Women in ground combat: the blunt and bitter truth

I’m grateful to Solomon for drawing attention to a post on the USNI Blog by a reserve Marine Lieutenant-Colonel (who happens to be a woman).  Her remarks should be seen in the context of the relief from command of Lieutenant-Colonel Kate Germano USMC ‘for cause’ – but the ’cause’ seems flimsy in the extreme to this combat veteran.  Frankly, I endorse every word she said, and I believe most fellow veterans, of whatever nationality or service, would agree.  Solomon also provides links to views on the issue of women in combat by Col. John Ripley (USMC, retired) (read more about him here) and General Robert H. Barrow (27th Commandant of the USMC, retired) (read more about him here).

Let me state my own position in the simplest possible terms.

I believe that women are not strong enough to engage in ground combat alongside men, given the nature of the physical demands imposed by that environment.

Note that I say nothing about mental, intellectual, emotional or spiritual issues.  Those are, in my opinion, matters for consideration in each individual.  Women are often at least as strong as men in those areas, if not stronger.  My concerns are purely and simply physical.  That’s not a level playing field at all.  We see this all the time in civilian hiking or mountain-climbing
activities;  women routinely carry packs weighing less than two-thirds
of those of the men with whom they’re walking.  In the same way, women
normally compete with other women in most physical sports, because most
women can’t compete with most men on equal terms.  No-one turns a
hair at these realities, so why should it be any different in the
military?  Consider:

  • When your foxhole buddy is injured, you may have to hoist him over your shoulders in a fireman’s lift and run several hundred yards to get him to safety.  Under severe fire, you may have to lie next to him and drag him across rough, unyielding terrain (perhaps littered with obstacles like bushes, rocks, hollows, etc.) for a similar distance.  This requires a certain level of strength and endurance.  In my experience, I have never yet met a single woman who appeared to possess that strength and/or endurance.
  • When lifting artillery shells and carrying them to the cannon, soldiers routinely have to lift and carry up to a hundred pounds apiece – sometimes more.  (As an example, a M982 Excalibur ‘smart’ 155mm. artillery round, currently in service with the US armed forces, weighs 106 pounds.)  Carrying one of these is bad enough.  Carrying a dozen of them in rapid succession can exhaust a man (ask me how I know this!).  Carrying them hour after hour, hurrying from gun to ammo supply and back again, unloading fresh supplies from trucks, never stopping to rest . . . it’s enervating to a degree that only those who’ve experienced it will understand.  I absolutely cannot believe that any woman could keep up with her male counterparts under such circumstances.
  • When humping supplies, it’s normal for soldiers to lift bulky, unwieldy, heavy packages at least as heavy as artillery shells, and often have to lift them over their heads to load them onto trucks or other transport.  Again, over an extended period I don’t believe that most women could sustain such demands for strength and endurance.
  • When on patrol, it’s routine for soldiers to carry loads up to (sometimes in excess of) 100 pounds, all day, every day, for extended periods.  Once more, I submit that most women would find this impossible for extended periods.

I have nothing against the skills, courage and willpower of women.  I’ve seen women outperform men in disaster situations, because they were able to retain a mental toughness and balance and focus that far exceeded that of their exhausted, terrified menfolk.  I have the highest respect for those qualities . . . but they aren’t enough in combat.  Combat defines its own requirements.  The physical standards established in the past by armed forces all over the world are based on combat experience.  Those responsible for those standards knew what they were going to face, and they trained their soldiers accordingly.  To reduce those standards in the name of political correctness is not only ludicrous, but actively dangerous to our combat troops – because when they should be fighting, they’ll be too busy rescuing those among them who can’t keep up, and who in consequence will slow down the entire unit – possibly so much as to derail its assigned mission altogether.

I accept that in situations where physical exertions are not as extreme (e.g. flight, service aboard ships, etc.), women can perform as well as men, and do so at present in the US armed forces.  In my military science fiction, I have women in combat positions;  but my ground combat forces use exoskeletal body armor that boosts the strength of the wearer by up to ten times, and provides endurance to the user limited only by the power supply and its battery pack.  That negates any issue of greater or lesser strength (although fitness and agility remain of the utmost importance, of course).  However, we’re not dealing with a mythical or fictional future here.  We’re dealing with present reality.

The politically correct madness that’s currently driving the ‘women in combat positions’ agenda appears to ignore this reality.  In some cases, those behind it are suggesting that existing military standards are flawed, based on outmoded ideas, and not really in tune with actual combat requirements.  To such idiots I can only say:  “Show me your own combat experience and military service.  Show me that you’ve learned the hard way what’s involved in combat.  Then, and only then, I’ll listen to you.  Until then . . . ” (insert profanity as required).



  1. Someone should also tell the ladies that if they're crossing a creek and they fall in over their heads, everything will get wet, including the toilet paper they're carrying.

    They'll then be forced to wipe their behinds with grass or leaves. Swinging your arse over a log can also be a bit precarious as you may loose your balance and fall backwards. I'll leave the consequences to your imagination, but let me tell you all of this has happened to me. After a week without showering or other modern conveniences, you end up smelling pretty ripe.

    Never mind telling the ladies of the brutality of combat. Tell them instead that they'll smell like shit and then see how many are still willing to join.

  2. Peter, I disagree a little. Not much, granted, but a little. I think that there are women that'd be able to do it. Hell there's a lot of men that wouldn't be able to do. Think about why they can – they train for it, it's expected of them, and they have to keep doing it. I'm not willing to believe that a woman, after doing it day in and day out until her arms fall off, would not be able to increase her strength and endurance until she is able to maintain the same standards.

    My approach would be let them try. Of course you'd need to let them try somewhere where their failure isn't going to get someone killed. Either way there's women I know that'd be able to do it better than I could, and by that token alone I'm willing to say that the male/female divide isn't entirely fair.

    Would you still refuse them if they proved they could do it? And no, I wouldn't advocate lowering the standards either.

    If they try and fail it's one thing, but if you don't let them try because you don't think they can succeed… That's where the problems start.

    Oh and Anon1:12, did you intend to sound so downright insulting?

  3. Another note is you mention sports and competitions. However there's no ceiling, and there's no point being anything other than the best. Men do have the physical advantage, and thus the competition wouldn't be "fair". On the other hand, there's an upper limit to how useful the extra strength is in the military. It doesn't much matter if you can lift 200kg, or 150kg, when what you're lifting is 50kg. And yes those are men's and women's snatch weightlifting records respectively.

    We don't care much how good the men are, we only care that they're good enough. Why can't we approach women the same way?

  4. Women are both physically different from men (for which, many thanks)and psychologically different from men. Generally speaking, women simply cannot be expected to endure the privations of combat operations as, generally speaking, men can.
    I emphasise the word "generally". There are men who could never qualify for combat operations. likewise there are women who could qualify. "Qualify" is one thing, actually taking part in combat is something else again. I consider that women in a real SHTF shooting, killing combat situation would be a negative asset.
    Most men will instinctively try to protect a woman, not an instinct conducive to operational success. Yes, there are many roles in the Military in which women can serve, and serve with distinction.


    That is just one example. Yes, Laura was in combat, yes she came under fire, but she was serving in a role where mental strength and courage were required, not physical strength.
    The "Boots-on-the-Ground troops should be exclusively male. Combat is one of their principal roles in life. The other is procreation.

  5. There's one male advantage that doesn't get much talk, and that's reflex speed. There are far fewer women that have quick reflexes. How many race car drivers have been women? And no, Danica Patrick isn't that capable or fast, just heavily promoted. Women fighter pilots have not done well, by and large, and not because they haven't been given opportunities.

    Fencing in college brought that to my attention. A random group of beginning fencers, roughly half and half men and women. I was one of the slowest men, but there was only one woman who had the same blade speed as I did. It is what it is, and small differences there can be the difference between living and dead in a fight.

  6. It seems some still don't grok Peter's point, which is: Based on the objective requirements defined by millenia of battle, broadly speaking (heh) women lack the physical ability required to be ground combat soldiers. *Some few* women will be able to do it. Weakening the standards that must be met to become an infantry soldier to ensure that more women can meet them is foolish and dangerous *whatever* the reason behind doing it.

  7. One point I see that is often overlooked is long term damage. I have a close friend who was on an LLVI team in Afghanistan, and routinely rucked 80-120lbs in radio and detection equipment around the mountains there. While she was able to perform as well if not better than the men, she's under 30 and has hip problems and bone damage from the rucks resting on her hips, and is collecting somewhere around 65-85% disability.

    So great, they can perform short term and then cost the military for the rest of their lives while they are no longer able to perform. And yes, this happens to men to, but usually from more than just wear and tear.

  8. Heh.

    Yes, I'd agree than ON AVERAGE women aren't as likely to be physically suitable for ground combat roles as men are.

    Then again, it's really a question of how selective the process is going to be.

    Women such as my oldest son's godmother, who is 4" taller than I am and works in a physically demanding job, could well be expected to do better than the bottom 25% of all men, … on the physical side at least.

    Now, the mental, social and political parts of it… not touching those here.

    (Never been in actual combat as my country hasn't had a war during my lifetime, but have trained for it. There have even been a couple of different exercises, years apart, where I ended up with female-majority squads…)

  9. Have you been reading Weaponsman, Peter? Sounds like some of the discussion over there about LTC Germano, as well as the issue of pushing female candidates through Ranger training.

  10. I believe the military did a study, men off the street were able to do the basic miltary tasks listed, lift x amount, carry so many pounds etc…, women could do nearly as well after weight training as the off the street men. Trouble is men's ability improved after weight training also, they never became equal. I have an issue about women on ship duty due to the damage control effort needed. Yes, ship duty is cushy compared to being in the bush, but when it is burning down around you , you want some one able to help lift that 250 lb fire pump thru the overhead or drag you out of the burning hold.(Hours of boredom, minutes of terror). FTR, the one ship fire I was involved in was handled in minutes. We had run so many drills that the real deal was anticlimactic.

  11. While being aboard ship may seem to be "cushy" women still suffer damage quite frequently. "Green Stick" fractures are common and there are evolutions that require raw strength just in combat. I found myself assigned to line handling in underway replenishment and often found myself hanging onto a line and being drug across the deck and not able to let go because the tension was required on the line.

    There are very few functions in the military to which women are truly suited. Nursing is one such function, with clerical functions being another. But even clerks aboard ship find themselves assigned places where male upper body strength is required. My normal duty station was on the bridge standing navigational watches (I was a Quartermaster) yet often found myself manhandling loads that were a significant fraction of my body weight.

    Women do not belong in combat or combat support units because of their lack of physical strength. Their bone structure simply is not built to handle it, and most suffer long term from the wear and tear from even a short stint of duty.

    Except for administrative flying, they also have no business there either. But that's another story.

  12. the commenters here need to read the original post. What it's saying is that Women should be allowed to serve as boots on the ground IF AND ONLY IF they meet the same standards as the men, and that having lower standards for women hurts all serving women, even those who can meet the standards of the men.

    She also says that Women in the military have not been the ones asking for the lower standards, that has been the "middle aged men" who are trying to appease the civilian complainers (of both sexes) by more rapidly increasing the number of women serving in combat roles.

  13. There is a challenge that I have never seen met by the "women-can-do-anything" brigade…… and that is to create an all-female combat unit and put it into combat with the same tasks and requirements as a male unit and let them stand or fall by the results.

    None of the proponents of women in the infantry are willing to do this. Why not?
    Before somebody mentions the Isrealis, their "Caracal" battalion has only ever been deployed in policing functions on Israel's quietest border, or policing their own citizens. Not exactly the kind of battle-honours to cheer over.

    Peter is correct, even ignoring the fact that combat inevitably requires soldiers to go beyond "normal". Things do not go to plan, machinery breaks down. There is always something that requires the grunts to use muscle and endurance beyond the standards set either in training or before deployment.

    Gender-integrated training has been tried and abandoned. The Brits tried it and found that female recruits had roughly four times as many physically debilitating injuries in training.

    What Peter does not address, are the issues of attitude. We might identify the small number of women who can pass the physical standards, but what happens when we attempt to integrate them into infantry units. To start with, they are going to be at the bottom end of the physical performance curve, below average. That decreases the average performance per so,diet in that unit, and increases proportionately the load on the stronger members of the unit. Few units operate at full strength in the latter part of a deployment. Load a unit up with even more physically fragile soldierettes and the combat capacity of that unit degrades even more quickly.
    What does this do to the attitude of those male so,diets who have to pick up the slack? Who have to do more than their fair share because there are too many members of the unit that can't do the job required?

    That is before we start looking at the extra costs of sex-specific facilities.
    It is also before we look at the costs of integrating the sexes in an environment based around young men and women whose sex drive is at its peak. We can teach them, theoretically, to keep their trousers zipped, but it is an additional stress for people already under maximum loads. We can teach mento disregard their normal instincts to protect women, but I have seen comments that the results of such training – treat women as you do men – resulting in higher levels of violence against women.

    What are we trying to achieve?

  14. "David Lang said…
    the commenters here need to read the original post. What it's saying is that Women should be allowed to serve as boots on the ground IF AND ONLY IF they meet the same standards as the men, and that having lower standards for women hurts all serving women, even those who can meet the standards of the men."

    I'm only replying directly to Peter, who bluntly stated no women in combat, regardless of their physical ability. And seeing as it's his blog I'm replying to, I think that's the right post to be focusing on.

  15. Well, your first commentator certainly set the bar low, didn't he?
    As a woman, I'll agree I don't belong in standard infantry combat because of the physical issues. (My position is made easier by the fact that I wouldn't pass minimum height or weight anyway).
    The difficulty lies in the 'other' combat roles. As technology greys the line ever farther the physical nature of combat and who is a combatant gets more unclear each day. And we do need to address that in a serious fashion, and not just because of the male/female question. Is the pilot of a drone a combatant or not? The answer has serious ramifications for mental, legal, and perhaps even physical issues.

  16. @PeterW

    if you are going to eliminate Women from combat because they are near the bottom of the performance curve in terms of their physical abilities, then the right thing to do isn't to make the decision based off their gender, but raise the requirements. Otherwise you are allowing small, skinny men in combat who can't properly support their comrades.

    although I'll point out that combat varies enough that you really don't want everyone to be linebacker material, sometimes you need the small soldiers to fit through smaller openings, to go high where teh linebacker's weight isn't going to be supported.

    Lifting ability is not the be-all-end-all of combat any longer, and hasn't been since guns were introduced.

    No, you don't want the 5'10 120lb woman humping artillary shells, but you don't want the 5'10 120lb man doing so either. But either one is likely to be able to do a great job as forward observer.

    May I suggest that you read the Amazon Legion by Tom Kratman as it goes into depth on this subject http://www.amazon.com/Amazon-Legion-Desert-Called-Peace/dp/1451638132 (Yes, I'm assuming that his research is legit, he's done some serious digging on the topic and I've seen nothing to contradict it)

  17. David Lang…

    Do you not understand how distribution curves work?….. Or the morale effects of loading the bottom end of the curve with less capable people. The standards that we have now are based on a compromise between numbers and effectiveness.

    It's not about lifting ability as the "be-all and end-all" that you even phrase it that way tells me that you haven't read the arguments yourself.
    There is a cost to decreasing the ability to troops to adapt to non-standard situations through the use of physical capacity. (March further, run faster, carry more ammo or deal with situations in which the machinery isn't available).

    There is a cost to dealing with increased rates of attrition through lessened physical robustness. A female who can meet the same norms as the men is still far more likely to suffer debilitating physical breakdown.

    The enemy gets a vote, too. They don't manoeuvre less quickly, carry less ammo or fight less effectively in any way just because you choose to use females.

    The challenge is still there to you – and yes, to Kratman too – to point out where all female units have been used in identical situations and proved equally effective…….. and to advocate that in the future as your method of getting women into the fight on their own merits.

    If you can't do that, then you don't really believe that they are capable of doing the job and you want big, ugly, aggressive men to pick up the slack.

  18. M4….

    The problem with simply applying a physical standard is that it doesn't account for the greater level of attrition due to the wear and tear of physical combat.

    It is bad enough on fit young men. What happens when the majority of the females that you have trained and equipped at such expense, cannot complete their tour, let alone sign up for subsequent tours? Who does their job when they are invalided out?
    How do you account for the inevitable resentment when this one particular class of "soldier" gets more than the average level of flights home?

  19. It's only in recent history that the sword and club stopped being the primary means of combat and the gun replaced them. As such, there is not a long history of all-female units because it's only in the last century that guns leveled the battlefield enough that short term strength (and the endurance to use that strength for the length of the battle) stopped being the primary factors.

    WWI showed that the military had not yet adapted to the differences that guns make to the battlefield (ignoring the lessons that could have been learned from the US Civil War)

    WWII was still a transition, At the start of the war, all countries still had significant numbers of horses in use. But even during that time Russia had quite a number of women fighting. A number of them made quite a name for themselves (Pilots, Snipers that I've heard of)

    Even in WWII you had the drastic difference between the size and strength of the US Marine vs the Japanese Soldiers. Yes they lost, but it wasn't because they carried packs that were lighter than the Marines, it was the weight of numbers and equipment. Going forward into Korea and Vietnam you also have a very drastic difference in the size and strength of the 'average' fighter on each side.

    Can you really argue that the average US woman who is interested in the military is weaker than the average WWII Japanese soldier, North Korean/Chinese, or Vietnamese soldier?

    If you are so afraid of weaklings joining the military, especially based on the 'typical' or 'average' representative of the group, then not only do you need to eliminate females, but there are quite a few 'minority' groups who tend to be smaller than the American average.

    As for your 'challenge' to create an all-female unit, forming one from scratch has the significant problem that NO military unit is made up of all recruits. You need to have your Officers, but even more importantly, you need to have your Sergents.Where are you going to get the experienced Sergents for such a unit if you demand that there be no integration before hand? And if you do have good Sergents and Officers from Integrated units, why is there a need to form an all-female unit?

    > The problem with simply applying a physical standard is that it doesn't account for the greater level of attrition due to the wear and tear of physical combat.

    please show your evidence that females meeting the same standard suffer a higher level of wear and tear than males of the same standard. You can't point at the existing military statistics because you do not have a single standard.

    > How do you account for the inevitable resentment when this one particular class of "soldier" gets more than the average level of flights home?

    This is a real problem, if it happens. But it's not clear that equivalent standards would result in this (although until birth control implants become mandatory and 100% effective, there will always remain the pregnancy loophole). The best answer is to be fighting a popular war so that soldiers aren't trying to dodge it.

  20. Personally, I do question if it's a good thing for Women to be in front-line combat units, but the reasons for my questions have nothing to do with their physical capabilities (assuming a single standard). I think it's a good thing for society for young men to be protective of young women. I think the issue of sex in the foxhole is a real problem (and yes, it can be a real problem for Gays as well). But I will say that if evidence shows that Gays can restrain themselves from being corrosive in such environments, then there's at least a possibility that Women can work out as well.

    And once you get away from the foxholes (which in the current military is just about everything except the Special Forces if you're honest about it), then the arguments against Women because of the different average becomes much weaker. When you are a mechanic, there is an advantage in being able to lift an engine block, but there is also an advantage in being able to slip under a vehicle without having to jack it up, so both large and small have their place in the team.

    And when you are looking for commitment and smarts rather than brute force, eliminating a large percentage of your potential recruits because of what's between their legs doesn't seem smart. Yes they have to meet the minimum requirements for the job.

    That means that very few Women are going to qualify for artillery units where they have to hump shells. But I know ones who would. If you look in civilian jobs where moving large weights around (warehousing comes to mind) you will find that there aren't a lot of women there, but that those who are there are able to hold their own. That is a clear case of a single standard.

  21. I accept that in situations where physical exertions are not as extreme (e.g. flight, service aboard ships, etc.), women can perform as well as men, and do so at present in the US armed forces.

    Peter, I beg to differ. Ships have been known to receive battle damage in combat; were you to find yourself injured under those circumstances and in need of rescue would you want your savior to be Sam – 165 lbs, capable of the fireman's carry you described earlier – or Sally – 115 lbs and minimally capable of slowly dragging a 50 lb sack across the deck?

    The same issue applies to fire fighters and police. We've allowed politcal correctness and "fairness" to thoroughly contaminate both our society and out thinking. Mother Nature is a cruel, heartless, vindictive bitch and she cares not a whit about "fairness" or "equality" or "equal rights"; reality is what reality is and no amount of societal desire or wishful thinking can change it.

    IIRC, there was an essay several years ago from an Army captain (might have been a Marine captain, I can't remember) in Iraq who stated she had no choice but to retire early with a disablity retirement because her knees, hips and ankles were permanently damaged by the stresses of humping a 100lb ruck daily. She stated the men in her command were also taking a beating from the effort but withstanding it much, much better than she was – it was a purely physical issue related to strength, bone structure and resilience (commenter Formynder – above – makes reference to a similar occurrence, might be referring to the essay author I'm thinking of).

    Men and women are different, and in more than the most obvious ways; if we keep pretending they're not there will be a price to be paid at some point.

  22. David……

    I have already mention that the British abandoned gender-integrated training because the injury rate amongst female recruits doing identical training to that of male recruits was multiples of times higher. Between four and eight times higher.

    For an equivalent impact, females – with their lesser bone density and lesser musculature over those same bones – for four times more likely to suffer a debilitating injury.

    Ask yourself why all of the contact sports are segregated.

    Ask yourself why the Russians -who threw women into the meat-grinder of the Eastern Front when they were faced with national annihilation – have dropped females from front-line ground-combat units. It is easy to talk about such incidences of women being involved in fighting when you don't examine the context or results. It is one thing to engage in a strategy when you are one of the most brutal dictatorships in history, the same one that killed nearly as many Russians as the Nazis did , but another to do so when you are a democratic government that will be seeking re-election and must persuade your population that the fight is worth it.

    Ask yourself also why the Israelis dropped integrated units. They will tell you -privately – that it was a disaster only justified because they, too, were facing complete genocide if they lost. Their modern female unit (with a sprinkling of male NCOs and officers to keep up the numbers, is not tasked with anything other than peacekeeping and policing roles.

    There simply is no evidence that it works.

    I have spoken to infantrymen on the subject – not SF – just good grunts with combat experience, and the common reply is that people of your viewpoint simply do not understand the level of physical demand.
    Let me give you an example…..
    The unit that one friend belonged to was alerted to the location of a a High Value Target. This man was known to have a very extensive network of spotters who alerted him to any Coalition movement. This unit decided that their best option was to take advantage of the wet, overcast weather which created a sense of security amongst the enemy, who believed that US. forces would not be able to deploy to that area under those conditions without using noisy machinery.
    The infantry loaded up with six days' rations and ammunition for an extended fight, if they were caught. For my friend -the section machinegunner – that meant a combat load in excess of 240lb. He carried that load across 20clicks of uneven, wet, slippery terrain. An injury as simple as a broken leg would have required mechanical evac and consequent abortion of the mission.

    Double the number of low-capacity personnel, as you want to do, and that reduces the degree to which options like this are available. You can talk all you like about guns and machinery changing the battlefield, but the aim of the enemy is to play to his strengths and your weaknesses. The Afghans have shown themselves adept at this. Don't kid yourself that others will not if our respective countries degrade the capacity of our infantry.

    ……. and no, mechanics are not front-line combat troops.

  23. From Hebrew-language Israeli pres.

    "“After extensive field tests to explore the issue, the IDF has decided that female soldiers cannot serve in the tank corps. . . .The trials, carried out in coordination with the Medical Corps, concluded with the decision that ‘integrating female soldiers into tanks was harmful,’ a senior IDF officer told Ynet News.com in an article titled IDF Rejects Female Integration in Armored Corps.

    One of the difference between the Israelis and most commenting here….. They know that their nation and it's people face an existential threat. They know that the only reason that it continues to exist, is that they are dedicated to having the most effective possible military. They know that the only valid question is not, "What is good for women in tbe IDF!", but "What is good for the IDF?"

    If a policy is not good for the IDF, it is good for neither that organisation's female members, nor any other women in Israel.

  24. Inconsiderate Bastard.

    You are probably recalling the article by USMC Capt. Katie Petronio, called "Get Over It – We Are Not All Created Equal"

    She was in many ways the kind of woman -athlete, far stronger than average – that we would expect to thrive in the military if women could. After a tour as a Marine Engineer officer, her results were as you described, and she was vocal in her conviction that had she been required to serve that same deployment as infantry, she would not have been able to complete it.

  25. In WW1 the "average" US infantryman was a 21 year old 5 ft. 4in. 120Lb. farm kid , who carried a 40 pound combat load. In WW2 the "average" infantryman was a 22 year old 5ft. 6in. 135Lb. farm boy who carried a 30 to 60lb. load into combat. In both wars we were a low "tech" army that road marched into battle and did mighty deeds with 5 and 8 shot rifles and low tech but reliable weapons "systems". We won both wars. We haven't done it since. Women in combat? So what? We no longer have that Army. What we have now are a few "Special Forces" who still fight the fight the "old school way, and a crapton of road bound "infantry" units that cannot conduct a firefight with 9 to 1 odds IN THERE FAVOR without air support. NO ONE in the US Army , US Navy, USCG or USMC (without question the best we have) could conduct a WW2, "ass in the grass" "foxhole" battle in the 2000 teens, without getting there asses handed to them.(EVERYTHING ELSE is jingoistic bullshit) Right now the whole of the US military is smaller and weaker than the force that attacked France in 1944. We really don't have a "military" so much as we have an outlet to make Lockheed and Boing rich(er). We just spent 15 years fighting a war with 10,000 to 1 odds in OUR FAVOR and LOST. Women in combat? WHO CARES? Because until we change the basic "ground truth" of our "leadership" our military will remain what it is right now.

  26. So a few arguments are being tossed back and forth, but actually reading them carefully it's clear that there's no discussion to be had here. The most prolific arguments are built on the assumption that all women are inferior to all men. Until you understand what's wrong with that there's no point even trying to talk to you.

    Bonus round, this little gem:
    >The challenge is still there to you – and yes, to Kratman too – to point out where all female units have been used in identical situations and proved equally effective

    It's kinda like trying to decide whether women should be allowed into colleges or into scientific fields, when they have never been allowed to before, and saying "Well if you say they can do it, show us when in all of these years they've done it!" and quietly forgetting that you've expressly forbidden it, and suppressed it where it has happened.

  27. None of you have discussed another aspect of women in the foxholes or out on extended tours of duty, and that is the fact that women have their monthly periods.

    More than a few women get physically ill during their periods, some actually needing bed rest.

    If a female cannot change her "feminine napkin" and cleanse herself regularly, the aroma quickly becomes overpowering. There is no getting around this, other than women in a unit begging off missions because it's their "time of the month" for up to a week at a time.

    The conveniences of modern civilization for women have masked this reality, but it still exists.

    And no, I am not anti-female. It's just that certain past experiences have caused me to experience this sort of thing first hand.

  28. @m4: You said:

    "The most prolific arguments are built on the assumption that all women are inferior to all men. Until you understand what's wrong with that there's no point even trying to talk to you."

    I'm afraid you're completely wrong. In the first place, we're discussing only the physical aspect of combat service – I made that very clear in my article. Secondly, it's not that women are physically inferior to men; it's that they're physically different to men. Difference doesn't imply either superiority or inferiority. In certain aspects they're unquestionably superior to men – let a man try having a baby and you'll see what I mean!

    As I took pains to point out, there are many aspects of military service where women can (and do) serve on equal terms with men. That's precisely as it should be. However, cold hard reality – imposed by nature, not by the male gender – places certain demands on those engaged in ground combat. It's a fact of life that the vast majority of women are not capable of meeting those demands, for the pure and simple reason that they're not built that way. There's nothing demeaning or inferior about that. It's just the way things are.

  29. 1. The vast majority of women are physically incapable of handling, for an extended period, the requirements of combat. Indisputable fact.

    2. The majority of women are emotionally unsuitable to the requirements of extended combat. Fact – how many women are running in the gangs controlling the inner cities of the world?

    3. The majority of young men who are the primary combatants are emotionally incapable of dealing with extended combat, if there are women around. This has been tested repeatedly, even by the US Army. Go look up what happened in Korea during one the "This is not a drill" events. Men can't think straight around women.

    4. Women make valuable contributions in other fields of the military, and do have a place outside of combat units. But even there, the lack of strength shows.

  30. "We just spent 15 years fighting a war with 10,000 to 1 odds in OUR FAVOR and LOST."

    True, but due mostly to political rather than military factors; lack of resolve in prosecuting operations, lack of strategic clarity in deciding exactly what the desired long-term goals were, and lack of psychological understanding of the enemy. The Marshall Plan worked in Europe largely because the Allies were willing to knock the Axis down hard, and the Axis powers were — once their Johnny-come-lately fascism had been scraped off — culturally similar enough that they could accept the rebuilding assistance the Allies offered.

    Neither the current nor the previous U.S. administration ever had, I think, a really clear idea of what they wanted to do once various dangerous regimes had been knocked down, nor, I think, did they grasp the depths of the psychological differences from the post-Christian West in the cultures with which they were grappling — I think the Bush 43 admin was finally beginning to get a handle on it, but they were turfed out by what honestly seems to have been the worst foreign-policy administration in U.S. history. (Which is one reason democratically-elected governments, I think, learn to favour winning wars fast if they win them at all; Vietnam taught the world that all that is needed to beat the U.S. is to turn domestic public opinion against that conflict, even if you lose every actual fight.)

  31. Bob, it isn't just the aroma – not being able to change them out can lead to severe medical crises. It was just a couple of weeks ago that there was an article about a mom filing a lawsuit against a tampon manufacturer because her daughter left it in overnight. Can't remember if the daughter died or if she just had serious permanent medical damage.

    As for Amazon Legion – LTC Kratman stated that it was the novelization of the only way he had been able to come up with to train and field a female combat unit. And it was something that was under constant discussion and scrutiny throughout his career. A couple of points that are normally glossed over: their individual load was reduced, the units had higher numbers of personnel, and they required a higher level of "back home support", i.e. nannies and such to take care of the young ones when momma got called to duty. And it does seem that there are way more single moms than there are single dads.

    Also, from discussions with the colonel, every time there have been women in combat, they have suffered significantly higher casualty rates than their male counterparts in the same situation. Something on order of 4 to 1 higher, IIRC, was the rate the Soviets experienced in WWII.

    Lastly, and I can only point to the anecdotes told by my father and other senior NCOs and Warrant Officers that were around when it happened, the integration of females in to units in the US military has led to a decrease in readiness, effectiveness, morale, and discipline in every unit they have been introduced into, be it combat, combat support, or service support. Every time. They've related stories of everything from dereliction to harrassment, from black mail to prostitution, from preferential treatment to, well, damn near mutiny. You name, I've heard the story from someone that was there at the time.

  32. The thing that gets to me about the people who are sure that if women were given the chance they'd be fine in combat are forgetting simple things like biology.

    A man and woman who are equal in height are not going to be equal in weight because the man is going to have denser muscles and bones, that's why he'll be able to carry more weight for a longer distance than the hypothetically equal woman. For information on long term differences between the bones of men and women the easiest thing to do is probably look at differences in rates of osteoporosis. I don't know the exact rates, but I do know that women get severe osteoporosis more frequently than men.

    There's other factors that comes into play as well, muscle and bone structure. A woman has wider hips and a slightly narrower chest. Wide hips make walking for long distances over uneven ground far more difficult because of differences in stride and center of gravity. Because of her narrower chest a woman is going to have slightly smaller lung capacity so she's not getting as much oxygen with each inhalation, meaning that during periods of strenuous activity she'll tire faster.

    There's also differences in the distribution of body fat, women have more fat, meaning they're better insulated, so I guess that's one thing in a woman's favor, but then there's differences in the circulatory system itself. Men have better circulation in their extremities which helps with balance and stability (try standing or holding something steady when your hands and feet are numbed due to cold).

    And that's really all I can contribute to this sort of discussion because I have no military experience of my own, so I can't cite specific situations where these differences would make a difference, I just know that they're there.

  33. @Peter My most recent comment was directed at the comments thread itself, where a popular argument is all about how adding women would mean adding to the low end of the performance distribution. Despite the fact that there's women that would outperform certain men in every physical task.

    That said, you yourself made it clear that you don't care about the actual physical performance of a woman; they're female and therefore are incapable of possessing the strength of a man.

  34. @m4 I cannot assume to speak for everyone, but I believe you're misinterpreting things. People aren't saying that there aren't certain women who can't out preform certain men, what's being said is that the average woman isn't going to out preform the average man. To put it in a nonmilitary context the idea is that just because Ronda Rousey could win a fight with an average dude off the street doesn't mean that she could win against Brock Lesnar.

    Sorry for the less than great comparison, it was the best thing that I could think of involving two fairly well known individuals where the woman technically has the more impressive performance record of the two.

  35. @Ferric: The problem is that what we're debating here is allowing the possibility for a woman to be a grunt (bluntly). The argument as you would define it is "The average woman can't, so no woman can", or as Peter put it "Women can't". That's where my problem is. I say that if a woman can, she should be allowed to.

  36. @M4 – Actually, the argument is 'Why should we throw away a system that has worked through all of human history, and replace it with something that has been proven not to work, when the consequences involve not just individual life and death, but the survival of our society as a whole?'

    I always enjoy these debates. It's just exactly like arguing with Communists (and normally with the same or very similar people), when they say that True Communism has never really been tried, because they never had the right people (usually themselves) in charge.

  37. And the background truth that the 'Equlaizers' like to avoid. Women produce 100% of the children. If you put women into combat roles, then in the next massive war, and there is always a next one, you guarantee that the nation will have a much harder time surviving and recovering if you slaughter a generation of fertile women in their peak child-bearing years.

    This is why, in a healthy society, the men protect the women and children. It's human instinct, and the only way to help ensure that there will be a future.

    Any argument to the contrary (other than in true dire straights, like the Four Nations War) is arguing for human or societal extinction.

  38. @McChuck or y'know, let's just stomp over another gender because what can they possibly show us? Same shit getting thrown around every time women want to do something they historically haven't been allowed to.

    Who says anything about throwing away the system? Take your strawman and come back when you can formulate an actual argument.

  39. Huh, all I got was TROLL. Anyone want a troll? I've certainly got better things to do than to deal with this one…

  40. m4, you're doing a decent strawman, I'd say you're projecting nicely.

    If you are in fact interested in the facts (doubtful, IMO, but just in case) you should read that article by Captain Katie Petronio.

    This woman met the minimum physical requirements for men. She was a star athlete in college, and did very well in the USMC. After just five years and two deployments, she is medically unfit for further service and is infertile.

    Women who can meet the men's physical standards, who are intelligent, capable and dedicated, are IMO precious and not to be wasted in combat. Captain Petronio can no longer have children, is that the fate you would impose on other women, m4?

  41. @tweel, if you'd like to actually highlight the alleged strawman, that'd be great. I'll read that article, and will refrain from commenting on her particular case until then. Don't you think it's a little controlling to tell people what jobs they are and aren't worth? Isn't it up to them to decide that? Also men who can meet those standards and are intelligent, capable, and dedicated, why are they expendable? Guess there's more of them, into the grinder we go, but it is possible to run terribly short of those men too. WW1 and WW2 spring to mind, or rather, the aftermath. As for infertility, again aren't we assuming a bit too much? There are women that don't want children (despite the seemingly guaranteed paycheck it gets you in some places), and there are women (and men, for that matter!) who have signed up for the Mars mission despite the fact that it will likely make them all infertile. Is a woman's right to choose what she does with her body still an alien concept?

  42. @M4, You seem to be willfully obtuse. Let us say that we get one of the amazing Amazonian women that can meet near the minimum physical requirements for a male. She is at the absolute peak of her abilities. She is tapped out, with nowhere to go in terms of improving her performance. Not only that, but due to her differing musculature and bone structure, even though she meets the minimum requirements, she is much more likely to be injured in the course of routine combat operations. Your minimum capability male, on the other hand, probably has some headroom to grow. If he is a 120 pound weakling, then he can bulk up and gain strength. And let me tell you, he will. When we went into combat operations with the 82d, we were carrying about 150 pounds of gear. When you do that day after day, month after month, it is as good as a concentrated weight-lifting program. The marginal male WILL get better at what he is required to do. The female? Not so much.


  43. @doofus… I would challenge the statement that a woman needs to be an Amazon warrior at her peak just to meet the minimum requirements. I find that laughable.

  44. I still want someone to actually clearly define what is or is not combat these days. Infantry, mechanics, fighter planes, cargo planes, the clerks, the drone operators, the…..?
    But you know what pisses me off? The assumption that some guy will be around to protect me when the s— hits the fan, because, Kids; and the corollary: no kids equals no value as a woman. It doesn't work that way. It is true that women in combat is a bad idea for physical reasons. But it isn't true that women are either too nice or too squeamish for combat. Nor is it true that men protect women out of some innate sense of chivalry.

  45. Okay. This qualifies as a strawman (or a hissy fit, take your choice): "@McChuck or y'know, let's just stomp over another gender because what can they possibly show us? Same shit getting thrown around every time women want to do something they historically haven't been allowed to."

    Historically, women have gone into combat, but… they were either the exception that proves the rule and/or their nation was facing dire straits. In either case, they weren't there for long.

    I'll go back to basics here, and borrow from John Ringo. If you have one man and twenty women, a year later you can have twenty babies. That guy would be busy, but it'll work. If you have twenty men and one woman, you're only going to have one baby a year later. This is math for tribes and nations. Historically, 80% of women and 40% of men successfully reproduced, according to the genealogists.

    Next, basic guy/gal interaction. Any decent military unit becomes a group of their own, tribal lines are drawn. Good women, like Captain Petrucio, are tight with their units. Now put them in combat. If a soldier goes down, his fellow soldiers will try to save him. If a woman goes down… that is hugely magnified. Having companies go berserk is NOT a good thing. There was a great deal of over-reaction when Jessica Lynch was captured. The troops started slaughtering anyone that could possibly be involved, and some that couldn't have been involved. The Powers That Be did their best to hide it, but it happened.

    Read The Amazon Legion, by Thomas Kratman. Actually read it, don't do the skim until offended routine (because it will offend, repeatedly, to any SJW). It is science fiction, but Col. Kratman tends to teach as much as he entertains. His Amazons are trained by their counterparts in the Gorgidas Legion (gays), so sexual favors aren't an issue (it's a BIG issue in our military, as I know from first hand experience). The women are issued mules to help with the load (the Pentagon has been researching mechanical mules for over a decade now). And when they die in battle… yeah.

  46. m4…

    It is not a fair or honest assessment of the argument against women in combat to claim that it can be simplified to "all women are less capable than all men".

    The real argument is that a few can, but that they are so few that the costs of integrating them into male combat units – both in blood and treasure – is greater than the benefit by a significant margin.

    And we are talking about front-line troops. Those whose role in warfare is to close with the enemy and engage them in order to destroy them and their ability to fight back. by whatever means required.

    As has been pointed out many times, the enemy gets a vote. Whenever we limit ourselves by over-dependence on one particular style of fighting or the use of particular weapons and technology, the enemy will seek out ways of attacking us in our areas of lesser strength, and they will do that with determination and intelligence.

  47. For all youse guys dancing on the head of the pin here, let me tell you about my experience while in the FLNG.
    I was in an admin company the entire time I was in the Guard. I went from Spec 4 to TSGT by way of being the NCOIC of the BGD postal section, BGD PIO section and finally the BDG IG section.
    The company was about 40-50% female as were the different sections. In the first place every year at annual training time(2 weeks) we usually could count on 3-5 on the female not being able to make training because of some problem or other. We would run a convoy of about ten vehicles up to camp. And all of our equipment had to be loaded up first. And that included the 22 tents that had to be raised in the field, mostly GP mediums. The canvas for a GP medium weighs about 300 pounds(when dry). Takes four strong guys to move one off the back of a 'duce. Setting it up means lifting the centerline pole and the tent with a 12' pole at each end at the same time- takes about 4-5 guys or 3-4 guys and 3-4 females.
    Once the field cantonment was set up things would usually go okay, except in the evenings the young ladies would want to go hieing off to the NCO club or wherever. With a couple of thousand guys in the field for two weeks – not a good thing – unless some of the company guys went with them. Don't get me started on digging foxholes and OPs and latrines.
    Not to say we didn't usually have a good time, but the guys all knew that we had to continuously watch out and take care of "our" people.
    And I won't tell you about the fun time instructing our female officers on how to shoot the 1911A1 .45ACP pistol or drive a stick-shift jeep or a 'duce and a half.
    Oh yeah, we usually put the female enlisted in my GP small so as to give them some privacy. And I would stick my sleep-setup(a CCCV) in front of the door after they had retired for the evening.

  48. In the Navy, there's another problem with women on ships besides raw physical strength.

    If a woman is or becomes pregnant, she is not eligible for sea duty, and must be assigned to a shore billet. This causes men to lose out on the shore portion of what used to be a normal sea/shore alternation, which affects retention because the long-term career becomes less attractive. It also means that ships often have to make a last-minute scramble to obtain replacement personnel prior to deployment, especially if it's to a less-than-desirable destination.

    Besides that, it makes the shore facilities less effective (in 2009, some shore stations were noting that they couldn't carry out their missions properly because one third of their positions were filled by pregnant women who couldn't carry out the requirements of their job).

    In 2005, which was the latest information I could find when I wrote about it 5 years ago, some 14 percent of the women in the Navy were single mothers. I can only believe that it's worse now. I have no idea what the numbers are for the other services.

  49. Regarding the issues of menstruation in the field, that is a thing which can be dealt with hormonally. It is an on-label use of birth control pills to suppress menstruation for several months at a time. Instead of the "natural" 3 weeks on, 1 week off cycle, a woman would instead use four 3 week portions of the pill pack consecutively, giving 12 weeks of non-menstruation, followed by a typical 1 week menstruation cycle. This gives 13 week periods, rather than 1 month periods, or 4 a year rather than 13. (My wife, a pharmacist, used this method for years.)

    Regarding Capt. Petronio's article ("Get Over It!"), A.) One data point does not a graph make. B.) She's not even that great of a data point. No disrespect to the Captain intended at all, but at 5'3" she's small even for a woman, in America. While also not the average, I know a number of women who are 6' tall, and stoutly built. (I hang out with roller derby players, so I probably have a higher than average chance of meeting women of that stature.) I suspect that women of that build would be better suited to surviving the rigors of combat operations.

    I am not, of course, stating that they definitively would not experience the same muscle atrophy and nutrition deficit issues that plagued Capt. Petronio, because of course I can't know that. I am saying that it seems likely that extrapolating from a single data point is probably not a good way to get a scientific answer to the question.

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