01 February 2013


by Andy Weddington
Friday, 01 February 2013

"And I found nowhere in my mental exploration any place for women to be down in the ground combat element." General Robert H. Barrow, USMC (27th Commandant)

That opening quote, delivered with emotion and emphasizing arm and hand gestures at "any place", by General Barrow was offered during somber reflection of his combat experiences during the Korean War at the Chosin Reservoir - an historic fight against a numerically superior Chinese force where his leadership in command of a rifle company holding a key pass near Koto-ri was recognized with a Navy Cross.

A year ago come March 17th, I wrote and posted commentary titled, 'Destroying the Marine Corps - Women in Combat'. 

That comment was short and to the point. But my words, from the perspective of an infantryman, were offered only to frame the issue and to set the stage for a Marine, an infantryman, who distinguished himself leading infantrymen in offensive combat on battlefields in three wars.

That Marine's words were offered in video recorded testimony, in 1991, before the Senate Armed Services Committee - 8 years after his 41 year career and 17 years before his death.

Drawing on his experiences, without the aid of notes, General Robert H. Barrow skillfully laid out his compelling case against women serving in ground combat units.

It was the General's son, a retired Marine, who first brought the Youtube video to my attention. He okay'ed its inclusion in my commentary. At the time, we thought it may get 100 or so views. We were wrong. Within hours it reached 500 and then 1,000. And we watched in disbelief as views surpassed 5,000, 10,000, 25,000 and continued to climb. And viewers, by the hundreds, opined and bluntly. With rare exception, nearly all agreeing with General Barrow and ridiculing and mocking current "leadership."

I checked this morning, the count is 44,559 - more than 1,200 more views than when I retired for the evening late last night. Do the math, that's well more than 4,000 views a month. His message, even from his grave, is resonating.

Recently, I heard from a general officer whom I respect and once worked for. Their opinion - "leadership" is the answer to dealing with the inevitable challenges of maintaining good order and discipline, between genders, in ground combat units.

If "leadership" was the answer we'd have long ago solved the problem of invincible young Marines killing themselves drinking and driving and zooming on motorcycles. The problems remain.

General Barrow, who held command as a junior and senior officer in combat, saw it differently. And he was not ambiguous. He said heaving the responsibility of maintaining good order and discipline (between the genders) upon the shoulders of corporals and sergeants and lieutenants and captains that are trying to fight the war is wrong. "It doesn't work! It doesn't work!", he said.

Those speaking to the contrary, whether civilian or military, do not enjoy General Barrow's unimpeachable credibility. The talk is nonsense.

During the past week or so there have been DoD releases, statements, and letters written by admirals and Marine generals addressed to the force. One written by our sitting commandant to the retired general officers was sent to me. Soon thereafter so were quite a few comments from readers about that letter - none of them suitable for reprint or even comment. To put it kindly, let's just say that in the eyes of many the change is not going over so well and General Barrow's boots are empty.

I was sent a short video clip, a minute or two, featuring the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps - addressing women in combat. He was positive, clear, and to the point that the change would not impact combat readiness. He fared no better (than the commandant) in comments from readers. 

Not that my opinion matters one iota but so offered last week when asked. Two of the comments follow...

"Political "pressures," mandates, policies, directives, orders, 'gender-neutral' standards (they're coming), etc., all contrary to national security. Succumbing is easier than leadership. How disappointing. During little more than 13 minutes of sworn remarks, without notes, before the SASC [Senate Armed Services Committee] in 1991, General Robert H. Barrow, 27th Commandant, eloquently, passionately, thoroughly, and most gentlemanly summarized why women in ground combat is a stupid (a word he did not use) idea. In closing, he pleaded with Congress, based largely on the horrors of his combat experiences in three wars (all different), to not let it happen. His fear - destruction of the Marine Corps (and, of course, compromise of national security). Who, with more credibility, can argue to the contrary? Alas, the old warrior has finally been shelved as irrelevant. Carry on but Mother Nature will have the final word. No man, nor woman, will ever beat her to Parade Rest. Ever. And yet it's "Forward, March!" into inevitable peril. And with that, closing with "Good grief" fitting."
And to another...

"Women are serving as captains of industry because they have the talents, skills, and ability and the people have elected women to the House, Senate, and governorships because they have the talents, skills, and ability - neither because of loopy thinking and mandates and orders. So goes the natural order of things. If women were naturally capable, equally capable, of serving in the combat arms occ [occupational] fields, the natural reality would have been lower level leadership (including women) [long ago] demanding it and the senior level leadership aggressively campaigning for it - pulling for it (not fighting it). That's not what happened [and is happening]. Removing the combat exclusion is stupid and no amount of polish, spoken or written, will change opposing minds. Granted, civilian control of the military is a must and following orders understood. But it is appalling no senior officers laid their stars on the table refusing on moral, ethical, practical, and national security grounds. Going along to get along is a disservice to Corps and Country.

For our Corps, there will be unintended consequences - as to whom chooses to serve and in turn capabilities. And General Barrow's sobering prediction of destroying the Marine Corps will prove prophetic. Those last two sentences written with great angst. Truth - someone has to so speak. And I suppose that's about all I have to say."

And then Wednesday morning an article amongst a batch of related articles caught my attention. And so, with included comment, I sent it to a few contacts. The introduction and article...

"Well, the campaign to win the hearts (Americans have no brains) continues. About 1% volunteer to serve. So, the stupidest poll and article to date regarding women serving in ground combat units. The article was included in Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps Daily Media Report. Red text and yellow highlight mine. AFW"


January 29, 2013

(Uninformed) Americans Largely Back Combat Role For Women: Poll (Agenda)

By Ian Simpson, Reuters

WASHINGTON (Idiotville) -- The U.S. public largely backs the Pentagon's decision to lift restrictions on women in combat, a poll showed on Tuesday. (Right! And the U.S. public backs Snookie, Honey Boo Boo, legalizing dope, and more nonsense than there's room to cite.)

Sixty-six percent of those polled said they support letting women serve in ground units that engage in close combat, while 26 percent are opposed, according to the survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Washington Post. (None of whom know what they are talking about.)

Opinion on the issue is little changed from a Washington Post/ABC News survey two years ago, Pew said in a statement. (And that poll equally as flawed.) 

The Defense Department lifted a longtime ban on women serving in front-line combat units on Thursday. The move marked a historic step toward sexual equality (What in the world is "sexual equality"?) after 11 years of war in which women were increasingly on the battlefield. (Being on the battlefield is not ground combat.) 

The survey found that the public is split over whether the move represented a major change for the U.S. military. Forty-seven percent said it is, while an equal percentage said it is a minor change. (And how would they, those polled, know?) 

The poll was conducted from January 24 to 27 among 1,005 adults (Surely as determined only by age.), after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ended the combat ban. The margin of error was 3.7 percentage points. (The margin of error is irrelevant when the sample is flawed.)  

The poll found that 58 percent of Americans think that the policy shift will improve opportunities for women in the military. (And opportunities for women in the military, especially ground combat units, has what to do with national security?) 

Nearly half, or 49 percent, say allowing women to serve in combat roles will not make much difference to military effectiveness. (And how many of the 49% have served in uniform? In ground combat units? And have engaged in offensive ground combat?)  

Among those who say it will have an impact, 29 percent say this will improve effectiveness, versus 15 percent who say it will make it worse. (More dopey conclusions drawn from a flawed, irrelevant sample. A 5th grader could rip this moronic poll and article apart.)  

Back to Index Pass the Kool-Aid. And the doobie.

Until someone, anyone, with a more distinguished service record who knows what they are talking about when it comes to ground combat makes the case, then I will continue to be a conduit for General Barrow (commandant when I was commissioned 33 years ago).

General Barrow - Sir, the floor is yours:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fy--whDNNKk

Post Script

Despite the absence of military need - testing, evaluating, analysis, and so on, including assignments, continues as to women Marines service in ground combat units. The approach is quantitative. And it's corrupt - but quantitative to support the agenda.
Destroying the Marine Corps - Women in Combat

I've lost count how many times the above commentary has been sent to me by family, friends, acquaintances, and readers with short comment, "It's making the rounds." Keep General Barrow's message going. Thank you!


Jacob said...

Sir, I thank you for your article and the thoughts contained therein, but I think that even the experiences of venerated Marines like Gen Barrow must be taken in context. This is not the 1950s. For better or for worse, American culture has changed, and the face and nature of military service has changed with it. While I am morally opposed to the practice of homosexuality, I have to accept that the Marine Corps did not come apart at the seams, nor was there any mass exodus as many predicted when DADT was lifted. The same arguments were used in 1948 regarding the integration of blacks, and they were wrong then as well. Gen Amos has stated that we will not change our standards, and that integration of women into the various combat arms MOS' will be pursued systematically and with careful consideration. We have to hope that he will hold to his word and not bow to political pressure. Many of us advocate the implementation of a single gender-neutral set of physical standards that effectively correlates to the physical requirements of combat. If every Marine is a rifleman there should be a single standard for all regardless of gender. The Commandant has also stated publicly that if too small a minority of women are physically qualified for service in a particular MOS, then that MOS will remain closed because the benefit of integration will not be worth the trouble. If HQMC sticks to its guns, I see very little changing in the Marine Corps, with the exception that combat commanders will no longer have their hands tied with regards to women in combat - something that created a serious logistical and administrative problem under the ban. During my platoon commander tour in Iraq, I had a female LCpl combat engineer who went out on every mission, slept alongside her brothers, crapped on the same ammo crate, and worked just a hard as the rest of them. She even urinated in a Gatorade bottle during a long convoy - just like the guys. Over my 15-year career in both the enlisted and officer ranks, I've seen the full gamut of performance from both male and female Marines; in Division, Group, and Base, in garrison, in the field, and deployed, in combat and aboard ship. I suppose the bottom line question is "will integration really reduce our combat effectiveness?" To which the honest reply must be, "it doesn't have to." Gen Barrow was a great American and Marine, but like the rest of us, he was a product of his environment and thus his opinions must be considered in that context. He's not necessarily wrong, but he's not necessarily right either.

A Colonel of Truth said...

A thoughtful, well-articulated comment, Jacob - Marine. Surely America has changed but time will tell. Mother Nature will sort this out. I knew General Barrow. He was a superb Marine, a superb commandant. Well before your time, you should know he and his predecessor, General Louis Wilson, saved the Marine Corps; literally. Those two men knew a lot about ground combat (multiple wars - over time) and human nature. Culture may change but not human nature. Thanks for reading and taking time to opine and civilly. Most appreciated. Semper Fidelis.

Timothy Phillips said...

I am a retired Marine First Sergeant and served for 18 months in Vietnam as a Grunt. There is no way any woman, I do not care how in-shape she is could have kept up with us in the bush. We walked for days in the humidity and heat and our uniforms rotted off of us. The first thing to rot were the crotches in our trousers. We had to hold them together with the big bandoleer pins. Women menstruate. How are they going to operate in the field when they are bleeding like that. Men also inherently look out for women's welfare. If I were a squad leader on an ambush, I would put the woman in the safest spot. Eventually this would cause the rest of the squad to become angry, because she was getting special treatment. That is my view on women.

My view on gays is that they need to keep that junk to themselves. I imagine I served with men who were gay, but if they had told me I would have reported them and had them removed from the Corps. If gay men serve in combat with one another, what is to keep them from being lovy dovey on bunker watch. It is hard enough to keep normal Marines awake after humping all day long when they are on watch at night, let alone two men who may love one another.

The Marine Corps is supposed to be the hardest, meanest, bunch of fighters that God put on Mother Earth. It has no place in the Grunts for gays or women.

That is my opinion! It was my opinion when I joined in 1966 and it is my opinion in 2013. It will be my opinion for as long as I live.

DH said...

In response to Jacob: I am presently in the Marine Corps reserves, deployed to Iraq in 2003 and 2008. I also spent time on active duty from 89 to 97. Yes, General Barrows did come from a different time; however, his observations are spot on. The physical make up of women, as I am sure you can agree is totally different, i.e., their body strength and physical endurance can not match that of men. I to had female Marines in my command that were intellectually capable of keeping up with the male Marines and often their work ethic exceeded that of the male Marines I suspect because they knew that they had to work much harder in order to gain the respect of their male Marines. However, no matter how hard they worked, it could never make up for the physical demands of humping a pack all day and fighting in the trenches all night. Peeing in a bottle and riding around in a vehicle and being exposed to imminent danger is not the same as hand to hand combat and door to door fighting, the likes of which took place during the battle of Fallujah I and II.

While in Iraq in 2008, I read a well written article (I believe it was in the Marine Corps times) by a female Marine Officer which explained in simple terms why women aren't equipped to fight as an Infantryman. In fact, she was a former tri-athlete and combat engineer herself. Unfortunately, I don't remember the date or title of the article. However, she explains in the article how even her body, as a tri-athlete, started breaking down much quicker than her male Marines. She explained that to include women in direct combat roles, such as the infantry, would be detrimental to everyone involved. I had much respect for that Marine, because she was more concerned with what is better for the unit as a whole vice trying to advance a political agenda. By the way, she also had combat experience as a combat engineer officer.

The Marine Corps has even conducted studies which show that every time they had a female Marine in the infantry squad, the squad performed below par compared to the other all male Marine squads. I have respect for women and what they can do; however, even as a father of four daughters, I know that their male friends, are much stronger physically and can do more physically over time. I even see it in my present profession as a fire fighter. This does not mean that they are inferior in their humanity. No they are equal to men as human beings, but their physical make up is not the same. Both genders have strengths and weaknesses. Let's employ the strengths of both genders in areas that bring the greatest benefit to everyone involved.

Jacob said...

While I was more than a little surprised to receive an email related to a comment posted over four years ago, I feel that it does warrant a response.

First and foremost, whatever our opinions or the results may be, the gender integration of all MOS' in the Marine Corps is fait accompli.

Second, I am quite familiar with the results of the Marine Corps gender integration studies both officially and anecdotally. Statistics support the fact that when averages are considered, women are smaller, weaker, slower, more likely to be injured, and slower to heal. However, that does not equate to ALL women being unable to meet the standards to which male Marines are held. I personally know several female Marines who can, have, and continue to keep pace with their male counterparts by every metric. They are certainly in a small minority, but should those women who can meet or exceed the standards to which their male counterparts are held be discriminated against solely because they lack a particular set of genitalia?

The personal experiences I recounted of women under my command were not meant to indicate that ALL women possess the ability to kick in doors or engage in hand-to-hand combat a la Fallujah, Hue City, or Seoul. My point was that women do not require any special considerations or accommodations, nor do they necessarily disrupt the cohesiveness of a unit in a combat zone as long as they are able to be a fully-functioning member of the team and pull their own weight. In fact, the problems I have seen in integrated units had less to do with the women themselves and more to do with the men who refused to see them as something other than a peer in the profession of arms.

Recent revelations about the Marines United Facebook group and photo sharing scandal indicate that such misogynistic attitudes persist. The Marine Corps unwittingly contributes to this problem by its continued adherence to gender-specific physical fitness standards. In an organization that places such high emphasis on physical performance, it's no surprise that male Marines don't view their female counterparts as equals when women aren't treated as equals by the very institution they serve. If the women in our Corps can't meet the same standards as their male counterparts, they have no justification to complain about being viewed as lesser partners. The Corps can fix this by adopting gender-neutral requirements-based standards and accepting the fact that few women will be able to meet them. The institution cannot have its cake and eat it too.

Bottom line: as long as any individual can meet the standards required for service, there should be no discrimination for any reason.