 Reply

        If the average size woman is the same size as the 10th percentile infantryman, are they only going to be replacing the squad runt? Even those women are carrying more non-muscle weight than men, experience a higher rate of training injuries, and pass training programs at significantly lower rates during these test classes.

        Allowed into ground combat units on a truly fair basis, women would be extremely rare in currently closed MOSs, because we have no shortage of men who are at least as qualified, and the few women who make it through won’t not last as long. I hope it would make you happy, but I know it won’t, and you will keep complaining about opportunities you would have never taken had they been available to you.

      • Been There 14 August, 2015 at 15:44 Reply

        Where is your data from (please cite) on the “10% of male infantrymen are 5’5″ or shorter and weigh less than 150lbs” claim That means 90% are taller…..and bigger. To further your amusement, go see a company from an Army Ranger Battalion or a Special Forces A Team and see how good of athletes they are. Try and do PT with them. I have met NFL caliber athletes in the Army–men who were drafted and played college football.

  2. Paul Darling 10 August, 2015 at 12:13 Reply

    If women are equal to men in the arena of combat, they would compete against each other in the arena of sports.
    The services can’t even bring themselves to use the same physical fitness standards for men and women now. Separate but equal was debunked by the supreme court a generation ago. Yet somehow when it comes to women in the military, separate standards combined with lofty rhetoric about “equality” is somehow accepted. The failures of women in the past 14 years are well known, but deliberately hidden. Pregnancies, rife fraternization, failure to carry their basic loads and failure to execute in combat happened regularly. When men do it, they are punished and retrained. When women do it, they are excused and lied about. There are women who performed admirably in their roles in combat. There are no universals. But until we remove the physical nature of combat arms or we remove the physical differences between men and women this is a foolish social experiment which will get people killed.
    Do gold medals and college scholarships matter more than winning and losing on a battlefield? It would appear so.

  3. M. Berger 10 August, 2015 at 12:28 Reply

    The media argument for women in combat seems to always come down to changes in the American culture and gaining equal opportunity. But that’s not what being a combat infantryman is all about. Front line combat is about killing – with a rifle, pistol, grenade, bayonet, knife, or even a stick, rock or one’s bare hands. That’s the part about being in the infantry (or a Ranger, Delta Force or a SEAL) that is conveniently overlooked. Can some women meet the physical standards to be an Infantry soldier? Sure. And that’s where the “could” vs. “should” comes in.

    • Jay 12 August, 2015 at 23:34 Reply

      Amen… Most combat arms soldiers and officers agree in private. They can never admit their true assessments in public as they will commit career suicide. You will not improve but degrade combat effectiveness through this absurd social engineering.
      Question: are they recruiting women into Spetsnaz? Is China adding females to their SOF and infantry line units?

  4. CER 10 August, 2015 at 12:39 Reply

    Professor Purvis, I understand you believe the debate is somewhat moot. But, based on your combat experience, do you think it’s a good idea?

  5. prharm@mhsi.com 10 August, 2015 at 13:35 Reply

    Can or Should is not the pertinent question. “Why” is the crux of the matter. Why should the system be turned on its head for such a small percentage of people. Why? This is for “equality” and for promotion opportunity and not to make our combat forces more effective…pure and simple. Women can fly any aircraft in the USAF and command any ship in the Navy (and Coast Guard) so women have the opportunity to become the AF Chief of Staff or the Chief of Naval Operations. In the Army and in the Marine Corps, women can become General Officers as well, though likely not the Chief of Staff or CMC due to the combat arms exclusion. In the enlisted ranks a woman can be promoted to the top rank of E-9 and potentially be the top enlisted in the USAF or Navy, but again, likely not in the Army or in the Corps. If a woman joins the military “to serve”, there are hundreds of opportunities to serve with great honor and run the risk of being horribly injured of killed outside or inside the wire. If women want “to serve” just to get promoted, then you can achieve the highest ranks and positions in the USAF or Navy and there is plenty of opportunity in the Army and Corps.
    That said we must remember that in order to achieve the highest ranks one must remain in the “Service” for over 20 years of which only 17 percent do so. If you look at the numbers for females staying to 20, then the percentage becomes much smaller. Remember women can achieve the rank of General or E-9 in all Services today. As anyone who has served knows, only the top 1 percent (or less) of the people who stay over 20 years can make the most lofty of ranks…how many people are we really talking about and more importantly should the military be used as a social experiment to serve the progressive agenda?

  6. Bad_Syntax 10 August, 2015 at 16:23 Reply

    As a former infantry soldier there is a serious issue integrating women in combat that never seems to be addressed.

    First of all, let me say that yes, they can fight. The issues are not about this.

    The issue is about being a man, and being around women, in dangerous situations. If I was a male major, with a female PFC driver, I would be far more likely to purposefully put myself in harms way to make sure she could survive. This isn’t right, I would be a major, and she a PFC. In every way, my life and my mission to the army are more important than hers. This would happen at many echelons, and happen often. Not all soldiers, some would look past it, some women would fit in so well her peers don’t think of her that way. It would be an occasional issue though, I have no doubt.

    There is also the issue with unprofessionalism among lower level soldiers. I knew a guy who had sex with 2 different female soldiers in an outhouse while deployed for only a week, while his wife was back at home. The endless drama, punishments, and whatever else arose from these situations drain the energy of the unit. However, this should be fixable with more time, and more discipline.

    I do think getting pregnant in a combat zone, and not due to some involuntary situation, should be grounds for a discharge though. It will happen, and happen a lot, and it needs to be kept in check or things can get really stupid.

    If a female can meet the male physical standards though, no reason whatsoever they shouldn’t be allowed to do the same jobs. It will require the military rethink some things, and there will be a LOT of article 15’s handed down while the transition takes place, but in the long run I can’t see any way it’ll hurt.

    • Chris Miller 10 August, 2015 at 22:03 Reply

      So women shouldn’t serve in combat roles because men can’t keep it in their pants? Not sure that’s a strong argument there. And I won’t accept the ‘human nature’ argument. Human nature tells us that charging a machine gun nest or diving on a grenade is a stupid idea, but soldiers do it anyway.

      This is a discipline issue; as soon as commands make it clear through non-judicial or even judicial punishment that this sort of fraternization will not be tolerated in integrated combat units, those who are seriously dedicated to serving their country (and not serving their penis) will get the picture. If female attention or presence throws you that far off your game, you’re not a true professional anyway.

      There are other arguments for and against, but this is really not a good one.

      • Bad_Syntax 11 August, 2015 at 00:46 Reply

        I’m not arguing for or against, I am just saying it will cause some issues in combat, and not in combat.

        And I will not say its only men at fault, women in the army have an extremely plentiful environment full of young, healthy, and horny males even if they are barely mediocre looking. My last infantry unit actually had a woman in our supply section, as we were not expected to be in combat (that changed, and she was transferred, but this was 10 years ago). However, that 1 woman was with 100-120 men, at least half of which were unmarried.

        Threat of punishment doesn’t stop soldiers from drinking, drinking and driving, or fighting, so to think it would stop against something like sex is simply not a possibility.

        I can’t make a good argument against, but I can say any integration will have some serious problems for the immediate timeframe, and some lasting problems long term. I cannot say if these would be overall a positive or negative in the long term however.

        I just can’t stand most of the arguments I see tossed out, as they are irrelevant, usually sexist (one way or another), or just downright wrong.

        • Chris Miller 11 August, 2015 at 08:24 Reply

          I hear you, but these are not new problems. On my first tour in Iraq we were next to an FSB and they had major fraternization issues of the type you describe. But these are not new problems. And clearly it is not just the combat arms guys who have a problem with letting the little head tell the big head what to do. So I don’t think integrating combat units, as combat support and combat service support units already are, will be any more of a problem than already exists.

          I would also ask why is there a difference in treatment or opinion of a female soldier who sleeps with 100 men from a male soldier who sleeps with 100 women? If sex is such a distraction to unit cohesion, then anyone, male or female, who can’t keep their pants on shouldn’t be doing this job (But I don’t think it is, personally). The only issue here is one of moral judgment. Somehow, most people still think a woman who gets around is a ‘whore’ while a man who gets around is fine. If sex is really such a distraction from the job of soldiering then we need to really question and fix the level of professionalism in our military.

          Further, the Iraq war showed me that you don’t have to be combat arms to see major combat. I know female MPs, Civil Affairs, translators, intel troops, truck drivers, mechanics, commo troops and medics who were out there on the front lines with us or around us every day. They did their jobs, faced the same dangers, and fought just as hard as the average male did (sometimes harder). War has changed. We’re all on the front line now (unless you really are a FOBbit at one of the major bases, but that’s another story. And plenty of men are FOBbits as well.)

  7. ADM64 10 August, 2015 at 18:57 Reply

    The article pretends to present both sides but doesn’t. The so-called changes in our culture about definitions of what it means to be either a man or a woman are a) typically touted by those on the progressive left who see these sort of things as malleable and b) not by any means widely accepted even amongst the so-called millennial generation. Indeed, with respect to the latter, there is a lot of underlying hostility and friction, and this group is one that is generating a lot of the sexual harassment and rape problems. More fundamentally, the entire notion of diversity rests on differences, and there the contradictions just flood in. We are told gender is a construct and malleable, so there are no essential differences between the sexes, except of course when women want there to be, and everyone else is left to guess when and where that might be. That’s without addressing the issue of separate physical standards and the impact of grossly different physical norms based on gender.

    Regarding gender-normed standards and differences in physiology, the author would pretend that they are not terribly relevant and that women have been fighting since antiquity. There have indeed been the odd woman who has fought since ancient times, but they have been far and away the exception and many instances have either not been documented or simply don’t hold up with what we know of ancient weapons and equipment and the physical demands of combat. In modern times, there has been a staggering amount of documentation about physical differences between the sexes, both in the general population and in the military population. It is unequivocal: the strongest women, less than 2% of all women, are barely at the male average, and that’s primarily cardiovascular capability not raw muscular strength. Military forces like Canada’s, which have had full integration since 1990 have % of women in the combat arms (infantry, armor and artillery) which bear these numbers out. UK studies have independently confirmed the US data. So, yes, there will be “some” (that favorite word of the pro-integration crowd) women who can pass male tests. They won’t be Xena the Warrior Princess; they’ll be Joe Average with female reproductive organs. It is not a real benefit to operational capability. Now, one could still go this way if one kept the standards the same. That has not happened in every branch of the services that have been integrated, something 100% different than what was done with race. In the Navy, a female sailor who can’t carry an average size man up a ship’s ladder or carry heavy damage control material contributes nothing to the ship’s effectiveness. If your crew is 20% female, it’s like starting with 20% casualties – not counting losses due to pregnancy – and to put that in perspective, some of the most heavily damaged ships from WWII to survive took 30-50% casualties. Ask yourself how well it would go.

    Then, there’s the whole issue of pregnancy and fraternization, not to mention sexual assault.

    Finally, I’d say that if you want to go this route, and advocate doing so, then have the honesty to require women to meet ALL of the male standards, and then we’ll talk. Telling us that women have been in combat (i.e. exposed to fire and danger) means nothing; so are elderly civilians, children and journalists in a war zone. Telling us it’s inevitable avoids the discussion. Telling us that it’s critical for national defense when the fully coed force has yet to win an actual war begs the question. Engage the arguments and not the strawmen.

  8. Elaine Donnelly 11 August, 2015 at 02:19 Reply

    Mr. Purvis fails to understand the definition of direct ground combat units, which are in question now. Women have always served in harm’s way, subject to incident-related, contingent combat while in danger in a war zone. This is why we honor and respect their service. But women have not served in DGC units such as the infantry and Special Operations Forces, which attack the enemy with deliberate offensive action. An enormous body of empirical data documenting physical differences that would put both women and DGC missions at greater risk cannot be ignoredd. But it is being ignored due to pressures for “gender diversity metrics,” another name for quotas. More information is on our website, http://www.cmrlink.org. President, Center for Military Readiness, and former member, Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Services (1992)

  9. Ellen 11 August, 2015 at 11:31 Reply

    Elaine, It’s interesting that you assume that Jim doesn’t know what he is talking about. Jim was an infantryman in Viet Nam. He probably has a pretty clear understanding of the definition of direct ground combat. Furthermore, to say that women have not successfully participated in DGC is absolutely false. Last month we interviewed over 20 women who were assigned to direct action Ranger teams and village stability Special Forces teams in Afghanistan from 2010-2015. More than 200 women were trained and imbedded in these teams. They conducted day and night direct action raids and trained Afghan men and women in village security operations. The women were killed, wounded and they received combat awards for their actions. Pretty sure that the Army considers Ranger and Special Forces teams to be DGC units.

    • SGT Kleemann 11 August, 2015 at 11:56 Reply

      Just because a woman was assigned to one of those teams doesn’t mean she was kicking down doors or was the one providing overwatch, etc… I can’t stand idiots like Ellen who think they understand what occurred over there because of a few god damn interviews… The reason behind why those women were on those teams and the real benefit they provided was in no way to enhance their lethality or to make them more combat effective, it was simply because women are a better choice for talking, searching, etc other women in that culture….. Now go interview Jessica Lynch and tell me how much of a hero she was too since she was also in combat, if you call throwing your unmaintained weapon down when it jammed because she had no clue how to conduct SPORTS and cried by the wheel of a HMMWV while others fought and died around her.

  10. Chris Miller 12 August, 2015 at 08:47 Reply

    So this debate can go on for years with judgments based upon empirical evidence of physical differences and mental/social/cultural impact women mixing with men will have on combat arms units. As Mr Purvis says, it is clear women ‘can’ fight. The answer to the question of ‘should’ is subjective, based upon individual morals, values and beliefs.

    The only way to definitively find an answer is to do it and find out. If its a disaster, then we’ll have an answer. If its a success, we’ll have an answer. And we can put the debate behind us. I, for one, prefer clarity over speculation.

    And don’t give me that crap about ‘we shouldn’t try because it puts soldiers at risk.’ We put our troops at risk constantly by sending them into combat with all kinds of equipment and platforms that are theoretically ready to be fielded based upon controlled testing at proving grounds. The reality in combat may be different. The only way to find out is to put it into real action. If it works, we use it; if it doesn’t, we scrap it.

    I am not afraid of women being killed in combat. They are not afraid either. Remember: We all sign up for this. We are all adults. I think one of the major issues here is that many men are scared that some women will be shown capable of doing what they do and this will harm their egos. Let’s do it and get a final answer once and for all.

    • SGT Kleemann 12 August, 2015 at 15:33 Reply

      I would agree to that, but first I would need to see standards become universal… Do away with gender AND age differences for PT, and as in events such as wearing full gear you need to carry/ drag/etc a 250lb dummy 100 meters in x amount of time… If a guy doesn’t cut it, retrain or discharge, if a gal doesn’t cut it, retrain or discharge.

      As a medic and a Sergeant I think I’ve earned the right to say “Don’t needlessly endanger the lives of my MEN unless their is a god dames good reason to.” It’s not “crap” to value the lives of ones subordinates……. If they need to die for a cause, I had better have a better story to tell a wife or mother than “a female couldn’t carry him to the medieval” or “the female gunner wasn’t able to get into position fast enough to lay down proper cover.”

        • Chris Miller 12 August, 2015 at 15:42 Reply

          I agree to universal standards. The standard is the standard for a reason. But those women who can meet the standard should be given the opportunity. We’re talking about women who have the same potential to save the lives of subordinates as men do. There is no reason not to. Those who can meet the standards (such as the two women who will likely graduate from Ranger school in the next couple weeks) should be given the opportunity to show they can. Let’s do it and see what happens.

          • SGT Kleemann 12 August, 2015 at 21:56

            But that’s the whole point, they won’t and they refuse to make standards universal. If we made all standards universal right now, first of all a number of men would be discharged, and let’s be honest most women. If a woman can do the job I’m fine with that, but like this article it always turns into Psusdo- liberal agenda slant. This guy tries to make it out like somehow I’m against women serving because I’m sexist. I simply want universal standards and then we can proceed with putting women in certain jobs. We shouldn’t make the standard to fit what we want, we should instead put the standard first and see what we have. I’ve seen plenty of fat slobs in the infantry who can’t rock to the latrine and back without dying, and I think they ought to be wall-to-wall counseled and then discharged , But The moment I suggest the same thing about a female all of a sudden I’m sexist. A majority of the people I know just think this was brought about in the wrong manner and that’s why we are pissed,

  11. Geof 12 August, 2015 at 15:21 Reply

    A “generic” infantry combat loadout;

    15 lbs. of 5.56/magazines (13x).
    5 lbs. of 9mm/magazines (5x)
    8 lbs. of water. (1 gal., canteens/bladder)
    35 lbs. of armor/helmet
    6 lbs. grenades. (4x frags, 2x smoke)
    2-4 lbs. medical pack.
    14 lbs. weapons (M-4, M-9, optics, taclights, ect.)
    15 lbs. “other”. (LBE/vest/plate carrier, spare batteries, knives, bandage scissors, flexcuffs, wire cutters, lights, licky/chewies, ect.)

    Total: 100+ lbs.

    That, is just the “bare essentials” when you get dressed for work, that you’re carrying strapped to your body, and doesn’t include any mission gear (breaching charges, Hooligan tool, sledge, shotgun, Kwiki saw, medical pack/litter, coms, ect.), extra ammo for the belt guns, the 90mm, 40mm grenades, ect.

    To that, carried in your ruck, you could add another 1-2 gallons of water, food, coms, GPS, NVGs, Claymore, batteries, more ammo…plus any personal/team/mission gear. Another 50-100 lbs…
    Lightweight Gear™ just means you carry more gear. The actual loads carried never goes down, hasn’t since the Roman Legions, and never will.

    And you have to be able to carry that up and over the mountain, for days/weeks, and fight once you get there. Then rinse and repeat as required, for years. Or you’re just a suck on limited time/money/angst training resources.

    What are they planning on these women leaving at home? Water? Ammo? Weapons? Armor? God forbid, their Woobie? If they can’t carry their share of the gear, who’s going to?

  12. Geof 12 August, 2015 at 15:40 Reply

    “I think one of the major issues here is that many men are scared that some women will be shown capable of doing what they do and this will harm their egos. Let’s do it and get a final answer once and for all.”

    It’s not out egos we’re worried about. It’s our lives. Because we’re not playing a game. We live it. Year after year, deployment after deployment. War, after pointless war.

    “And don’t give me that crap about ‘we shouldn’t try because it puts soldiers at risk.”

    Soldiers, beg to differ. Because it’s our lives being put at risk just so social justice crusaders can feel good about themselves. Reality is, very few women want to be in combat arms. Reality is, this is a manufactured issue, so that a few women officers can get their tickets punched, command combat arms units, and rise to the upper levels of command. Regardless of how many soldiers get killed in the process.

    • Chris Miller 12 August, 2015 at 15:49 Reply

      So if a woman can do all of these things, hump all of that weight, and meet all the other standards a male can, would you agree to them being allowed in an infantry unit (even if it is just 10-20 women in the entire military per year)?

      • Geof 12 August, 2015 at 16:09 Reply

        It’s call physiology. “Humping all that weight” is going to break them in short order. All you’ll have accomplished is needlessly breaking an otherwise useful soldier, waste time, money, and angst training them for the job, and end up with gaping holes in your TO&E.

        It breaks most men eventually, go to your local VA and look at all the middle-aged semi-cripples gimping around. Difference is, they lasted long enough to get a decent return on the investment before their bodies starting failing.

        You think the accommodations that would have to made would cost effective for “just 10-20 women in the entire military per year”? Because that’s effectively what you’d be doing if you held females to the “do all of these things, hump all of that weight, and meet all the other standards a male can” ideal.

        Because they’ve got 3 choices. (1) Lower the standards, (2) jump through hoops accommodating a handful of females, or (3) face reality.

          • Geof 12 August, 2015 at 21:08

            Find me even a single woman who can meet the standards, carry her share of the gear, do the job. and is physically capable of doing it on a recurring basis, and we’ll talk. But you can’t.

            Instead, in the name of political correctness, we’ll plug females into those combat slots who are unable to physically do the missions. And good soldiers will die. Both male and female. Because combat is an equal opportunity killer.

          • Chris Miller 13 August, 2015 at 12:24

            At least you’re willing to admit you’re not even interested in letting them try, Geof. Blame it all on politics.

  13. Some guy 12 August, 2015 at 15:46 Reply

    There were no mountains, as they were in the Helmund River valley. There was no combat, because they pulled no guard, conducted no missions, and had zero responsibilities outside of building some small huts for the soldiers who stayed there. There were no “barren rocky mountains” and it certainly was no “Taliban stronghold”. This article is an argument for women on combat based on an exaggerated and over-inflated experience. The ones that were there know the truth.

      • Geof 12 August, 2015 at 16:14 Reply

        It has everything to do with the authors argument…because his argument is based on lies, mis-direction, and tacitly conflating a carefully constructed PR boondoggle with a combat deployment. Just as the entire argument for women in combat arms is based on ignoring reality and wishful thinking.

      • Some guy 12 August, 2015 at 17:17 Reply

        Read the cliff notes at the bottom of the article. It directly reverences their stay at a base in Helmund, Afghanistan. Every sentence of that paragraph is patently false, even the date. The Seabee team of all females were there and gone in 2011, not March 2012. That is firsthand knowledge.
        If you want to argue for women in combat roles, don’t base your argument off of false information meant to sway the opinion of readers.

          • SGT Kleemann 12 August, 2015 at 22:01

            Anyone that is served a day in the military should be able to figure out at those females were not there for any combat mission, they were there to build a few sea huts

  14. Brad 12 August, 2015 at 16:18 Reply

    The military exists for two very simple purposes: To kill people and break their things. Anything that enhances that ability should be pursued. Anything that distracts from or diminishes that capability should be ignored.

  15. Sergio 12 August, 2015 at 23:45 Reply

    Just a question for the “allow women into all combat roles” crowd.

    If women are allowed into all combat rolls, then should not all women between the ages of 18 and 26 be registering for selective service just as all men are now required to do? I mean … you know … in case there is ever need to reinstate the draft.

    If women are combat eligible, shouldn’t they also be draft eligible?

  16. Michael 13 August, 2015 at 01:50 Reply

    This is all fluff.
    Combat is defined by your adversary. Not your allies.
    It is the ultimate common denominator.
    There are no “standards” to be met other than killing.
    If a woman can match up to their (almost universally male) enemy counterpart and win the fight then more power to them.
    Because if not they will be defeated, raped and then slaughtered.
    That’s the reality.
    Male or female it will remain unchanged.

  17. peter38abc 13 August, 2015 at 08:39 Reply

    There’s a lot of “if’s” in the comments section that should be able to be solved empirically but won’t be because the problem and solution are posed and answered politically.

    • Chris Miller 13 August, 2015 at 12:28 Reply

      The only solution or answer to this debate is to do it and see what happens. Then everyone can move on with life and we can all have our final answer.

  18. Rme71 14 August, 2015 at 12:14 Reply

    Don’t think I agree much with this being a cultural and younger generation issue. This issue has been at the top of the list of many progressives as long as I have been in the US military and that is over 40 years. This is not an issue of whether women should be in combat but whether they should be in units that “take” direct ground combat to the enemy. Lots of time, maybe even most of the time, the enemy will have a vote in where and when combat is initiated. If a woman happens to be there at that time, so be it. But placing women in units designed to carry combat to the enemy (infantry, SOF, armor and cannon artillery) is setting women up to fail and potentially the units in which they are serving. There are so many reasons that they shouldn’t serve in those organizations it is endless. But probably most importantly women do not and will not serve in those units. So there is no need to go down this road. At the end will be something similar to other armies of the world who have tried; few women will attempt and those who do will be physically marked for life. To do this to many politicians sounds good. But you won’t see any of the politicians offer up or allow their daughter to serve in these units.

    • Chris Miller 14 August, 2015 at 13:53 Reply

      I read a lot of assertions in here, which may or may not be true. Are you not the least bit curious to let those who can meet the standards and are willing to take up the call do so? At least then we will have an answer to this debate. If no woman can meet the standards or no woman wants to try, then alright. But those who can and want to fight in direct-action combat arms assignments should be given the opportunity to do so. It is the only way to settle this debate if women can hack it or not. Let’s do it and see. Then we can all be done with it.

  19. Been There 14 August, 2015 at 15:38 Reply

    So far the Taliban/ISIS have not shown any beheadings any women–or at least no video of it has been widely roadcast. What will be America’s societal/cultural reaction when a captured 20 year old female “infantry” soldier’s severed head is displayed on Youtube? Can a 20 yr old woman maintain the same physical standards at age 38–40 in order to serve in an infantry unit? I met a lot of combat arms battalion commanders who were in great physical shape at age 40, yet I did not see many female LTCs or CSMs at that age who were in combat arms physical fitness shape. Men and women perform different physically and that difference increases with age. The is a lot of research data on this, but “progressives” want to ignore it.

    • Chris Miller 15 August, 2015 at 10:47 Reply

      If an American soldier is captured by ISIS and has their head cut off, why does it matter to you so much more if it is a woman than a man? Don’t you believe that female soldiers can be as committed to their oath to serve the country as a man can?

      Again, there are studies that indicate an answer in either direction. The only way to settle this is to do it and find a definitve answer to this debate. Everything else is conjecture.

  20. Find it Funny 26 August, 2015 at 13:48 Reply

    This team was at our VSP in Helmand. These girls pretty much did nothing while they were there. We had to do most of the building ourselves, and what little wood we had for our buildings, they actually used to build themselves a shower for the time they were there rather than build huts. I was talking with my old team mates the other day and we were laughing about these girls pictures being on this article because as my Charlie stated, “they were completely useless.”

  21. EleP 30 September, 2015 at 00:41 Reply

    The comments from “Chris” about experimenting in direct ground combat follow a pattern known in the West as a willingness to play poker with someone else’s chips. Please leave your name and address with U.s Army mortuary affairs. They might want you to accompany them when they tell the mother of the dead soldier that he/she was part of an experiment to prove your point.

  22. Tom Davenport 3 October, 2015 at 13:49 Reply

    Dear Jim,

    I followed your admonition to (re)read the first article, which you ended with,
    “A final thought. The real issue here isn’t women in combat at all; it’s our fundamental definitions of what it means to be a man or a woman. That’s what’s really changing, and it’s changing in a deep, fundamental way that is unsettling for a lot of people. That’s what’s driving this whole thing. Women in combat are just the symbolic tip of the spear.

    Societal changes? Certainly. Unfortunately that does seem to be the crux of your argument that women “should” be fully integrated into the military. And that, from what I can tell, seems predicated upon a theory of History based on progressivism or in reality, dialectical materialism.

    My 50 year old BA degree in History from a State College with a sprinkling of admitted Marxist Professors, combined with a fair amount of reading of History since then may not be the most impressive credentials, but I kinda decided long ago that inevitablilty is bunk.

    Having read the last installment of your article, I tend to agree that women can perform most if not all combat roles. Having been twice married I can attest to their killer instincts. I would only hope we retain the original physical requirements for combat related specialties. It would be at a minimum patronizing and at worst dangerous to pass women just to fill quotas for a political agenda.

    But all this does not really address the question of should women routinely fill combat roles in the military of the USA. I say not. Women are far too valuable.

    Women can replace men in virtually any role, men cannot replace them even poorly in some roles or at all in some very critical ones. Remember the admonition of Spartan women to their sons and husbands: ἢ τὰν ἢ ἐπὶ τᾶς



    • Jim 2 February, 2016 at 20:38 Reply

      Dear Tom,

      Thanks for a thought-out response. Sadly, I’ve had to take a sabbatical from writing these things for a bit, and didn’t see your reply till today.

      Don’t agree with several points, but appreciate the tenor.


  23. Doc 10 December, 2015 at 23:09 Reply

    What a crock this article is, all straw. You have gonads to ask me and others like me to put our assets on the line for social justice, seriously, how many women were in your Lurp team ?. Thought so.. Here’s the bottom line, not every war is going to be an insurgency, there will be wars where it will require men to bump horrendous loads day after day, hour after hour and that is where the breakdown occurs. This will proceed of course and good men will die because of BS and armchair warriors.

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