by Andy Weddington
Friday, 01 June 2012
"History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives." Abba Eban
A month or so ago, the Marine Corps, complying with direction from civilian authority (Congress), announced plans (ALMAR 012/12 details) to soon send women through the Infantry Officers Course. Shortly thereafter the Army followed with plans to send women through their elite Ranger School. Standing by for the Navy's intent to allocate seats for women at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S).
And so, the tug-o-war--about women being assigned to ground combat units, particularly the infantry--has new vigor.
In the early 1980s the Marine Corps Association (MCA), Quantico, Virginia, reprinted a couple of small books that grace the library of many a Marine. On the Commandant's Reading List, they're still relevant.
The first, 5 x 8 x 3/16 inches paperback, is titled, "Battle Leadership" by Captain Adolf Von Schell. The book was copyright 1933 by Major Edwin F. Harding and reprinted by the MCA in 1982. Its content summed up by the title.
"Captain Von Schell's collection of lessons learned as a small unit infantry commander during World War I should be a part of every Marine's professional library. It is one of the finest works of its type I have read and compares favorably with Rommels [sic] Infantry Attacks. His observations on combat leadership and tactics are timeless and are as pertinent today as they were in 1917. It should be required reading for all combat leaders, particularly those serving on the platoon, company and battalion level. D. M. Twomey, Major General, U. S. Marine Corps."
At the time of endorsing 'Battle Leadership' General Twomey had assumed duties as Director of Education, Marine Corps Development and Education Command, Quantico, Virginia, after turning over command of the 2d Marine Division (to then Major General A. M. Gray).
I read that book, again, recently and a few days ago happened upon the true story of then Major Charles White Whittlesey's battlefield leadership. He earned the Medal of Honor leading the "Lost Battalion" in the Argonne Forest during World War I. His unit, surrounded by the Germans, engaged repeatedly in close fighting and brutal hand-to-hand combat for days. Trained or not, it'd been no place for a woman.
The second, 5 x 8 x 3/8 inches paperback, is titled, "The Soldier's Load and The Mobility of a Nation" by S. L. A. Marshall. The book was copyright 1950 by the Association of the United States Army and reprinted by the MCA in 1980.
In his introduction, Marshall tells of an impressionable experience: After listening to senior leadership brief their rosy 'plan of attack' for a Navy/Marine amphibious training exercise, he asked a simple question: "Now have you told the troops that if this were war they would be doing well if that first line of low ridges were theirs by the end of the day?" After dodging his question, the briefers finally offered the answer Marshall suspected and expected, "No." To which he replied, "That's the hell of it. No one ever does. Out of such plans and exercises in peacetime, when no precautionary words are spoken, we recreate our own myths about the potential of our human forces. Then when war comes again, men who discovered the bitter truth the hard way are all gone. Voila, we've got to learn all over again."
Marshall's book, as the title suggests, largely addresses the historical problem of the weight, the load of gear, shouldered by infantryman--and discusses the physical and psychological (e.g. fear) impact on combat efficiency and effectiveness. And yet there are other subtle points scattered throughout easily skimmed over that cause pause for serious thought.
"The dilemma for the Army is obvious. If its ranks are to be filled during peace, it must compete with what civilian life has to offer. But it is also obligated to answer squarely whether the terms of the competition do not surely risk the failure of its ultimate military assignment. General Weygand, called by the French Cabinet to restore the national defenses along the line of the Somme, after the German advance to the Channel in 1940, looked his army over and then reported back to his political superiors that it was too late, that the policies which the government has sponsored for twenty years had sapped his men of courage. But when he himself had been Chief of Staff before General Gamelin was, he had not cried out against the moral decline.
Today it may sound like heresy to suggest that the policies established to dangle security in front of the soldier, and set each man up as a specialist with definitely limited obligations--and the substitution of civilian theories on personnel management for the traditional military ideals of duty and discipline--also tend to turn the Army further away from any male purpose." (pages 93/94)
There's a lesson there.
Last week I stumbled across the Quarterly Meeting Minutes--22-23 September 2011--of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS). Background and recommendations towards the end of the minutes interesting. Strange. Troublesome.
In particular, as to assigning women to ground combat units...
"Develop appropriate physical standards by MOS, relevant to the job to be performed." And, "The integration of women into combat units will require that facilities be modified, training be reviewed and testing be conducted so that relevant standards are established."
And there is more.
The reading triggered some simple questions. "Relevant standards"--for what and for and to whom? And, "job to be performed"?
The answers not so difficult to reach. Shelve current standards required of male Marines and establish standards (irrespective of reality and relevant only to an agenda) females can meet. And who knows what "the job" of a combatant? In the unpredictable arenas of tough, physical, challenging, and dangerous training, and ground combat, it could be anything.
Fighting units in the Marine Corps are built around a core known as the 'fireteam'--four Marines--team leader; rifleman; automatic rifleman; grenadier. For starters, acknowledging women lack the physical size, strength, and endurance of men, how is it that replacing even one male Marine with a female will strengthen the (comprehensive) capability of that fireteam?
And, by extrapolation, is there not call by DACOWITS to establish "relevant standards" of leadership? That is, since females lack the size, strength, and endurance of males, how will go leading Marines from the front--especially in infantry units? Marine Corps leadership, in rigorous combat arms specialties and especially the infantry, is 'do as I do'--exponentially more so than 'do as I say.' You cannot lead infantryman if unable to do all, and more, you ask of and order them to do. It's called, leadership by example. And the same applies to the ground combat units of the other services.
Anyone who's served in an infantry battalion, seeing combat or not, well knows the demands of training--day in and day out. The idea of "gender-norming" (code for "feminizing") any of those demands for the purpose of validating self-serving lab tests as justification to integrate women into ground combat units is irresponsible, practically speaking, and shameful, morally speaking. And downright dangerous, too.
If women belonged in ground combat units then in reality, not theory, an all-female infantry unit should be able to perform equally well as an all-male unit. That is, no deference whatsoever to meeting reality-based physical fitness and readiness requirements and able to accomplish whatever mission assigned. "Gender-normed" tests artificially constructed for the sole purpose of achieving a political goal nor tailoring nor restricting missions acceptable.
Though this idea of women in ground combat units is not addressed in either of the aforementioned books (an unimaginable idea in the respective authors days), the macro idea of shaping and sustaining the most capable and powerful military force possible is captured in a sentence on page 118 of Marshall's book: "Whatever is done in an army should always aim at increasing and strengthening its moral power."
Some say women do not belong in the military but women have shown they have a place. Yet those who well know what they're talking about adamantly reject the idea of women in ground combat units because, for sundry practical, biological, physiological, medical, cultural, logical, and sane reasons, degradation of readiness, efficiency, and effectiveness is the bottom line. Not able to perform demanding duties, during training or battle, with the alibi of female (for want of size, strength, and endurance), is not acceptable.
Then there's that trite matter of "fairness."
Women and service in ground combat units is indeed a matter of fairness--it's not fair to males nor females. Nor to the citizenry protected.
As noted in the opening paragraph, this initiative to force women into ground combat units is not a need, to address a deficiency, identified by the military at the lowest tactical nor highest strategic levels. It's a civilian want. A want that will realize the wasteful use of time, money, materiel, and, most of all, people at a time when our country can least afford it.
Only government, and the bureaucracy therewith, therein, thereof, and surrounding could come up with something so absurd.
Remember General Weygand?
Will future flag officers face carrying out orders, soon thereafter deemed impossible, with an incapable force--realized by civilian self-serving shaping and sustaining, and military leadership complicity?
If ground combat units are neutered, a certainty. And so we'll have learned nothing from the general nor George Santayana, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
Thankfully, there's at least one video record of a Marine who, without doubt, read those books. And he probably thought about their lessons long and hard. His measured and powerful testimony--a seasoned byproduct of combat in three wars, lifelong study of warfare, and reflection--proof and apropos. Though cited in this forum before, the Senate Armed Services Committee testimony of General Robert H. Barrow, once again, merits inclusion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fy--whDNNKk
And following is perspective, sent to me last week from a retired Marine infantryman/Navy SEAL, from another infantry Marine--to whom General Barrow is only a name in the lineal list of commandants--who knows, from experience and likely having read and absorbed the teachings of Von Schell and Marshall, what he's talking about. http://thesoldiersload.com/2012/05/24/women-do-not-belong-in-the-infantry/
Yes, by all means, remember General Weygand.
Had Major Whittlesey's unit been women, the slaughter absolute. America does not have to incur such horror to learn the lesson.
It's time, past time, for everybody to blow the dust of those gems penned by Von Schell and Marshall.
Of all the female Marines I led, served alongside, followed, observed, and even cursorily crossed paths with, not a single one comes to mind as having any business in a ground combat unit much less the infantry. Nor did any of them ever opine, "Gee, I'd really like to be an infantryman."
Engage with your representative--for it is Congress mandating this abominable science project. Unless stopped, you just may live to see the day your women folk--daughters, granddaughters, nieces, cousins, whathaveyou--drafted and involuntarily trained and assigned duty in ground combat units including the infantry. And there will be no one to blame.