02 August 2015


by Andy Weddington
Sunday, 02 August 2015

"The only mission of the infantry is to locate, close with and destroy the enemy."

How many commentaries addressing women in combat written, I've lost count. 

As to the crazed agenda - which has nothing to do with national security and combat readiness - to assign women to ground combat units (especially infantry), those who know the realities and opining against are being rejected and ignored.  

With so much at stake what good can possibly come from no serious conversation and debate? 

Disturbing is that with rare exception the retired general and flag officer community is silent. And they do not have to be. Likewise disturbing is the complicity and silence of the senior active ranks who, too, damn well know reality. In (personal) defense, they alibi with salute and obey. Though their oath first cites swearing to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and later obedience to the president. There is good reason for that sequence. So obvious I need not point it out. 

There is a retired Marine general of the courage to speak. But for his lack of including "wo" in "infantrymen" his message is being ignored and rejected by the big newspapers, journals, and sundry media outlets nation-wide. 

Let's be clear, there is not a fit for "wo" in "infantrymen." Science and data (e.g., schools, field testing, exercises, etc.), not just experience-based opinion, supports that statement. 

Granted, I do not enjoy the enormous circulation of big media. But I do have visibility before tens of thousands and that is growing. And I've learned, writing this column for nearly 7 years, you never know who is tuning in or being advised to tune in. 

Following is a well thought out and articulated perspective - in contrast to my blunt way. So goes the (expected) difference between a general and a colonel. 

With the author's approval and kind request to pass along...

Women in the Infantry – Spoiler Alert 
by Lieutenant General Gregory S. Newbold, USMC (Ret)

While the issue of women serving in the infantry of our Armed Forces is still officially open to review, the fix is already in and the issue has been decided.  The outcome is revealed below, but first some background...

In 2012, Leon Panetta (who served only nineteen months as the Secretary of Defense), announced just before his departure that all military occupations – including those which involve direct ground combat – would be open to women, thereby reversing not only 240 years of U.S. policy, but the lessons derived from thousands of years of warfare. 

Importantly, but almost as an afterthought, Secretary Panetta offered a caveat -- “If we find that the assignment of women in a specific position or occupation is in conflict with our stated principles, we will request an exception to policy.”   The stated principles included, “Ensuring the success of our Nation’s warfighting forces by preserving unit readiness, cohesion, and morale.”  The tone of the edict, though, was clearly opposed to this option, and the burden of high proof placed on those whose long experience might suggest another outcome.

A matter of such consequence to the security of our country deserves more engagement than by a single political appointee, even if endorsed by a President.  In fact, the Constitution of the United States (in Article I, Section 8), stipulates that it is the legislative branch that shall have the power, “To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval forces.”  This latter body, though (other than some whose shrill voices belies their lack of military experience), has been notably quiescent and has deferred to the judgment of this longtime politician and transitory occupant of the Defense Department. 

The American people -- largely informed by Hollywood fantasy and outlets biased in favor of Panetta’s measure -- are perhaps tone deaf, because they have been deceived by clever re-crafting of the issue.  To them, the issue has long been resolved because “Aren’t women already in combat?” (Yes, and performing very well, but the issue is women in the infantry.  Think “hand-to-hand combat,” and you’ll have a better title).  And, “If they can meet the physical standards, why not?”  (Physical requirements are well less than half of the important ingredients in the fighting power of a unit.  Fighting spirit is far greater in importance, and cohesion sapping sexual dynamics will be compounded exponentially in the remote and incredibly harsh environments of the infantry.  If Ivy League campuses can’t control these dynamics, how it can it be less so in the most primitive of human conditions?).  Or, “Warfare has changed, and it’s largely technology that will determine how we fight” (A statement repeated since the time of chariots, and refuted emphatically through today’s conflicts).  And, finally, “Other countries are already doing it, aren’t they?”  (Grossly exaggerated and not relevant to a nation with global commitments.  Beyond the hyperbole of these claims, they also don’t accommodate the emerging insistence by the issue’s champions that “fairness” [an odd word when applied to infantry combat] requires that integrated units must contain at least 20% women.)  Marketing wins over truth, and volume over logic.

Think of this.  While the American public would rise in outrage and incredulity if the government were to require the NFL to lower standards to force inclusion of women to 25% of their favorite team, they sleep through an issue whose outcome will have such grave influence on our national security.

The clock for seeking theoretical exemptions is ticking down, and while the two services most relevant to this issue faithfully test for quantifiable evidence of the impact of inclusion, the fix is already in.  The fix is in, because the decision has nothing to do with the readiness of the Armed Forces, but is solely about politics.  And politics on this issue is intimidated by those with the loudest voices and least experience or measured by those who count votes over principle and national security.  Pogo was right…“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Lieutenant General Newbold served 32 years (1970-2002) as an infantry officer. 

Post Script

I was an HQMC action officer in M&RA when then Brigadier General Newbold was head of MP Division. I recall one or two office calls to brief him (and his EA). I remember - he listened, asked good questions, and was gracious. He may not remember and understandably so as briefs, briefs, and more briefs are the daily life of a general at HQMC with one action officer looking pretty much like the next.  

The foremost authority, based on experience (and though deceased), on women in combat is General Robert H. Barrow, USMC, 27th Commandant of the Marine Corps. 


1 comment:

mike said...

Thanks Colonel
. My favorite statement-
"...While the American public would rise in outrage and incredulity if the government were to require the NFL to lower standards to force inclusion of women to 25% of their favorite team, they sleep through an issue whose outcome will have such grave influence on our national security."