“I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.”
– Article I. Marine Corps Code of Conduct
Seems like nothing ignites a gender firestorm faster than the question of women in combat. Often missed or dissed in the debate is the main mission of the military. What’s the military for? Why do we have a military in the first place? What’s the deal with all those female Marines who can’t do three pull-ups?
As I found in USMC Officer Candidate School, the Marine Corps is an elite fighting force. (See Article I of the Marine Corps Code of Conduct, above). Serving with the Corps isn’t an invitation to a garden party or an equal opportunity program for fast-track career advancement. The mission of the Marine Corps is to defeat the enemy. The primary mission of the Marine Corps rifle squad is to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy or his will to fight by fire or close combat.
Lest you scream “Sexist! Chauvinist!,” let me remind you that the military isn’t Meal on Wheels. It’s a fighting force. Remember, the Silver Medal in combat is not a good thing.
I have many concerns regarding women in direct combat roles. One is mirrored in recent news like More than half of female Marines in boot camp can’t do three pull-ups:
More than half of female Marines in boot camp can’t do three pull-ups, the minimum standard that was supposed to take effect with the new year, prompting the Marine Corps to delay the requirement, part of the process of equalizing physical standards to integrate women into combat jobs.
The delay rekindled sharp debate in the military on the question of whether women have the physical strength for some military jobs, as service branches move toward opening thousands of combat roles to them in 2016.
The Person Next to You
Things may have changed some since I was in, but last time I checked, the battlefield isn’t gender-neutral. There’s no such thing as one type of war for men and another for women. Certain tasks and responsibilities specific to the military require significant upper body strength, size and bulk that most women can’t or have trouble doing. This isn’t to say female military service isn’t valuable. But when the person next to you on the battle line – male or female – isn’t physically qualified to be in combat and got in because of lowered physical standards, your life is in danger.
This battlefield isn’t a social experiment. It’s about fighting an enemy who wants us dead. Why water down basic standards to accommodate women in combat? Is that any way to win?
Women Marines have a proud and distinguished heritage of contribution and dedication to the Corps. But shouldn’t certain physical roles and tasks requiring superior upper body strength and bulk such as hauling heavy ammunition or carrying a fallen comrade to safety be for those who can carry them out – for the good of the unit?
If a woman meets the minimum physical standards and perform, fine. But if she can’t, then she’s not qualified to be a U.S. Marine. Good bye. The same goes for any man who can’t meet the standards. Lowering standards isn’t a solution. It’s an invitation to disaster.
Imposing two separate standards – one for men and a lower one for women – is not only counter-productive, it can easily foster resentment (Why do men have to perform at a higher level when women who want the same job can get in at a lower level?), negatively impact unit cohesion, needlessly endanger lives and dilute this elite fighting force into something other than an elite fighting force.
That’s not what being a Marine is about.
Equal Does Not Mean Same
At the risk of sounding like a dinosaur, let me restate the obvious. Men and women are different. Generally speaking, if your average woman gets in a physical altercation with your average man, she’s going to lose. This doesn’t mean one gender is superior to or more valuable than the other. It just means they’re different. These differences don’t magically disappear under combat conditions.
Carrying Out the Mission
The United States Marine Corps is an elite fighting force, not a playground for gender-neutral social experiments or placating a particular socio-political agenda. This old dinosaur argues that anything that dilutes or undercuts the Mission of the Marine Corps, whether it’s materiel, supplies, support, funding, espirit de corps or lowered standards that impinge upon the ability of any Marine to carry out his/her mission, will needlessly endanger Marine lives and should be avoided at all costs. Period.