Unwilling warriors

by Angela Lu Fulton
Posted 1/29/13, 05:30 pm

Last week’s announcement that the U.S military will open up combat positions to women caused excitement in the media, with reporters crowing about female soldiers finally getting the credit and equality they deserve.

But many women in the military don't share the enthusiasm shown on their behalf. Those whom the announcement should have helped disagree with the decision and say allowing men and women to work together in the same unit will hurt, rather than help combat missions.

Several female soldiers took to blogs and social media to express their fear the military's new policy will hurt unit cohesion, lower service requirements, and increase sexual temptation among men and women sharing close quarters. They also expressed a concern taboo in in today's culture of equality: Women are built differently than men–not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. A man’s natural instinct is to protect women, and in battle, that could hurt the mission.

One active female Marine who used the pseudonym “Sentry” wrote on the conservative blog Hot Air that she was one of the few women who could actually meet the male standard for pull-ups and would love to be in the infantry. But she refuses to apply: “I still think it will be an unmitigated disaster to incorporate women into combat roles. I am not interested in risking men’s lives so I can live my selfish dream.”

Although she has much more upper body strength than most women, "Sentry" said she wouldn’t be able to drag a 190-pound man to safety. And since many women can’t meet the male standard, she fears the requirements will soon be lowered “to include the politically correct number of women into the unit.”

That's already happening. Last year, the Marine Corps let two women take its Infantry Officer Course. Both dropped out within days. In response to difficult tests, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Thursday “if we do decide that a particular standard is so high that a women couldn’t make it, the burden is now on the service to come back and explain to the secretary, why is it so high? Does it really have to be that high?”

Jessie Jane Duff, who spent 20 years on active duty in the Marine Corps, said in the long run, combat causes unprecedented physical and emotional stress on women. Already women are discharged at higher rates than men for duress on knees, hips, ankles, and joints.

Also in a military culture thats aims to defeat the enemy by all means necessary, “there is a constant mode of aggression; I’ve seen too many women who enlisted and completed training, but soon learn they simply couldn’t face the dark reality on a daily basis,” Duff wrote in the Weekly Standard.

Sentry also argued including women in combat would hurt unit cohesion. Combat units have no privacy or hygiene as they stay together for days at a time, eating, sleeping, urinating, and defecating in front of each other, all while cramped in a Humvee wearing full body armor. 

A female Marine and Iraq war veteran, Jude Eden, wrote on her blog that romantic relationships within these groups also damage unity. “When preparing for battle, the last thing on your mind should be sex, but you put men and women in close quarters together and human nature is what it is. … It doesn’t matter what the rules are.” 

Even good relationships would lead to favoritism and jealousy, Eden said, while break-ups would cause a loss in faith with someone who might need to drag a former romantic interest off the battlefield. 

And in the worst case, women in the military will face unwanted male attention. Last year’s documentary Invisible War, examined rape in the military and found about 15,000 women were sexually assaulted in 2011. That makes the odds of being sexually assaulted by a fellow service member higher than being killed by the enemy. 

Women who are captured by the enemy also could face abominable punishments, said "Sentry," especially as the U.S. media pays more attention to a “captured, raped, mutilated woman.” That in turn will cause the men in the military to do anything in their power to protect the women, even if it hurts the mission. 

"Sentry" points to the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), which allows women in combat positions, noting integrated units in the IDF suffered three times the casualties as all-male units because the men try to protect their women.

Despite the push for equality, "Sentry" wonders whether women are really prepared for men whose first instinct is not to lay down their lives for them: “Do we really WANT to deprogram that instinct from men?”

Angela Lu Fulton

Angela is a senior reporter for WORLD Magazine based in Taiwan. Follow Angela on Twitter @angela818.

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