WOMEN IN GROUND COMBAT - CLARITY IN AN EVENING
by Andy Weddington
Tuesday, 26 November 2013
"Alcohol is necessary for a man so he can have a good opinion of himself, undisturbed be the facts." Finley Peter Dunne
Last Saturday evening I was invited to the home of a friend for a small gathering of eight or nine. About half were strangers to me.
Of the women three had military backgrounds (two retired Marine field grade officers [administrators] and one Navy field grade officer [operator]). Another spent a career in public service. And there was an attorney (civilian).
The two other men were civilians without military experience.
I was the only Marine infantryman.
Alcohol was served. Driving, I drank water.
As the evening wore on and wine bottles emptied, conversation shifted to politics and more. I was not interested in wading into that swamp - especially with folks who had consumed beyond the legal limit and were still drinking.
But a comment or two (namely concerning women in ground combat) caught my attention so I, as it turned out foolishly, decided to opine.
To my surprise, I was the least informed about the rigors of service in a Marine infantry battalion.
One of the other males, obnoxiously intoxicated, was the boisterous duty expert. He was talking stupidly and presenting himself an idiot.
It did not matter that I knew what I was talking about.
It did not matter when I pointed out that of the handful of courageous physically fit female Marine lieutenants who volunteered to challenge the Infantry Officer Course only one survived beyond the first day (the grueling Combat Endurance Test).
'There needs to be a standard,' they whined (and wined).
There is a standard. It's the standard of what men can do preparing for combat - training beyond what they believe they can endure to ensure mission accomplishment and survivability when in battle.
It's easy enough to stress test - form an all-female infantry battalion and have at it.
That idea was believed sarcasm. It was not.
All points offered from experience and reality fell on deaf ears and polluted brains.
There was no sense addressing grooming standards; impact of female health on readiness; morale challenges of mixed gender units; et al.
At some point the male duty expert surprised me by approaching from behind putting his hands on my shoulders.
He was drunk.
I was completely sober.
Politely but directly I informed him that if he laid his hands on me (it was an assault) again he'd not be departing the evening under his own power.
Defiant he remained but at a distance.
Even intoxicated he had the good sense to opt for bipedal travel. Otherwise, a gurney was his future - either to the ER or morgue; unknown.
One of the women called me a dinosaur. I appreciated the compliment.
After thinking about it a few days, a couple of conclusions from the evening: 1) Our country is intoxicated; 2) As to women in ground combat, I don't care anymore. Nor should anyone with a ground combat MOS who has served in a ground combat unit care - it's a waste of energy, time, and money. The 'drunks' are winning. But for their hangover they will pay. And so will the rest of us.
But, Mr. Hagel (Secretary of Defense), cease the studies! Women to all ground combat specialties and units, immediately.
However, there cannot, there must not, be cherry picking. That is, women serving in ground combat specialties cannot, must not, be voluntary. Women, just like men, must be recruited and fairly assigned (percentage wise) - ordered - into ground combat MOSs and units; even against will. And when implementing a draft the numbers of men and women must be equal.
A Marine is a Marine. A Soldier is a Soldier as is a Sailor a Sailor and an Airman an Airman.
Then assess unit readiness - during training and on battlefields - to the rigorous standard that will assure mission accomplishment and survivability.
I departed the host's home vowing to not again discuss the topic of women in ground combat with anyone who has not served in uniform. And certainly not with anyone who has been drinking alcohol.