There’s an ongoing controversy in the US military about opening all jobs to women. Most of the services have now accepted the move, but the Marine Corps has worries about some of its ground combat roles. Now the debate is crossing the Atlantic; British Prime Minister David Cameron has told the Ministry of Defence to start accepting women into all military trades next year.
The British military has been progressively removing gender restrictions for decades. Women have had equal status in most non-combat branches of the Army for a while now, and in recent years they’ve been able to become submariners and fast jet pilots. There are even female special operators in special duties intelligence units and one of the branches of UK Special Forces – the Special Reconnaissance Regiment. This secretive unit works closely with the SAS in counter-terrorist operations and specializes in covert surveillance; entry standards are extremely high.
However, up to now, women have still been barred from serving in direct ground combat roles. That covers the infantry, the Royal Armoured Corps and the main combat elements of UKSF – the SAS, SBS and Special Forces Support Group. The MoD has been carrying out an in-depth study into whether these slots should be opened to female soldiers, but it looks like the government has decided to pre-empt its conclusions. Cameron’s intervention makes it almost certain that women will begin infantry training within the next few months and some could be with units by the end of 2016.
Some of the arguments against women in combat roles are absurd. One eccentric colonel who’s a favorite with the media has claimed that they “lack killer instinct,” and that’s just rubbish. Anyone who’s read about the exploits of Soviet female snipers in WW2, or the legendary 588th Night Bomber Regiment – the “Night Witches” – knows that women are just as brave and aggressive as men. There’s one real problem, though, and that’s upper body strength.
It’s increasingly popular, but utterly delusional, to claim that gender is just a social construct. It isn’t. There are clear physical differences between men and women. One of those is that, on average, women have a lot less muscle mass and around a third less upper body strength. This becomes a major issue when you have to carry an infantry load. It’s even more of one when you start to factor in common scenarios that happen in combat.
I have met plenty of women who were a lot fitter than me – they could run faster, or do more sit-ups, or climb a rope more quickly. On the other hand, I’ve met very few who could pick me up, throw me over their shoulder and carry me. When I was serving, the final assessment on the annual Combat Fitness Test was to pick up another soldier in a fireman’s lift and carry them a hundred yards – and both weapons and both sets of webbing went along. That’s a total load of around 250 pounds. For the infantry CFT, the distance increased to 220 yards and the weight in the webbing was higher.
In training, women tended to get paired off with someone about the same size for that part of the test and even then many of them struggled. In combat, if a casualty needs carried, you just have to get on with it no matter what size they are. It goes without saying that nobody wants a battle buddy who’s not strong enough to evacuate them if they’re wounded.
What’s worrying here is the number of comments from the government and MoD that suggest physical standards will be lowered. Serving soldiers fear that talk of “work on training regimes” and “updating standards” is code for relaxing requirements so more women can pass them. That would be totally unacceptable. There’s no reason at all why infantry and tank roles shouldn’t be open to women who can pass the current standards, but politically motivated relaxation would be madness. When someone dies because their oppo didn’t have the strength to carry them clear of an ambush, or pull them up through the hatch of a burning tank, it won’t be good enough to talk about socially constructed gender roles.
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.