Women in Combat – Gender Fair or Gender Equal?

The old argument about what jobs women can do in the military has been going on for as long as I can remember and not a minute of it has been pretty. Both sides have made some great points. Both sides have also made idiots of themselves more than once. Double standards have been alleged, good and bad historical examples have been brought up, and sides have been taken.

Not If, But Where

There are still a few dinosaurs that think women shouldn’t be in the military at all but no one listens to them anymore; the debate now is about what MOS they should be allowed to serve in. The US Army and the USMC are now both running trials to see if their female soldiers and Marines can be integrated into ground combat units – even the infantry. The Army is developing a fitness test for both sexes based on representative military tasks and the Marines want to form up an experimental mixed task force with women scattered through every subunit. Seeing as the Pentagon has ordered all jobs to be open to women by two years from now, this is the big test to see if women can serve on the “front line.”

Women in CombatWell, it’s a bit late to be worrying about front lines. The Pentagon can say what it likes, but that decision was made for them a long time ago. The fact is, modern war doesn’t have any front lines, and I don’t just mean the COIN ops we’re doing right now. As we’ve seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, attacks are as likely to hit a supply convoy or CIMIC team as an infantry patrol. Unless we’re going to listen to the dinosaurs and ban women from the ORBAT altogether, they’re all potentially in a combat role anyway, and if they can fight as part of a logistics convoy, they can fight as part of an infantry fire team.

Gender-Free Standards

Of course if women are going to be in the combat zone, they need to be just as ready for it as their male counterparts. That means an end to “gender fair” tests. There is nothing that destroys morale more than telling a male soldier he wasn’t fit enough because he did his mile and a half in 10:31, but the woman who did it in 12:45 was fine. That’s just wrong. The same goes for carrying weight. If a soldier needs to carry 90 pounds they need to carry 90 pounds. If 60 pounds is an acceptable load for a woman then it’s acceptable for a man, too. Forget “gender fair” – let’s make fitness standards gender free. It’s the only way to maintain combat effectiveness, because like it or not, women in combat roles is already reality and that’s not going to change.

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3 thoughts on “Women in Combat – Gender Fair or Gender Equal?

  1. From the other side of the pond, we’re in a very similar position. We’ve had three (at least) female medics decorated for their actions on combat patrols in Afghanistan. Although they were not “infantry” trades (we don’t have the MOS system), they were on patrol with the infantry, living in the same FOBs etc.

    Our (army) fitness system is arranged in a similar manner, with much more significant differences between the sexes than, say, for age. For example, the pass mark for press-ups for a 21 year old woman is the same as that for a 59 year old man. As a near-obsolescent bloke, I may be somewhat biased about this 😉

    1. I know exactly what you’re talking about. I’m no racing snake, and the odd BFT fail was made even worse by having women come in 2 minutes behind me and pass.

  2. Ohhh so that means we can eat more and weight more too? Ok, I’m being sort of silly here but this is the other other side of the fence… We aren’t built the same as you guys, you are mostly taller and broader. So are those runners as tall as you? Maybe it needs to go by leg height to be honest – why not?

    Carrying weight should be based on how much someone can carry for their frame size UNLESS the packs are made to assist in handling the load with core muscles. So maybe someone can design high tech packs that help handle the weight.. Hell, in the future we may have robots carrying packs for all I know.

    Yes, I think we should take this away from male and female and redesign how we look at things. Instead of “man” “Woman” Small medium and large/tall or short, wide shoulders, thin shoulders. BMI, Bone density etc. Smaller people will probably either get desk jobs.

    And lets face it, some things are going to be different by sex and we need to learn to live with it.

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