Women in Combat

Women in the U.S. military can now serve in front-line posts, thanks to a directive recently signed by out-going Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Martin Dempsey. In other words, all positions in the military are now open to women, including direct-combat positions.

One question that a civilian* may be asking is this: Why would any woman want to be in a direct-combat position?

Well, there are two reasons that immediately come to mind.

#1 – Military personnel who have been in direct-combat positions have a better chance at gaining promotions than do military personnel who have never been in direct-combat positions.

#2 – Military personnel in direct-combat positions receive combat pay.

Female military personnel have already been serving in combat zones, and in doing so, have been in life-threatening positions.  For example, newly-elected congresswoman Tammy Duckworth** is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard.  As a Black Hawk helicopter pilot, she was flying a mission in Iraq when a rocket-propelled grenade struck her helicopter. The resulting explosion left Duckworth with both of her legs amputated.

Tammy Duckworth

Tammy Duckworth

CNN reports, “Women made up 67 of the nearly 3,500 Americans lost in hostile fire in Iraq and 33 of the 1,700-plus killed in combat in Afghanistan; more than 600 in Iraq and 300 in Afghanistan were wounded.” [Source]

Opinion:  As long as women are already risking their lives serving in combat zones, they should have the same promotion and pay opportunities that men serving in combat zones have.  Granted, equal opportunity should also require equal standards.  A woman should meet the same minimum physical-fitness requirements that a man her age has to meet in order to have a direct-combat position.

What say you?


[Featured Image Source]


*For the purpose of this blog post, a civilian is defined as being someone who has never served in the military.  The author of this blog post is an honorably-discharged veteran of the U.S. Navy.

**Tammy Duckworth’s political views are irrelevant to this post.  You don’t have to agree with her politics in order to honor her as a combat veteran who became partially disabled as a result of her military service.

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  • GarandFan

    Don’t have a problem with women in “front line” units. On today’s battlefield, the front line is everywhere. And unless the military and politicians have become misers, IIRC – EVERYONE in the zone gets “combat pay”. However, you’re telling me she’s gonna share the same hole in the ground? And if pinned down for an extended period, will have no problem squatting and taking a crap in front of me?

  • Commander_Chico

    #2 – Military personnel in direct-combat positions receive combat pay.

    Everybody in a designated “combat zone” gets hostile fire / imminent danger pay, so even if you are a “fobbit” clerk in Kabul, you get it. Of course fobbits can be killed by rockets and mortars, too, so they earn some danger pay.


    There are some special pays like hazardous duty pay for paratroopers, EOD, but I don’t think regular infantry in Afghanistan gets paid more than a fobbit clerk does, which is not right, given the levels of risk.

    As for women in combat, I think the downside of women in the special cultures of the infantry is much bigger than the upside.. There should be NO relaxation of physical standards. Infantry, armor, artillery are all physically demanding. What will be the cost of enlisting, then attempting to train women to meet the physical standards? What happens to the women that flunk out of infantry training? If the standards are not relaxed, women in the infantry would be necessarily rare, the cost of accommodating them will accordingly be higher per person.

    We know that women will create drama in a unit, guys will want to fuck them and this creates problems. I had to deal with issues with my sailors when I was in a mixed unit ashore.

    There is probably a need for some exceptional women to serve in special operations units, I would be surprised if this is not already happening in units like Delta. Those few can be “hand-picked” from intelligence, military police and other units and be given bespoke training to a high standard.

    Another thing, I was talking to a guy who was an infantryman in Baghdad about the military in Iraq during the war there (this was 2005 and he had done his tour in 2003-04), and he said “we need to get these women out of there”. So I asked why, thinking he would say they are weak, get pregnant, use sex to get favors, all of the usual male military complaints about women. But he said something different – “Because they are murderers.” He said he knew about several incidents where women in the turrets of a HMMWV had freaked out over a vehicle getting close, or someone throwing rocks, and opened up on innocent Iraqis with machine guns, which of course caused hate and discontent among the Iraqi population. I don’t have first-hand knowledge, but that was an interesting perspective.

    It’s OK to have women pilots and aircrew, even on ships, although the Navy has paid a drama / pregnancy price there.

    • “If the standards are not relaxed, women in the infantry would be
      necessarily rare,”

      Which would bring up accusations of discrimination. So in order to bump up the numbers you relax standards… and people get killed because they can’t hack it.

      But I agree – for the direct-combat specialties you don’t dare relax the standards. The standards are the minimum for MEN to have a good chance at survival – to cut them for women would be fatal for the women.

      Kind of makes you wonder, though – just how many women, if given their choice, WOULD go into combat, if they could meet the standards? There’s times I think that the whole ‘women in combat’ issue isn’t pushed by women who actually want to be in combat, but folks who are looking for an advantage they can game in the system…

      • Commander_Chico

        I was thinking of fire departments in large cities – there were claims of discrimination, but they didn’t lower their physical standards that much, as common sense prevailed, and as a result there are very few women on those departments.

        There will be about as many female infantrymen as there are female Wizbang commenters.

  • Wild_Willie

    As long as the women do not have a choice as to whether they serve on the front lines. Then it will be truly equal. But if women have the ‘option’ to serve, the system is not equal and women lose respect. ww

  • ackwired

    I guess I’m old fashioned. I think it is a bad idea. Combat is not the place for men and women to be serving together. Survival requires that people in combat think and react as a unit, and have each other’s backs. I think mixing the sexes will degrade the unit’s ability to do this.

    • I think it’s a bad idea also, for why I outlined to Chico above.

      The military shouldn’t be an ongoing social experiment – and that’s what it seems to be turning in to…

  • Jack Zimms

    First there a big difference between being in combat and
    being in a combat unit. Being in combat just mean you are being fired at. Yes
    anyone including 90 year old ladies can do that. Being a combat SoldierMarine
    requires much much more. It is often but not always very physically demanding.
    An infantryman will often require to carry a rucksack that can weigh up to and
    over 150 lbs. Look up the study when on rucksack design that included woman in
    the testing. The women had a hard time meeting “minimum” standards on even the
    light loads and were disastrous on heavy loads. Minimum standards are not tolerated
    in at least the infantry units. You either exceed them over time or get
    transfer out. England, Canada and many other countries that tried putting woman
    in infantry found it was a disaster that increase the cost over 200 times to
    put a soldier in the field. The left screams now about the military costing so
    much and they want to multiply it many times over?

  • Jack Zimms

    Also look at the past history of the military. They took a decent school like the Airborne school and destroyed it standards. When woman were allowed in they couldn’t meet the standards. So they kept lowering the standards until they could. The standards became a joke. Of course, most armchair idiots don’t understand that Airborne school “was” much more than simply learning how jump out of a plane. That can be taught in less than a day.

    Look at the combat support units. PC police won’t allow many of the problems with integrating woman into them to get airtime. Like that the women are rotated much more often than their male counterpart back to the rear for hygiene purposes. There is more infrastructure requirement to accommodate the women. All that degrades the performance of the unit. The infantry doesn’t need the increase risk and time consumption to do those things. When you are in the field, you piss, shit,
    and take whore showers in front of everyone. Do you think that will be allowed
    with woman in unit.

    Yes the “if they can meet the standard” B.S. sounds real great. The problem is in reality it doesn’t happen. If they can’t meet the standards then standards are change. Also you can’t treat them like their male counterparts or you will be reprimanded and your commander will likely hear from the woman’s Congressperson. You can say “will it shouldn’t be that way” all you want but it won’t change the fact that it is that way.We are going to get people killed unnecessarily so armchair pukes can feel good about themselves.