For John, BLUF: We have embarked on a voyage of discovery in which we will see if life as an infantryman is suitable to women. Nothing to see here; just move along.
We are now having a discussion of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's direction to eliminate existing restrictions on the employment of women throughout the Department of Defense.
Views differ. Here is an exchange, reported in The Washington Post, between a Granddaughter (combat veteran) and her Grandfather (combat veteran). Young Valerie Warner and her Grandfather, retired Army four star general Volney Warner.
Then there is the view of the soldiers and marines in infantry battalions. As one person has asked, "How does one address psycho-social group dynamics and successfully implement change in a 18-24 y/o male cohort who believe that every great feat of Western civilization began with the phrase, 'Hey guys, watch this!'"? It appears that if one looks at young infantry via social media, it will tell you that, in some part, "they feel as though a piece of their manhood was taken away yesterday". This now becomes a leadership problem. How does one "calm the herd' and explain policy changes to those who will actually have to implement them and make them a success by accepting women as fellow infantrymen and making the new partnerships work?
None of the research into the mechanics of women in every Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) over the next couple of years will be new. Here is a 12 November 1982 report from the US Army, Women in the Army Policy Review: ￼￼￼￼
This report presents the result of the Women in the Army Policy Review Group's analysis of Army personnel policies as they relate to mission, combat readiness, quality of life aspects, and the utilization of female enlisted soldiers in the United States Army.Then there is the argument that this move by the Secretary of Defense will actually raise standards:
There is a fairly straightforward and objective argument to be made that enlarging the pool of potential personnel for combat billets by removal of a social barrier—whether through the admission of women, allowance of openly gay personnel, or allowance of new immigrants (as Max Boot has championed), all other factors being equal—will result in a net increase in the quality of the personnel serving in those career fields.There is no guarantee that this further opening up of the Armed Services to women will be a success. It may turn out to be a failure. That said, the chances of success seem high to me.
This argument relies on a few assumptions:
The most qualified applicants in the pool, those who exceed the universal (and gender/etc.-blind standards), will squeeze out the marginally qualified male personnel who previously benefited from the discriminatory rule. Of course, the dynamic only works if all three of these assumptions are true.
- Common, objective standards (i.e. PT test scores, marksmanship, ASVAB test scores, etc.) will be set and be universally applied to all potential entrants
- Selection for combat billets will be made on meeting or exceeding these standards, with selections made in order of test scores
- The size of the force (including combat billets) will remain constant
To paraphrase Rahm Emmanuel: every crisis is also an opportunity. If the Services look at this as an opportunity to increase their standards, and apply them universally, and improve the net quality and readiness of the force, then I think they will do quite well.
Remember, Audie Murphy was 5'5" and 110 pounds. My wife, when in college, had Audie by two inches and ten pounds, which was Audie's age when he earned the Medal of Honor in the European Theater of Operations in World War II. What is that line? "It isn't the size of the person in the fight, but the size of the fight in the person."
Some may think that the key to successful implementation of this new policy for the Army and Marines will lie in well written directives, guiding the Services, and especially the Army and Marines, to success. I am with those who believe success will lie with our Battalion Commanders and Command Sergeants Major. As one experienced soldier put it, "They are in the unique position to be the bridge between our senior leaders and the youth (and future) of our Army."
Regards — Cliff