On December 3, 2015, the Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, officially announced that the Department of Defense was lifting all gender-based restrictions on military service. This effectively opened up all military jobs to both men and women, and takes effect in January of 2016. The decision will open approximately 220,000 positions to women, which is roughly 10% of today’s force.
The public was, of course, immediately supportive and people took to the streets to welcome the United States into the common age. ‘Gender’, they said, ‘is no longer something that segregates our capability, it is instead something which adds character to the accomplishments we perform.’ It was a jovial time had by all, and the country rejoiced. Except, that is not quite how things happened.
There was immediate public outcry from veterans, service members, and civilians alike. Many expressed frustration that the military was once again being used as a social experiment. Political figures added their two cents, calling into question achievements of recent Ranger School graduates. Retired service members published books, proclaiming the leaders of the government as cowards and explaining how these cowards are pushing for women to be in combat. All along, they ignored basic aspects of our own recent military history.
The War on Terror has revolutionized the way the United States military fights wars. What began as a conventional conflict, quickly eroded into street to street fighting with insurgents dressed as civilians. Caught in the crossfire, traditionally non-combatant service members quickly found themselves involved in combat throughout both Iraq and Afghanistan going back to the first recognition of this during the Battle for Nasiriyah, when the 507th Maintenance Company was ambushed in 2003.
The lack of front lines and general inability to recognize friend from foe on the battlefield has led non-traditional units to increase their combat-focused training in preparation for deployment, whether or not women are present. We have simply recognized that when combat happens, one cannot simply call over the infantry to assist. Each unit, regardless of job description, must be prepared to combat the enemy. End of story.
Casey Lohrenz, a former Navy Lieutenant, and an F-14 pilot may have stated it best, saying that “They’re on the ground in Iraq; they’re on the ground in Afghanistan. This is strictly formalizing and recognizing what their contributions currently are.” So if women are already performing the job, what is all the fuss about?
It truly seems that there is more concern for the concept of standards being lost, than there is about the capability of the United States military remaining combat ready. This argument, that standards will be lowered to allow for political pressure to push women into the infantry, is almost laughable if it were not being repeated by so many people. The problem is that a standard is only a standard if it is enforced.
Over the last decade, I have had the distinct pleasure to serve with some of the very best, and sadly, to see some of the worst that our society has to offer. We promoted some too early, and did not promote others when we probably should have. We embraced the idea of standards, while providing moral waivers to let convicted felons into the service. We proclaimed ourselves professionals, while deploying repeat drug users to combat. We let our standards slip so far that it was only through the hard work of dedicated leaders years later that we were able to remove many of the problems that had been allowed to slip through the cracks for so long.
Women do not break or reduce standards. We do. Leaders. Officers, noncommissioned officers, and soldiers alike allow standards to cease to be through our own inaction. Therefore the only ones that could let the standards go, are the same people that are proclaiming that women will ruin the combat arms. If it seems contradictory, that is because it is.
It is our responsibility to embrace the reality of the world around us. The Department of Defense has lifted the gender restrictions. We are responsible to train, prepare, maintain, improve, and mold our junior soldiers and subordinates to be the best they can be, and to make the unit stronger. Anyone that is unwilling to do so as a leader should recognize that it is time for them to go. While people can claim all they want about how the Army was better, different, stronger, or more capable in their day, if they choose to stay in the military today, they had better learn to do their jobs.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.