06 February 2013


by Andy Weddington
Wednesday, 06 February 2013

"The very purpose of a knight is to fight on behalf of a lady." Sir Thomas Malory 
In a letter dated 24 January 2013 our Commandant addressed his generals, retired generals, on the subject "OUR MARINES".

General James Amos, USMC, specifically turned attention to Secretary of Defense Panetta's decision to eliminate the 1994 policy that restricted women from combat roles and what that decision means, from his perspective, to our Marine Corps.

As goes the chain of command and information flow, the generals sent the commandant's letter down the chain to their Marines. I received it multiple times. I've read it - multiple times. And have thought about it at length.

A couple of paragraphs - the last on page one and the first on page two - are standouts. As follows...

"Today's announcement not only provides the policy context for what began in 2011, it gives us the time we need to continue our effort to gather and review statistically relevant data to validate occupational performance standards the right way. We have long since stepped off on a deliberate, measured, and responsible approach aimed at carefully examining all aspects of combat unit readiness, MOS assignments, and individual safety and health. As we identify MOSs that can be responsibly opened up to our female Marines we will do so.

It will not surprise you to learn I get the most questions about our infantry, reconnaissance, and special operations MOSs. Across DOD, the decision to open them will be determined by recommendations from the Commandant and the Chief of Staff of the Army. Our recommendations are due 2016. The 36th Commandant will have three years of collected data and ground truth to consider as he makes his final recommendation. I believe we have created the conditions for him to provide his best analytically-informed military advice on this critical matter to the civilian leadership, who have the constitutionally-enshrined power of final decision. I don't know what my successor's recommendation will be, but the end state is not a foregone conclusion, as some have suggested. The memorandum agreed to by all the service chiefs specifically states, "...if we find that the assignment of women to a specific position or occupational specialty is in conflict with stated principles, we will request an exemption to policy.""

There is ample to analyze but to the point(s).

For two days I watched the publicly broadcast hearings held by the Senate Armed Services Committee, with testimony by the service chiefs, regarding repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'  (DADT). Some service chiefs supported repeal. Some service chiefs, including our Commandant (who read from a powerful letter he received, from a second lieutenant in command of a rifle platoon in combat, pleading not to let repeal happen because it would destroy unit cohesion), did not support repeal. It didn't matter. The tone of those hearings was clear - the decision a foregone conclusion. Repeal, no matter what the data said (not compelling for change, in fact combat arms specialities were against), was going to happen. It did.

General Amos makes an assumption our next Commandant will be a male. Considering the agenda to assign women to ground combat units, is that presumptuous?

And, the most significant words of our Commandant's letter, "...the civilian leadership, who have the constitutionally-enshrined power of final decision."

Indeed they do. And they exercised it repealing DADT. And they will exercise that power again when it comes to assigning women to ground combat units - regardless of how compelling the data and arguments. A request for exemption? Why bother? But it sounds good. Though it comes across as an appeasing pat on the head.

And so some questions about this whole gender-neutral concept as is talked about for developing one performance standard for Marines in all MOSs. 

Women Marines will soon be required to perform pull-ups as part of physical fitness training and testing. Good. But the standard is less. Why?

And, if Marines are to train as they are going to fight, should not gender-neutral also apply to all other aspects of life as a Marine?

What about grooming standards? Why should women be permitted to wear makeup and earrings and nail polish when in uniform? What functional purpose, to a Marine, do they serve? Are they not distracting, attracting, to males (especially younger Marines with hormones amok)?

Uniforms - why skirts and pumps and heels (likely an elimination most women would welcome) and anything attire related that announces femininity?

Should male Marines open and hold doors for female Marines and extend other cultural courtesies typically favored to the fairer gender? Arguably no - if there is to be no preferential treatment during tough training and on battlefields - in combat.

Is not one standard one standard? Or will gender-neutral be tailored as convenient? How confusing when consistency is absent.

And on go the questions.

Elaine Donnelly, President, Center for Military Readiness (www.cmrlink.org), is leading a valiant charge to stop the push for assigning women to ground combat units.

Her efforts are being waged largely from a quantitative vantage point (to counter, to challenge, the "quantitative" data collection being done by the services). That is logical. I, as do many Marines, applaud and support Ms. Donnelly, but it is the wrong strategy using the wrong tactics. The battles will be lost and so will the war. It positively will not work because the data, regardless of what it indicates, will not matter. Requests, by service chiefs, for exemptions will not matter. 

The only approach that will stop women from being assigned to ground combat units is an overwhelming emotional one - that is, parents and grandparents and great grandparents engaging with their elected representatives and making it clear they do not want their daughters, granddaughters, and great granddaughters serving in ground combat.

Another Marine, a Commandant, makes this point crystal clear - pick up his perspective at the 9:55 mark (by the way, that's Ms. Donnelly seated to his immediate right - she's been engaged a long time and knows the issue): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fy--whDNNKk

But it is not Marines who should be listening to General Barrow.

America, that 99% that does not serve in uniform, should be listening. And that 99% should be listening closely and carefully to what their government is trying to do. Americans need to quit looking at their feet and shift their gaze to the horizon - disaster looms.
General Barrow's testimony has had another 5,000 or so views since I posted it last week. Later today it will surely eclipse 50,000 views (in 11 months). But there's no reason it shouldn't be 50 million or 100 million views - for public awareness and engagement. Congress will do what America demands. That's the beauty of voting.
General Amos has a job to do. He had a decision to make. He's opted in support of ending the combat exclusion. For continued service, he had to make that decision. Active Duty and Reserve Marines salute and carry on. Some Marine organizations are opting to remain mute. But America does not have to do likewise.

In closing, as I wrote to a retired Marine general officer a few days ago...

"My sentiments about current USMC leadership are not personal whatsoever - but for the health of the institution I dearly love. I fear and I believe General Barrow, who knows (knew) more about ground combat than anyone opining today, will prove correct in his prediction: The Marine Corps will be destroyed. And it will happen not by deliberate sabotage (at least I hope that's not the case) but by means of decisions and actions ordered by those (and I speak to politicians not Marines) who do not know what they are talking about."  

Post Script 
This is serious business. Forward General Barrow's testimony to everyone, especially mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers, with an encouraging word to watch - for their kin will not be exempt. Let's make sure America understands what's at stake. Or, forever hold your peace while witnessing females one day, in the not-to-distant-future, being compelled to carry a piece.

And visit Ms. Donnelly's website. Engage. Help!  

Author's Endnote

From my paintbrush a few years ago - painted for the Officers Spouses. It hangs in the Officers' Club, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, 29 Palms, California. How appropriate. How serendipitous. I don't remember titling it but it has one now.

'Drawing Sword on Chivalry'
24 x 24 acrylic on panel


Unknown said...

An Endnote that was before it's time; very nicely stated and without a word.

A Colonel of Truth said...

On Feb 6, 2013, at 11:55 AM, "Elaine Donnelly" wrote:

Hello Colonel Weddington,

Thank you for supporting me, and for directing people to our website, www.cmrlink.org. I share your concern about Gen. Amos missing the opportunity to fight for the culture and character of the Corps. His letter to retired colleagues pleaded for support, but I was not impressed. In addition to the points you made explaining why his assumptions are unfounded, there is another factor of concern, which we mentioned in this article:

Seven Reasons Why Women-in-Combat Diversity Will Degrade Tough Training Standards
Excerpt: "The next Commandant will be selected under criteria set by the Military Leadership Diversity Commission and the Obama Administration. Since that general will be required to support MLDC priorities, it is likely that quiet changes will be made in the IOC program of instruction so that a sufficient number of women can pass the course. Standards will be "equal," but not the same as they are now. The same thing will happen in Army Ranger training, which Gen. Odierno has said he wants to make co-ed."
I must differ with one of your comments -- CMR is not taking a narrow approach to this issue. Working behind the scenes for many months, we took the lead in obtaining and analyzing information about the Marine Corps WISRR research project, which has been difficult with roadblocks in the way. The result is a wealth of information on our website not published elsewhere, starting with a 42-page report on the Marines' 2012 research project:

Defense Department Diversity Push for Women in Combat

The story is still not complete -- witness the summary purporting to represent the views of active-duty Marines on this subject: Survey of Marines Fails to Show Support for Women in Direct Ground Combat Units

Still, we hope that others will take and run with the new information CMR has provided and start asking questions:

· Are Marine organizations going to stand silently while tough Marine training standards are eroded by constant pressures to meet "diversity metrics?"

· Are three- and four-star generals going to make excuses for abolishing women's combat exemptions, knowing that this will empower ACLU attorneys to get a federal court to draft the teenage girl next door?

· The process of equalizing tough training standards will make them less demanding for men, who will be less prepared for combat and forced to deal with complicated social issues that are causing great turmoil in other military communities. How does this benefit the Marine Corps and national security in any way?

It was an honor to testify on the same panel with General Robert Barrow in July 1991. The Senate has not had a hearing on this issue since then, 22 years ago. On the House side, the last hearing was in 1979, 34 years ago (not counting the five minutes I was given after working for a full year on the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces). Isn't it about time for Congress to show respect for women by taking this issue seriously?

It has been only three weeks since the lame-duck Secretary of Defense made his irresponsible move. A wave of well-written articles have been published, including yours, but we need to see more of them.

Bottom line: It's up to Moms and Dads everywhere to understand the situation and ask their members of Congress: What are you going to do about this?

All the best,

Elaine Donnelly
President, Center for Military Readiness
P. O. Box 51600
Livonia, Michigan 48151

A Colonel of Truth said...

We have a "Confidential Contact" spot on our website and I can get information and opinions directly to key people in Congress without ID information. They have told me they want to hear what the Pentagon is not telling them.


Elaine Donnelly
President, Center for Military Readiness
P. O. Box 51600
Livonia, Michigan 48151

Marc said...

Andy,as an Officer of Marines not currently serving on active duty, and a father of a Company Grade Officer currently serving on active duty, I am horrified by the prospect of women serving in combat roles. The mission of the infantry is to locate, close with and destroy, through fire and close combat. No purpose is served by opening these positions to woman. No national defense interest is served. There is no current gap in our national defense structure that needs filling.
My concern is not really focused on today. Let us look into the hazy unknown of the future. Who is to say that 20 years from now we are not facing a threat from fanatics of the Religion of Peace, but rather what if we face a threat from China or what used to be the Soviet Union. What if, in that world, we are forced to institute a draft in order to meet the threat? Well, at that time, 20 years after we have altered the current rules to allow a handful of women who perceive a need to be in combat roles, we will have evolved into mandating women into these roles. We will be in a position of forcing women into combat roles.
The son I mentioned above is expecting the birth of twin baby girls in a month or so. Will my granddaughters be forced into a position where they are drafted and subsequently assigned to an infantry battalion so they must locate, close with and destroy the enemy through fire and close combat? I am horrified at the thought. This is not a game, this is not about advancement opportunities or gender equality (whatever that might be), this is serious, dangerous and wholly misdirected energy. Nothing is added to national defense and no one is better off in the end. You are correct in calling for mothers, fathers and grandparents to come to the aid of their children.