Small Wars Journal

DoD’s Combat Exclusion Policies Limit Commanders and Strain Our Current Forces

Sun, 11/20/2011 - 8:34am

As noted widely throughout the press, Army 1st Lieutenant Ashley White died on 22 October 2011 in Kandahar when the joint special operations task force to which she was attached triggered an IED. In a press release, U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) stated that White "played a crucial role as a member of a special operations strike force. Her efforts highlight both the importance and necessity of women on the battlefield today."[1]

Despite the public praise and emphasis on the value of women on the battlefield, the fact remains that Ashley White should not have been in the company of that particular assault force on that day in Kandahar. In fact, unless U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) had granted an exception specifically for White to be assigned to that particular ground unit, she should not have been there at all.  At least, not according to the DoD Combat Exclusion Policy and Army Regulation 600-13.

Combat Exclusion Policies

The Combat Exclusion Policy is based on a 1988 DoD restriction on women’s service that created the “Risk Rule” for assignment of women in the military.  The rule excluded women from non-combat units or missions if the risks of exposure to direct combat, hostile fire, or capture were equal to or greater than the risk in the combat units they supported.

Based on the experiences of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, DoD concluded that everyone in theater was at risk and thus a risk-based policy was no longer appropriate.[2]  As a result, the “Risk Rule” was rescinded on 13 January 1994 by then Secretary of Defense Les Aspin and was replaced by the “direct ground combat assignment rule.” [3] The policy also permits the Services to impose further restrictions on the assignment of women when where the Service Secretary attests that the costs of appropriate berthing and privacy arrangements are prohibitive; where units and positions are doctrinally required to physically collocate and remain with direct ground combat units that are closed to women; where units are engaged in long range reconnaissance operations and Special Operations Forces missions; and where job related physical requirements would necessarily exclude the vast majority of women Service members.[4]

The rationale for these restrictions at the time was that there was no military need for women in ground combat positions because an adequate number of men were available.  Additionally, transcripts of a 1994 press briefing indicate that DoD officials believed that the assignment of women to direct ground combat units “would not contribute to the readiness and effectiveness of those units” because of physical strength, stamina, and privacy issues.”[5]

Of course, the logic of combat exclusion policies, as currently written, turns on the conceptualization of the battlefield as a linear environment. Because the modern battlefield in increasingly non-linear and fluid, these policies are nearly impossible to apply, particularly in COIN environments that lack a well-defined forward area, such as Afghanistan. This fact was most recently noted by the March 2011 report by the Military Leadership Diversity Commission.  At this time, its recommendation that DoD eliminate “combat exclusion policies” that prevent women from being assigned to ground combat units below the brigade level has not been acted upon. [6]

Female Soldiers in Combined Joint Operations Area-Afghanistan (CJOA-A)

Female Engagement Teams (FET) are currently being employed in theater by U.S. and coalition forces to support their battle space owners’ COIN objectives by conducting key female engagements with the local population to build individual, group and community relationships, conduct information gathering, female searches and limited tactical operations. Similarly, Cultural Support Teams (CST), such as the one 1st LT White was a part of, provide direct support to Special Forces. The contributions currently being made by FETs and CSTs are receiving attention in CJOA-A and in the United States. From an information operations perspective, their value lies as much in their ability to engage with women and children (approximately 51% of the Afghan population is women) as to glean valuable population-centric information that men might not be able to get. Therefore, it is not surprising that women are viewed as valuable “battlefield enablers.”

Commander, U.S. Army Special Operations Command (COMUSASOC) recently stated that “they [women] are in Afghanistan right now and the reviews are off the charts. They’re doing great.”[7] Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict & Interdependent Capabilities (SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin said that commanders agree that the program has been a success. Current plans are consistent with these statements - the third group of CST women is about to begin training, and the tentative plan is to have 25 permanent Army CST teams by 2016. Lumpkin noted that "We're coming late to the table, but we've recognized the value (of the program), and I think this will transcend beyond Afghanistan. ... I don't see them going away any time soon."[8]

Our conventional force leadership clearly agrees. U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) recently published the Army’s Female Engagement Team Handbook (version 3) in September 2011 and there is a March 2011 Forces Command directive that requires each deploying brigade combat team to have nine FETs per brigade; providing three FETs for each of their maneuver battalions and two FETs for each Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). In August 2011, International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) echoed the same requirements and units in theater are currently forming those teams.

Rationale for Lifting Combat Exclusion Policies

White’s death should serve as a catalyst for serious debate about the role of women in the military more generally. Most people are familiar with the equity-based arguments against combat exclusion policies. According to the Principal Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Special Operations, female U.S. Soldiers have served and are currently serving in dangerous roles. Some have been killed and maimed. "Any day that they're walking into a village and engaging with the population they are at the same risk as those Special Operation Forces, battlefield they're detailed to... These women are on the front lines in very austere locations."

And yet their inability to formally hold a “combat position” affects their career trajectories. For example, the exclusion of women from specific requirements, such as combat service experience, translates into an inability to reflect their contributions on their officer evaluation report (OER), non-commissioned officer evaluation reports (NCOER) and both officer and enlisted officer’s record briefs (ORB/ERB). The merit of this service would provide women with a greater opportunity for promotion into the senior ranks, specifically general officer levels.  While such equity-based lines of argument obviously have merit, they are usually consumed by the politics of gender and are dismissed before serious debate has time to emerge.

We argue, however, that the need to revisit DoD’s combat exclusion policies sooner rather than later is not primarily derived from any aspect of gender politics.  Instead, we assert that DoD’s current policies regarding the role of women in combat is serving to tie the hands of commanders and place additional strain on our already overburdened forces.

Numerous defense officials have cited the tremendous stress placed upon our all-volunteer force by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Gates said during a speech at Duke University’s Page Auditorium on 29 September 2010, “The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have placed tremendous strain on U.S. forces and their families. The all-volunteer force conceived in the 1970s was designed to train, prepare, and deploy for a major and quick conventional conflict…” During a 2009 Senate hearing, Army Vice Chief of Staff General Peter W. Chiarelli called the Army a “stressed and tired force” and noted that that 12- to 15-month deployments and the stress of repeated deployments play a role in the increase in Army suicides.[9] The Army already faces perpetual shortages of junior officers (2nd Lieutenant through Captain) qualified to deploy.[10] Without change, recruitment of soldiers capable to fill combat positions will become increasingly difficult and male soldiers currently facing multiple combat tours will see almost no change in their op-tempo.

In addition, on 6 January 2011, under the direction from the White House, Defense Secretary Gates announced that the Pentagon would cut projected spending by $78 billion over the next five years and shrink the size of the Army and Marine Corps.[11]  With the Force Cap Reduction occurring in theater, we need to be more flexible in order to meet current operational needs. DoD’s current policy cripples the battle space owner’s ability to fully utilize female soldiers. By allowing women to serve in all roles, changes in combat exclusion policies would provide commanders at all levels the much needed flexibility to employ all of his or her resources to achieve operational objectives and reduce stress on the force.[12]

Experimentation for our Future Forces

The current COIN environment in CJOA-A provides an excellent opportunity to experiment and rapidly garner valuable lessons about the utility of FETs and CSTs and the challenges of integrating women into combat arms positions more generally. The results of such a trial effort could then be taken into account as we try to find intelligent ways to cut our current force structure and build our future forces.

Some of the important questions to be examined include: 

  • Are FETs and CSTs having a direct or indirect operational impact? Under what conditions and for what missions are they more (or less) useful? 
  • Is the type of information that FETs and CSTs gathering primarily useful at a tactical level or can it be aggregated for analysis/inclusion in command-level products?
  • What are the primary variables that shape the effectiveness of FET and CST across the Regional Commands (RCs)? 
  • What does this tell us about how to structure and use this resource in the future? (e.g., mix of male to female, differences in mission, etc.)
  • Do commanders believe that they would have more operational flexibility if they were able to place FET and CST members into combat positions?
  • In consideration of the coming drawdown, is there a benefit to making further amendments to combat exclusion policies? 

The ISAF Joint Command (IJC) FET Program Manager (PM) is currently working to examine some of these issues.  Specifically, she is in the process of visiting FETs which are operating in six Regional Commands (RCs) in order to gather information through meetings, interviews and distribution of an IJC FET questionnaire. It is anticipated that a FET Comprehensive Assessment Report will be completed and sent to NATO, TRADOC, the IJC Commander and the RC Commanders by the end of December. She also plans to provide legal guidance on how to integrate FETs to a combat arms position in support of the conventional army and special operations and define the FETs relationship with NATO FETs and Gender Advisors.

Additional studies that focus on the operational imperatives for the integration of women into combat arms positions and the impact this would have on our force structure would be very useful.    


In 1979, the repeal of a Dutch law led to the integration of the Dutch military, with no formal restrictions on women serving combat duty. On 27 September 2011, Australia’s government announced that female soldiers will soon be able to serve in front-line roles, removing the barriers of entry to women into seven percent of military specialties.[13] In October, the Mexican Congress voted to allow women to serve in the highest positions in the military.  Other countries where women are able to serve in more active combat roles include Canada, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland. 

In light of these events, rescinding or changing our combat exclusion policies makes sense because it will help all key players: ISAF, the U.S. Armed Forces writ large, battle space owners, and female soldiers. The Armed Forces will be able to use their current resources (women) to fill the gaps in areas affected by force reduction; women earn equal recognition, combat credit and greater opportunity to obtain senior level promotions; and commanders are no longer limited on how they have greater flexibility to employ their internal resources. The existing combat exclusion policies are outdated and limit not only women, but also the ability to maintain an agile and responsive force; it’s time for change.

[1] USASOC, “Press Release:  U.S. Army Special Operations Soldiers Killed in Combat,” 23 October 2011.

[2] U.S. General Accounting Office, “Information on DoD’s Assignment Policy and Direct Ground Combat Definition,” October 1998; MILDEC, “Women in Combat” p.2.

[3] Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, “Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule.”  The memorandum defined the term “direct ground combat” as: [E]ngaging an enemy on the ground with individual or crew served weapons, while being exposed to hostile fire and to a high probability of direct physical contact with the hostile force’s personnel. Direct ground combat takes place well forward on the battlefield while locating and closing with the enemy to defeat them by fire, maneuver, or shock effect.”

[4] AR 600-13 is particularly restrictive. The Army’s definition of direct combat is broader than DoD’s in that it includes both the risk of capture and the repulsion of an enemy assault. In addition, the Army policy prohibits the assignment of women to units whose routine mission is to engage in direct ground combat, while DoD’s policy prohibits the assignment of women to units whose primary mission is to engage in direct ground combat.

[5]U.S. General Accounting Office, October 1998, p. 4.

[6] Military Leadership Diversity Commission, “From Representation to Inclusion:  Diversity Leadership for the 21st Century Military,” 15 March 2011. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (Section 596) established the Military Leadership Diversity Commission (MLDC).

[7] Major General Bennet Sacolick, Commander, Army Special Warfare Center and School, Cultural Support Program Briefing, 15 September 2011.  OPR:  AQOJK-DRSE.

[8] Associated Press, “Death Highlights Women’s Role in Special Ops Teams,” 26 October 2011.

[9]  US Medicine – The Voice of Federal Medicine, “Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Suicide Rate in the Military.” November 7, 2011, April 2009 <

[10] In the Army, twenty percent of these ranks are filled by female Soldiers who could be drawn upon as a resource. Fifteen percent of West Point undergraduates are women, yet these potential leaders are precluded from career advancement due to their lack of combat experience is a discriminator. Associated Press, “Death highlights women’s role in Special Ops teams.” October 2011, 3 Nov. 2011 <

[11]  Washington Post, “Pentagon to cut spending by $78 billion, reduce troop strength.” January 7, 2011, November  7, 2011 <

[12] Exceptions to the DoD Combat Exclusion Policy may be granted on an individual mission basis after review by U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A).  This is a step in the right direction

[13]The New York Times, “Australia Says It Will Open Combat Roles to Women.” September 27, 2011. November 7, 2011 <


About the Author(s)

Major Sheila Medeiros (US Army) is an Inform and Influence Activities Officer (FA30) with 26 years of total military service. Assigned to HQ, I Corps at Joint Base Lewis McCord and currently deployed until July 2012 as the ISAF Joint Command Female Engagement Team (FET) Program Manager.

Dr. Traci Swanson is a Senior Research Fellow at the National Defense University and a senior operations research analyst at the Office of the Secretary of Defense.



Sun, 05/28/2023 - 12:09pm

In reply to by Hammer999

I do apologize for the delay in responding to your query.  I have honestly been too busy laughing at all of these crass and uninformed comments for the last decade to actually write anything down.  Lets see.....yes....I was right.  Done deal.  And perhaps you should consider for a moment that I know things that you do not.  Do you honestly believe you were briefed on everything?  All of those comments were about a decade old and the people posting them didn't even know it.  And yet they all take themselves so seriously.....If. you can recall my advice was to stop worrying about the "will it happen" and start thinking about how to make it do-able so that lives are not endangered and your worst fears do not come to pass.  Honestly, I would not want to go into combat with someone who did not have the upper body strength to carry me away if i was injured.  I wouldn't want to be left behind to be captured, tortured, or killed because someone couldn't carry me away to safety.  I have worked with every branch of the service and many SOF units and I can tell you that without any questions the Marines are always the ones that are least inclusive and dismissive of females whatever their physical capabilities might be.  The most open minded individuals I have ever worked with always came from Special Forces or SMUs.  But, every serviceman or woman is trained in the manner that is used by the branch that they joined.  Rangers are trained to behave and think and fight in one way and Special Forces in another and Marines in another.  That happens so that the USG can have a tool kit with a variety of tools to address different challenges. And you know that this is true.  Compare the training that different services and units employ.  If i wanted a hill to be taken I would use the Marines.  If I needed someone who could think on their feet and operate without much guidance in complex operational environments I would NOT use a Marine.  So, i guess i never should have been surprised by the tenor of the comments that the article received so long ago because of the journal's audience.  It is frankly quite shocking at how crass and inappropriate most of the comments were at the time.....  But I suppose everyone is quite passed being able to be shocked easily by now....  Best to you!


Wed, 02/20/2013 - 9:53pm

Ms Swanson, MAJ Medeiros,

I have not seen a reply... Did you not consider this area? Or is it too shocking? Or is it that you will never have to do it? Well it is what happens on patrols that last more than 12 hours.


Sun, 02/10/2013 - 5:41am

Ms. Swanson,
(I will take this time to apoligize for spelling/typing errors, also Suzy is not a derogatory term)

You say I am emotional? Maybe I am. You see when if I screw up people die, if I do everything right they still might die. That being said I want every advantage I can get. Is that what work is like for you and the MAJ?

One more thing. You didn't talk about Soldiers getting pregnate. It happens. I am NOT laying blame on anyone for it. But here is the deal: You will not get a replacement. You will not have that Soldier for deployment or she will not be available for train-up for the next deployment. The Light Infantry/SOF isn't an office job even in garrison. If a troop in a Finace unit gets pregnate, she can continue to do her job in garrison. If you have a female troop get pregnate troop you better figure on not having them for 12 MONTHS, and thats if all goes well. Problems:

1. If Suzy is a private, you will not get a replacement. A rifle squad (at this time) is 9 troops. (This is too small in my opinion, but that is another conversation) so the squad deploys shorthanded. This means everyone has to cover down to accomplish the mission. Everyone has to carry a little more, sleep a little less etc. They haven't been in their first contact and they are already short. And we are usually already short, from injuries, lack of replacements etc.

Heres another thing. PVT Suzy shows up to her first unit. A month later she learns she is pregnate. She can't do Infantry stuff for a year, but she is smart so she takes classes etc. With promotion points so low she makes SGT in two years... But she only has half the experiance of the rest because she didn't get time to do all the positions within the platoon.

2. If Suzy is a junior leader, you will not get a replacement. So troops deploy without their leader. So the unit deploys shorthanded. This means everyone has to cover down to accomplish the mission. Everyone has to carry a little more, sleep a little less etc. Lets say Suzy is a fire team leader... Now her team has lost 25% of its manpower. For a fire team this just about makes it combat in-effective... And they haven't been in their first firefight yet... Let us also say it is her and her fire teams first first deployment, but she missed it.

Now lets say the fire team/squad/platoon returns with no KIA's/WIA's. Suzy resumes her role as the element leader. Do you really think those troops are going to listen to much of what she has to say? If it was a man it would be the same way.

At this time if you are a combat arms leader over the rank of SGT and you don't have a combat patch/CIB, no one listens to you. You might be God's gift to the Army but that dosn't matter because you haven't "seen the elephant" and it dosn't matter what rank your are either. This is accross the Army and not just a combat arms thing either. In a time of peace maybe it will be less important, but for now it isn't that way.

Now I have mostly talked about enlisted here but now lets talk about officers. Officers have a certain amount of time to do certain things in their paths. When a LT gets to his first unit he is made a PL for 12 or so months, if very lucky 18 months... Sometimes more, sometimes less. If he is good to go, maybe he gets a second specialty platoon.

What if LT Suzy reports to her unit and a month later finds out she is pregnate? She can't be the PL (though she might be left on the books as one)for the train up. 6 months later the unit deploys. They return 12 months later. Suzy has missed her chance to be a PL... This is an absolutely CRITICAL part of an officer path in combat arms... Not many Battalion Commanders are going to want to make a CPT into a company commander if they haven't been a PL... No good BN CDR is. Yeah there is a little more leeway when it come time to become a Company Commander because officers spend some time as CPT's so a pregnacy could be worked around.
But what if she gets a company only to have to give it up because shes having a kiddo? But miss that PL time and she is screwed unless maybe her daddy is a general...

Here is another thing. The Army isn't going to transfer a female CPT/MAJ/LTC etc into the Infantry/SOF just because it's now open. Well I guess I shouldn't say that, who know what the hell they will do, but they shouldn't. And this isn't because they are woman either. The Infantry is already having to deal with problems with non-Infantry commanders not understanding how to properly use them. SOF might even have it a bit worse.

Now lets talk about some things that don't get talked about at cocktail parties, that you and higher either never thought of or refused to consider...

Most senior Light Infantry leaders will tell you it a good idea for the PL/PSG to share a hootch at base when deployed. Do you think after a 20 hour patrol, I am going to remember to knock to ensure my female PL is clothed? I am no prude... But she might be...

Or lets say its night, pitch black, no moon and I gotta wake up the female PL in her hootch, because the CO wants her... She is a heavy sleeper. You think she will be mad if I poke her with a stick to wake her?

What about hygiene issues? Do you have any idea where Light Infantry/SOF units take a poop when on patrol? It not private. Its in the middle of the patrol base or parameter in full veiw of EVERYONE. Thats the way it is. I am not going to be able to carry a porta-pottie around for a changing room. Ok, from the patrol base, now we got a 12 klick movement over the mountain, to the ORP. To prevent overheating going to have to take off the polypro. Oops we are tactical, hope you don't mind being buck naked infront of everybody. Or what about when we have to wash off in a creek or pool of water? You ever been to Afghanistan Ms. Swanson? I spent a year with now shower... We would take a patrol to a nearby creek during the warm months to wash. No privicy. Had to have 3/4 of the unit on security, while 1/4 washed... again in full veiw.

What about Alaska (or any artic/cold area of the world), Ms. Swanson you ever been stationed there? In Alaska during winter, to prevent constipation and ensure hydration in an Light Infantry unit heres a fun thing you get to do as a leader. You get to take your team/squad out and watch them piss and poop. What fun. You have to do this to ensure they are drinking water, because no one wants to drink cold water when its freezing out. Why watch them poop? To ensure they do. When it's 50 below no one wants to take their pants down to releive themselves. So they get sick or constipated and have to be evacated. Guess who gets to catch hell from higher if this happens? It isn't the General.

You really think woman are not going to look at men and men are not going to look at woman? Are you in a hurry to go on patrol now? How long do you think it will be before a female complains about that? What do you think the Army will do? I will tell you. She will complain. The leaders will get in trouble/fired.

Do you honestly think the idiots, err I mean enlightened, all knowing leaders that approved this, even thought such things? The answer is no. Won't be their problem, they don't spend much time in a patrol base, LOL.

Do you think they are worried about it? The answer is NO. because they won't have to deal with it. What do they care if a female complains and some men get into trouble? Long as it isn't them, they will give less than a crap.

I am willing to bet not alot of Army females have done this. Look what you will get to do in the Light Infantry!!! Especially as we move back to full spec ops.

To my senior leaders, thanks so much for setting me up for success.

Mr. Swanson, this is a very informative piece and I can see how you have sympathy for the plight of our females in uniform. Your focus on FET and CST makes the reader assume females have been clearing bunkers along side their male counterparts. I for one disagree. I have personally served with all manner of FET, CST, etc. I worked with them before we gave them an acronym. Over the last 11 years of war, I have fought "along side" the opposite sex. At best, they aren't a liability. Which is a good thing, and all I expect from them. All the anecdotal stories surfacing about girls kicking in doors or going on patrol don't include the fact that they do this at the back of a formation.

Your insistence that we are behind the times is flawed by comparing us to other nations armies. First, there is a reason why we are the best fighting force in the world. Until recently, we have refused to allow our military to become a science project. Before we ask our military to gender integrate, why don't we force the NFL to. Let that experiment prove mother nature was right. Second, your list of countries are red hearings at best. I have worked with most of the nations you listed over the years. They all say the same thing. Girls in the infantry are useless, dead weight. It just gives the rest of the guys more of a load to bear. A few of them you mentioned:

Britan- After integration the military did a study. This study showed female infantryman spent more time in sick call and on profile than actually on the job. Proving mother nature was right.

Canada- The Canadian military spent 250 million dollars recruiting women for the infantry. A few dozen made the cut and only one passed to graduation. That one quit after a year on the job, citing the daily rigors of an infantryman's job. Proving mother nature right.

Isreal- Everyone knows the story. Integrated, war in 1948, till 2000, blah, blah, blah. The only Infantry unit that allows women is a coed unit that guards the Jordanian border, the safest post in the nation. Looks like someone put Baby in the corner. The Israeli's don't want mother nature to proven right....again

It's always failed. But hey, we're Americans. We can do anything we put our minds to. Except balance a budget.


Sat, 01/26/2013 - 5:10am

In reply to by InTheKnow

I predicted this six months ago and heard the first crumbs of guidance leaders were getting in a conversation with my next door neighbor who was the Ranger Reg't liasion with airborne school.

The only way this has any chance of being done "right" is to publicize what commanders and leaders are being told to do and how they are being told to do it. Active duty can't fight this political fight which is what it is. For once they are going to have to rely on the retired community and there links to influence America. Failing to do that will mean the easiest politically expedient path will be taken by leadership that has continually let itself be outmaneuvered. I'd be happy to help in any way I can. Maybe Dave can get you my contact info. My twitter account is majr0d.

Good luck. I don't envy the environment you are serving/will be serving in.


Sat, 01/26/2013 - 4:32am

In reply to by carl

You nailed it Carl. At this point the staff officers look down and say "make it happen" damn the consequences.

Airborne school once required pull ups because that's how you steer your parachute to avoid other jumpers. When women entered the number of pull ups were lowered as if women paratroopers neeed to steer their chutes less. This wasn't enough to pass the "required" numbers. Today pullups are not a mandatory requirement. Has that improved the capability/efficiency of the force? No.

At the Academy the indoor obstacle course standard allows women to run it slower and even skip an obstacle and still pass. Will the enemy allow women more time to traverse obstacles or skip them altogether if they are too hard?

The only reason we haven't seen the price these lowered standards will cost us if we haven't had many airborne ops or had women in positions where the lowered standaards cost more casualties.

Standards will be normed or requirements will be removed completely to facilitate this social experimentation. What's sad is that there are actually women who believe they are meeting the same standards as men even when their PT test standards are significantly lower. Incredible how PC can skew one's perception of reality.


Fri, 01/25/2013 - 12:42pm

In reply to by InTheKnow


Almost every point you made is good and your first hand report of the results as they are already shaping up is especially valuable to a civilian like me, unfortunately not a surprise but valuable nonetheless.

You missed only one thing. For people like the good major and the learned doctor The Mission IS Equality. They may pretend otherwise but their actions make their objectives clear. That is why the learned doctor is genuinely perplexed at the vehemence of the objections. For her ilk, the mission, a sacred one, is progressing nicely and any objection to it is a genuine puzzlement. They really do wonder how any thinking person can't see the justice of their cause. What so many people on this forum view as the actual mission, winning wars and battles, just doesn't register with the people pushing this agenda. They learn the right words and phrases because their project is easier to sell if they use them, but the actual reality of war they can't see. That war and fighting stuff is, I think, viewed as taking care of itself. But THE MISSION, that needs nurturing.

This lobby is too powerful and the thing will go on. The actions of spineless military machine will continue and get worse. Any jokes about the kinds of things it will lead to will only be jokes until they actually happen. We will see what will happen when the test of a big war comes. That phrase "We will see" doesn't seem adequate though to what we may see when this experiment plays out.


Fri, 01/25/2013 - 11:52am

<em>"[Focus] on issues like how to set standards, change training, etc"</em>

<em>"I don't see why you get so emotional"</em>

About the latter- the reason people get emotional over this issue is because lives are at stake and the fate of our nation. Military service has been traditionally looked at as service to the nation- as the nation sees fit- not as a right. That we look at it now as a right (for some) has broad implications- not the least of which is the transformation of the culture. That may seem good to people like you- but that is an assumption. The truth may be that we will be able to handle the negative effects (or, as I would submit- hide them) because we are in a position to. That may not always be the case. I'm also interested in the possible negative 2nd and 3rd order effects- which always seem to happen with any change the government mandates...

On your first point- okay- let's look at that subject. Ranger School was reportedly recently told that they are a leadership school- and therefore there doesn't need to be any physical standards that could possibly keep women from graduating. Pullups are therefore out. One wonders if carrying a 240 will now be out. Do you need to carry a heavy weapon to learn leadership? Maybe heavy rucks will be out too. My point is that it is very difficult to directly connect standards to combat requirements. It is not a logical, linear process - but because of poor articulation skills, political correctness, or the demand for linear justification for something that is not linear- standards will be done away with.

Already the word has gone out to start justifying ANYTHING we do that could possibly interfere with a woman doing it well. Do you see the change in focus? The focus used to be the mission. It is now "how to norm everything to guarantee women can do it". We will couch the effort in terms that looks common sensical- but in the end standards will change because the logic behind them is both non-linear (and thus difficult to articulate) and traditionally tied to the average male (to field an army you have to have a certain # of folks- so to have the standard higher than the average male won't get you the # you need...).

Regardless- I don't think any of this means anything. Setting standards, changing training, etc.- should be focused on THE MISSION, not on EQUALITY. This change in focus is what many are lamenting. The assumption that equality will make the force better is such a shallow assertion that it is almost laughable. If we are to trust the military to gauge that- expect the politically correct brass to give strong approval to whatever the civilian leadership tell them to. But I don't even think we should be talking about that. What I'm concerned with is the so-called epidemic of sexual harassment in the military. We have this huge problem, don't seem to know how to fix it, and think it won't interfere with combat arms units. Am I the only one worried about that?? Do we really think that more training (non combat training mind you), education, punishment, regulations, and policies will keep 18 year old girls and boys from messing around and creating problems for units and NOT interfering with preparing for combat? The reality in support units is that it IS a problem (although you'll never know it due to it being politically incorrect to say so)- do we really think that will be good for combat arms units?

I submit until we are able to change 18 year olds and end the sexual harassment "epidemic", we should not integrate women into any more units than they are already in.

So, all this talk about accepting it (which is not what the policy said- it is not a done deal- there are certain plans still owed, etc.) and talking about standards, etc.- it is all hogwash. It isn't a done deal- but once it becomes a done deal I assert standards will change (they already have as noted above), effectiveness will be degraded, and the sexual harassment "epidemic" will spread to combat units and end more careers of good soldiers who might have saved others' lives and protected the nation. The idea of the social-changers that we can change people ignores the possibility that the behavior is at least a little natural and the fact that our culture is going the other way (hyper objectifying people).


Thu, 01/24/2013 - 11:54pm

Congradualtions to the Fems and Lesbians... Looks like you got what you wanted.


Sun, 02/10/2013 - 5:42am

In reply to by Hammer999

Moved to top of page.


Sat, 02/09/2013 - 6:07pm

In reply to by Hammer999

Like many others, I share Hammer's concerns. But our service chiefs may come up with an optimum solution to all of this.....we'll see.

For those who've not read "The Kinder, Gentler Military" by Stephanie Gutmann, I would recommend it, especially if you are of the opinion that Hammer's concerns are unreasonable. The book was published in 1999/ 2000 and highlighted some of the routine problems regarding women in military units (my wife, a former enlisted Soldier, confirmed for me the book's findings on the challenges faced by women in basic training including the numerous injuries, adjustment of standards, etc, etc...). The book is quite applicable today.


Sat, 02/09/2013 - 5:53pm

In reply to by Swanson

Ms. Swanson, you are correct it is a done deal... And standards will be lowered or overlooked in order to get them in. Don't say it won't, it will. You say well it's a COIN enviroment... Will it always be? No it won't. I never said that woman did not contribute, nor were unprofessional. Have we looked at the total picture about woman? No. As for maligning our senior leadership... If I did so what??? I am not going to hide behind protacol when it comes to lives and mission accomplishment. They are going to be no where around when I have do deal with the problems that will arise... They will call it a "leadership challenge" and blame us. I can't count the number of men I had to get rid of, because they couldn't make the cut. They wern't bad guys, but they didn't have what it took. In any other area of they Army they would be studs. Do you have any idea how much work it is to get rid of a non-preformer?

Let me tell you how this is going to work:
1. Suzy will be pushed thru basic training, AIT (Jump School is already watered down)
2. Suzy gets to her unit... Within 90 days she will be on profile... She will stay on profile...
3. She will become a driver, training room etc (won't be doing infantry stuff)
4. She will get promoted
5. She will continue on the profile path...
6. Somewhere around the E-6 or E-7 level she will rejoin the actual infantry. This is where she will really become dangerious because she will get folks killed. This is if she dosn't get fired for falling out.
7. Eventually she will be a company 1SG... But who is she going to advise on anything? She never spent time doing her MOS... But hey we got to promote her.

This whole thing is about promotions and prestige and political correctness and fairness...

How many millions are we going to spend to retrofit barrecks etc to accomidate Suzy?

I can't house Suzy in the area as the rest of the platoon because it's against regs...

And if anyone tries to mess with Suzy's plan, she will be screaming He hate woman/He harrassed me etc, etc.

But hey as long as its fair right...

We have no comparable unit to Israil's Carcal Battalion... Which isn't an Infantry unit in anything more than name... I don't care what Canada has done, how many wars have they won? I don't care what the Belgians have done, how many wars have they won? Accross the world on every continent since the beginning of time, men did the fighting. Yes there have been isolated instances of woman fighting.

SWAT isn't the infantry/SOF... I will have to send them to levels 1,2,3,4 of combatives as soon as I get them, just so they have a chance in hand to hand combat. Leading a vehicle convoy in a combat zone isn't the same thing as carrying 150+ pounds of gear up the mountains of Afghanistan.

Here is what the woman pushing this want... They want to see woman infantry Div and SF Group Commanders...


Fri, 01/25/2013 - 1:08am

In reply to by Swanson

Ms. Swanson:

Combat exclusion rules didn't develop because of a linear environment. They developed over the course of the history of human participation in war. That history included every sort of war there has been. It became customary. And it became customary because, in the course of that human participation in war, it was found that it worked. What worked was done because to do anything else risked defeat, up to now anyway, according to some.

Woman have not been serving de facto in combat roles in US forces for years now, not in any important historical sense. That is because there hasn't been large scale, sustained WWII, American Civil War or Vietnam type combat involving American forces since women have been allowed anywhere near combat. This is not to take away from the sacrifice of the few women, in a historical sense very, very few, who have been exposed to combat. But to use what is a historical footnote to help justify a fundamental change in the way we conduct war is a folly that may have grave consequences.

The problem with this is that for it to work, society will have to change. It will suddenly have to stop valuing a man protecting a women. That will not happen because it is a core value of our society and will continue to be. Putting women into an organization, a combat unit, the role of which is to go into danger, and that organization being substantially composed of men who are strongly acculturated to protect women will lead to confusion about what is to be done when by who and that confusion will lead to trouble.

Why on earth is it a bad thing to malign senior military leadership? A substantial portion of the multi-stars seem to be without character so the more maligned they are the better.

One thing I will note is USN fighting ships already have mixed sex crews, excepting subs. So when the next big bout of sea fighting comes, women will be in naval combat in a big way. That has never been done before in the history of the world. There has never been a big fighting navy that has gone to war with mixed sex crews. Never. We are conducting an experiment never ever done before and upon the outcome of which may rest the fate of the nation. We are doing this upon the basis of nothing at all except blind faith that it will work. That doesn't seem prudent, but then nobody asked me. I hope it works. And if it doesn't I hope we have enough time to put things back the way they were before we get beat.


Thu, 01/24/2013 - 9:03pm

In reply to by Hammer999


It does in fact appear that modifying/ending the CEP is a "done deal." Having said that, it is very difficult to understand why you are so emotional about this issue. No one is talking about modifying physical requirements in order to accommodate females. The article simply points out that in a coin environment it makes little sense to apply rules that were created for a linear environment. And, because of this women have de facto been serving in combat roles for many years now. And, their records should reflect their contributions. I have no idea why this line of reasoning would make you so irate. Referencing lesbianism and shower scenes from movies is a completely inappropriate way to contribute to real discussion. On top of that, you malign our senior military leadership. during a time of war i might point out. As for having an agenda,i would have to disagree. this is the only thing that i have ever written about any kind of gender-related issue.


Fri, 11/02/2012 - 11:39am

I love how they always cite what other countries have done... Don't let something like the decades of experiance the Israelis have had get in your way ladies... During my first deployment to Afghanistan, I spoke with a company commander of the PPCLI. As we were talking I saw a Female PPCLI carrying a M240 and her AG. When I ask the CO how well she did, he said that he had the biggest guy in his company (I saw the dude he was Paul Bunyon) as her AG because she could do one of two things. 1. Carry the gun and one BL of ammo or 2. Carry her ruck (barely) and an C-7... If she was carrying the gun, the AG had to carry his own as well as her rucksacks, plus rifle, tripod, spare barrel and the other half of the ammo or more.

All this being said, I don't discount woman in the service. I have met many who were and are true professionals and are extremely capable, but the average woman, compared to the average man just doesn't have the strength. A lot of what SOF and Infantry units do involves long movements carrying heavy loads which the human body does not like and the female body handles even worse (so they get hurt more) than men (and even we get hurt.) Anyone do a study of the average number of days per year woman vs men are on profile?

Next thing is look at the problems found in mixed gender units... Do we need the added problems in units where we are actually looking for a fight? The Army will never do a study on this... Because it won't support the politically correct veiw.

The bottom line Dr and Maj is this: I have a sister who runs marathons, does MMA and Iron man compitions. She is an excellent shot with a rifle, pistol or shotgun as well. She probably weighs 110 to 115lbs... Years ago when we got ready for the drop into Haiti my ruck/equipment alone was 127LBS without the parachute. My sis is extremely smart and fully capable mentally to do the job... But she isn't going to do anything but sit on that rucksack... And unlike you two, she has the common sense to say the same thing. And we have guys we gotta get rid of because they don't make the grade...

I have no doubt that a very few females can handle it at least for awhile. A very few have. At what point do we say the juice is not worth the squeeze?

Yeah I know all about female snipers in other countries... But there is alot of diffence in the way those countries operate and fight. They are not going to jump in overloaded and walk 50 miles, we have before and may again.

I am sick of the arguement that it affects promotion... EO is alive and well in todays military. Percentages are promoted, not the best qualified. The lesbian sisterhood (no I am not implying you are) will ensure you get your promotion percentage... And then some.

CEP is not a done deal yet. Until it is don't we have other larger problems? Pushing your agenda while we are at war is frankly smacks of politics. I would expect that from the Docter... She is a civilian, but Maam you should know better.

Would clear, concise scientific and medical data, if shown to you prove that it would not work, change your minds? Or would you not let troublesome things like facts get in the way of pushing your agenda? Do you not realize that men treat men differently than woman and woman treat other woman differently than men? Are you not aware that both groups are genetically predisposed to do so? The reason I ask is because we are unable to depend on our morally weak generals and admirals to tell the truth... Moral cowardice and political correctness are the order of the day for them.

Look, I liked the shower scene in Starship Troopers too. But don't let your fantasies carry you away.


Sat, 01/28/2012 - 12:51pm

Eric- you got your "room to maneuver" orders- lol... Wow- what a way to cut off debate. CEP is a "done deal"- now stop debating it and move on to "how"...

"How" about by waiting until Afghanistan is over (less than 2 years), and then the "requirement" is gone?? (I put "requirement" in quotes- because I don't think an honest appraisal of the requirement has ever been undertaken. I submit it is an invalid requirement, or that we aren't getting as much as we think we are out of the capability).

If they are still collecting data on their effectiveness (again- the bias shown by the authors means to me that data collection is over...), how about these non-attributive (due to retaliation) comments from those in theater working with them:

"In my recent experience with CST I felt the biggest issue that affected the team that I worked with was a constant lack of professionalism and immature behavior. This team still played on the ideas that were prevalent in the high school girl-boy relationship, the pet names, the playful touching, and the “can you do this for me, please….”

"Our team is working with a FET now. What a waste, their performance is completely worthless in every aspect. We have tried to get rid of this team but this program seems to be supported at the highest levels- and thus operational requirements are subordinated to politics. The sitreps that have been sent up paint a picture of the best thing since sliced bread. What a lie. It is even more painful to watch the infantry and CA guys fight over who gets to build them doors and shelves for their rooms."

"The only thing worse than having to bend over backwards to accomodate these FETs and deal with all the inevitable "he-said, she-said" issues that arise is the politically-correct pressure to never send up any reports about anything bad about the teams. The assumption is that if anything bad happens- it must be the fault of all the guys- who just need more socialization classes."

"All the sex that goes on when co-located with a CST actually wouldn't be a bad thing- its a great stress reliever for some- but inevitably you get three issues that affect mission: fights over the girls since they are vastly outnumbered by the men, the few girls who don't want any attention- or at least not from those who do give them attention- and the resultant sexual harrassment claims that eat up lots of time and resources- which is crazy in a combat zone- it effectively shuts down operations for weeks at a time, and lastly, the fights that break out between the girls and the guys... over other girls. This last one has been increasing lately and gets pretty vicious."

"My commander was told in no uncertain terms that he was required to use the FETs on every mission except by exception with permission at the O-6 level- and that it would not be good for his career to report anything bad about them- even if he had proof of fact on film."

"I am surprised at how many missions have been disrupted because of the CSTs. I figured some of our missions would be affected because they are forced on us- but now we are being affected by all of the brass who want to come out and visit them. Of course- if anyone says anything bad about them to visiting brass, we get quickly shunted to the side. It doesn't matter- everyone sees what they want to see..."

"If there was any indication to me that the truth and real, meaningful- and independently verified metrics were being gathered about this program (FETs/CSTs), then maybe I would only be irritated with experiments in a combat zone. Instead- all I ever see is exaggerations, assumptions being treated as facts, gender politics and officer politics being inserted at every opportunity, and many times outright lies. There is no reward for being negative (honest) about this program- actually you get punished- but there's every reward for stretching the truth on it."

As the authors have stated- the conclusion is already done, so I'm not sure how gathering data anymore will help in the "how" (and rest assured- these data points WON'T be gathered). How do you make a change that for all indications seems to be doomed no matter how you do it? Well- maybe by making it political and telling everyone it isn't allowed to fail. Everyone lies to each other and the troops on the ground- as usual- have to deal with the negative consequences. Go NDU and OSD!!


Sun, 02/10/2013 - 5:51am

In reply to by Vitesse et Puissance

"This particular young lady, like many of her male enlisted comrades, did poorly in school, was athletically inclined, and experimented with drugs and sex before joining the military".

Maybe this is true... What the hell does it have to do with anything?

Vitesse et Puissance

Mon, 01/28/2013 - 1:51pm

In reply to by tswanson

It should be noted that, in the past, societies that have put women into combat have also not refrained from reimposing combat exclusions for women once the crisis had passed. This is what Israel did after the 1948 war, an exclusion that held into 2000. Likewise with Russia, which made the largest scale use of women in combat roles in WWII (but also had women in combat units in WWI). The situation in the Russian military is a bit - ambiguous. It is not clear what their policy actually is. But in neither the case of Israel, not in the case of the United States, can it be said that there is a sufficient shortage of eligible males to induce either nation to commit women to close combat. The Israeli use of a coed infantry unit is an interesting data point, but hardly strong evidence that putting men and women together in a close combat situation is a good idea. Segregating men and women into gender-specific units has obvious drawbacks, especially when the physical and psychological differences between men and women can be exploited by a clever foe. We would have been better off fixing the personnel management system than trying to fix the people who serve at such great sacrifice to themselves. And rather than pontificating to soldiers serving under orders about how they should maneuver politically to influence the process, I would suggest that the feminist women who are advocating such policies put their own carcasses on the line, rather than experimenting with the lives of others.

I should point out that I do have a niece, a Reservist MP, who went to Iraq and came back in one piece. She doesn't talk much about her experiences - most of the young soldiers who come back from Iraq don't. I know she was in a convoy that suffered an IED attack, so the trite intellectual point that she was also in harm's way is not lost on any of us. This particular young lady, like many of her male enlisted comrades, did poorly in school, was athletically inclined, and experimented with drugs and sex before joining the military.


Sun, 02/10/2013 - 6:05am

In reply to by Swanson

Ms. Swanson,

The battlefeild hasn't changed that much in a hundred years. CW/UW are pretty much the same as they have always been. The tools of the trade have changed some, thats about it. And we keep thinking that with ISR platforms and enough computers we will be able to keep every Soldier safe and clear the "Fog of War" from the battlefeild and we haven't and won't. Our senior leaders are enamored with technology. Our senior leaders have screwed and fiddled with force structure and just about everything else. More in the last twenty years than the privious 200. This is just another experiment...


Sun, 12/16/2012 - 6:05pm

In reply to by Swanson

Dr Swanson,

I, too, share Carl's perspective that the point of your study seems to be based primarily on your desire to improve the career opportunities of our female troopers, not necessarily on ensuring that we can win wars. Using FETs as the basis for your primary assertion....that females serving on FETs demonstrates that females can serve effectively as combat arms weak as the two roles are quite different. Walking into foreign villages to conduct discussions/ key leader engagements (KLE) is not the same as carrying your body weights worth of gear, up and down rough terrain, over multiple days, AND THEN engaging in close combat, some of it hand-to-hand.

Additionally, your response to Carl strikes me as undeservedly snarky, which is surprising coming from a person I believe to be a well-educated and highly professional person.

I suspect that the combat exclusion rule will be lifted, just as changes were made after the Gulf War regarding females serving as combat pilots. But just as combat piloting is far different from combat infantry work, the same holds true regarding service as a FET and service as a grunt. Basing your assertion on a comparision of the two doesn't make sense.

The females in our formations continue to do mighty good work in combat (the MP and medic who were awarded Silver Stars for their "hooah" actions come to mind). I suspect some females are quite capable of humping 60 lbs. of body armor plus a 60-lbs pack up and down the Hindu Kush with little problem. But most are not, and of those that are, many would choose not to (this is where the concern about incuding females in the draft would become an issue were changes to the exclusion rule made...a draft would force some into a role they simply cannot perform = degraded unit performance).

You are correct...this is not, nor should it be, about "us" vs "them". Any discussion about changing/ adjusting any rules ought to be based on "will it help us win wars". I don't think that is the main point of your work.


Sun, 12/16/2012 - 3:25pm

In reply to by carl


You say that you are a civilian and forever a civilian. Sounds like you are proud of it -- good for you. You assume that I do not know what I am doing. I have spent over twenty years working side by side with the military. At SOCOM, at JSOC, and other commands. I have deployed to Afghanistan and other places. So, I am not sure where you are coming from.

One way to fight and win wars -- your primary concern here -- is to recruit and retain the best and brightest. Sometimes these people are men and sometimes they are women. But the military needs to have a career path for all of its soliders. I assume you would agree with that, right? And I would also submit to you that you do not know NEARLY as much as you think you do. If you did, you would not have written your post.

This is not about stars or womens rights or anything else like that. It is about having clear policies that are realistic given the new battlefield environments that we are facing. My point was that the policy and the reality need to be reconciled. Do you understand that? It is not about "us" or "them" or playgrounds or games. This is about the health of the total force. Grow up.


Sat, 01/28/2012 - 4:24pm

In reply to by tswanson

Ms. Swanson:

I read your article up until this sentence.

"And yet their inability to formally hold a “combat position” affects their career trajectories."

Speaking as a citizen and forever a civilian, I couldn't care less about "their career trajectories." I don't submit to being taxed so "they" will have full and satisfying careers. I submit to being taxed so our military can WIN WARS. That you would include such an argument in your piece says to me that Winning Wars may not be at the top of your list of priorities. For that reason, I didn't read another word that you wrote. I am not interested, nor should anybody be interested in what you say if it isn't completely about Winning Wars.

Your response the Eric Stratton was more or less "Nyah, nyah, nyah. We win and you lose! If you want to stay on the playground you have to play like we do!" mixed with "I went to a really good grad school so I'll deign to acknowledge you if you show the proper respect." Responding like that to people who know what they are doing when it comes to fighting wars is not a good way to sway opinions.

We are conducting military experiments that have never before been tried in the history of the world. For example, never in the history of the human race have organized navies had mixed sex crews. We have no idea about how such crews, navies composed of such crews or nations possessed of such navies will stand up to really honest to God "the Japanese just sunk everything" sea fighting; and then going out to such fighting the next day and the next. None. This is an experiment that can have war losing consequences if it goes wrong. And that is just the Navy.

I don't feel like chancing lost wars just to smooth somebody's path to a star.


Sun, 02/10/2013 - 6:10am

In reply to by Swanson

Dr Swanson,
you said, "Do you think that the gentleman who called us lesbians can justify his discourse by saying he was trying to save lives".

I suggest you reread my post... I did not say you were... Therefore I proved no point.


Mon, 01/28/2013 - 1:18am

In reply to by Swanson

Ms. Swanson:

I will concede that us "guys" have proved your point if you will tell me what it was.


Mon, 01/28/2013 - 8:55am

In reply to by Swanson

An inadvertent double post.

G Martin

Fri, 01/25/2013 - 5:58pm

In reply to by Swanson

Then instead of focusing on replying to the emotional/offensive things, why not focus on the valid points that have been raised?

I agree there have been some offensive things on this and also terrible logic- but I also notice you seem to be ignoring some posts- the more lucid ones IMO.


Fri, 01/25/2013 - 5:27pm

In reply to by duck

You might be suprised to know that I agree that women are at a disadvantage genetically in general when it comes to strength and endurance. And that while I have loved working with the military for several decades I personally have no desire to do anything but support from the rear. I have deployed, yes, but have stayed at higher HQ. No FOBs for me! And I agree that this is going to be enormously complicated and that lives are at stake. Lives have been lost. So, it is really really important to do it correctly. And you are correct, my gloating did poke through and that was in poor form. But you should look at the beating that Major Medeiros and I have taken on this website. I am really astonished when you say "people like you." What do you mean? Women? Women interested in the combat exclusion policy? Just women who disagree with you? Does this extend to other races, religions, etc.? I have never written any other piece on any gender issue. So, what does "people like you mean?" I think that the language and discourse of many of the individuals on this blog is quite shocking. None of you have ever met me and yet you feel free to characterize me and make enormous generalizations about my attitudes, etc. I am alternatively a lesbian, a person "like you", feminist, etc. etc. None of which is actually true. And none of it is germane to any point that anyone should be making. This article has now been picked up in the national press and I am sure that people are reading these comments and will continue to read them. Do you think that the gentleman who called us lesbians can justify his discourse by saying he was trying to save lives? Sorry just proved my point.


Fri, 01/25/2013 - 1:29pm

In reply to by Swanson

Ms. Swanson, your gloating is peeking through here. The real fear of many is that while, at least at first, physical standards will not be lowered for infantry and the like, there will come a time when the likes of you will be clamoring for the lowering of those standards. (My prediction--within 10 years.) Why? Because as we have seen, if the standards are the same very very few females will pass muster to serve in the infantry. See: the recent USMC experiment with the Infantry Officer Course. Over time people like you will refuse to accept that, on the average, females are less physically capable than males. Are there females out there who can run faster, do more pushups, squat more weight than me, and kick my ass in the boxing ring? No doubt about it. But not the average female, and not even the average female who joins the military. Why are olympic track and field events segregrated? Or for that matter just about every major athletic field?

So what will happen is that feminists will clamor over the years that not enough females are allowed to join the infantry, and they will refuse to accept that it is because most females simply cannot live up to the physical standard. And so to be politically correct, standards will be lowered.

I think the underlying theme of your thesis is correct. Females are perfectly as capable at driving around armored vehicles and getting blown up by IEDs as males.

The problem lies in taking that experience and applying to warfare at large. I would like to hear how you expect infantrywomen (or female infantrypersons i guess) to keep up with their male counterparts over mountainous terrain carrying Hammer's 127 pound ruck while getting shot at. And don't focus on the getting shot at part.


Thu, 01/24/2013 - 9:00pm

In reply to by Eric_Strattoniii

you ask about my thoughts. i think that you should have taken my earlier advice and focused on the "how" and not the "if". Instead of so many of you hand wringing and wailing at the thought of females in combat positions you should have focused on issues like how to set standards, change training, etc. . perhaps if you can shake yourself out of your own denial you can still join the serious debates. Be relevant!


Thu, 01/12/2012 - 5:49pm

In reply to by tswanson

Mrs. Swanson, there has not been one single practical reason given to remove the ban. Females are in the military due to a quota/goal of 15% to recruiters with the Navy CNO wanting to push it to 20%. Women are given quotas at the Academy and for jobs afterwards, regardless of class ranking. Acting as though the move has ANYTHING to do with combat efficiency, practical reasoning and that somehow CSTs or FETs are proof that they are needed is a lie on it's face. It is the company line and our GOs are unfortunately moral cowards on this topic. Show me a precedent where they have made females meet the same standards as men physically? Show me a reason, a practical one geared towards winning combat on the ground why the ban should be lifted?

You say that we can shape how it will be introduced? That is either a mantra you repeat or you are in serious denial. If an actual high physical standard is introduced women will scream that it is unfair and quotas will be introduced, nothing in our history has lead me to believe that will change now with an even more weak GO Corps than after Vietnam leading us. If you want I am happy to post loads of information on the detrimental effects women have had on ships, the lowered standards at the Academy, injuries women are more prone to that directly relate to ground combat, etc.....

All I would ask from you is to show me the practical reason to lift the ban and to show me an example of how women will now, after decades of not having to do so, be forced to meet the same standards as the men? Will you advocate for abandonment of the current "goals" for recruiters for female recruits? Will you advocate for a strict "No quotas" at the Academies? Will you advocate for a strict "no quotas" in the various combat arm branches? Will you advocate for a high physical standard that is gender neutral?

You say that the responses provide "food for thought", well, tell us your thoughts? I do not see you having any thought except career advancement for females, that is what every report and article I have seen written on it has pretty much said. Even the report sent to Congress was about career advancement, nothing about things like winning battles or the most combat effective means. Restore my faith in the system or in your or the co-authors motivations.

Forgive some of the tone but I have grown so cynical over this topic that I have little faith in getting honest answers, realistic answers or hope for the future of the combat arms. With the push by many to professionalize the force, the need and desire to raise standards the introduction of females into the combat arms is hardly cause for celebration due to past practices.


Thu, 01/12/2012 - 11:29am

In reply to by Eric_Strattoniii

I apologize for just now responding to your comment.

I think that the most productive way to move this discussion forward is to safely assume that the CEP will be revised or lifted. I think that it is essentially a done deal. The room for debate is over the _when_ and the _how_. People who want to have an impact on some of details regarding the _when_ and _how_ should begin to think seriously about what they can do to best shape outcomes. That is your room to maneuver. Some of the responses to this article provide good food for thought.


Sat, 01/07/2012 - 7:39pm

Just reading this and every post/article along the same lines at Best Defense it seems that the only reason for having combat "inclusion" is to insure promotions and career opportunities for women, that is it. Even the report to Congress on Diversity says the same thing and nothing about combat effectiveness. FETs and CSTs are not assaulting, do not provide anything except a few hearts and minds when they perform MEDCAPs but we do not need CSTs or FETs for that, just female medical personnel. The authors give nothing but the company line and we in the military do not have a good record of holding high standards when it comes to this topic (Females in the Military). I also see that the authors have not come back to debate any of the questions that many posters have put up.


Wed, 11/30/2011 - 1:02pm

Like many others, I recognize that it would be career suicide to publicly disagree with the viewpoint that women are doing a great job in today's combat zones and are the equal of men. Do women do a good job-Absolutely. Are they the equal of men in a combat zone-not even close. No matter how capable a woman might be physically, she will detract from those around her. Men will be men around women, and women will be women around men. That means sex (not at all conducive to good order and discipline in a combat zone), a competition for attention, and a lack of focus are present. When a Battalion CO or Regimental CO goes out on patrol with a squad, all the focus the grunts have is on keeping him alive. The same thing applies when women are on patrol. I have seen this first hand in Afghanistan. VIP's, high ranking officers, and women distract those around them and they should stay on the FOB, or not come and disrupt things in the first place. To say otherwise is to ignore what happens in real life. The argument that women need to be in Combat Arms MOS's to get promoted may be true, but that doesn't mean it should happen. Life isn't fair, and nothing gives you the right to put someone else's life in danger. When you joined the military, you knew what the rules were and the way things were. Telling you up front what the situation is takes away any ability you have to complain when you don't like the outcome.

I will grant that this attitude is service specific. I can think of nothing in the Air Force that a woman can't do, as those deployments and operating environments are different. How the Navy deals with it on ships, and will deal with it on submarines, I don't know. Army combat branches, and the Marine Corps-well, to put it mildly it causes major headaches at best and crippling issues at worst. I've been in the Fleet long enough to know that male/female issues, for which men are at fault half the time, constitue anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of the discipline problems in a unit.

I have also seen FET's in action. Maybe I missed something when I saw them with my eyes, but they aren't winning the fight in Afghanistan. Are there places in the world where they might work? Probably, but not in a Stone Age culture like Afghanistan. Women and their opinions just don't count there, and to argue otherwise is to ignore fact. It is hard to gather relevant information from someone who is forced to spend her life inside a 25 meter by 25 meter fifteen foot tall mud walled compound.

The only way commanders hands are tied by the current policy is the insistence that women in a true combat zone (and I'm not referring to the massive bases like Bastion, Kandahar, etc. that are just like a garrison environment in the States) at the multitude of FOB's and PB's that dot Afghanistan are not a hindrance. Everything from heads to sleeping arrangements is an ordeal. Let women go to "combat" at Kandahar, or any one of the other giant bases where more than half our troops in Afghanistan are. Just don't let them go to the real combat zones and pretend things are ok.

It is a red herring to equate satisfactory and valued performance of the FET mission with demonstrated ability to perform all combat missions. Additionally consideration of career equality rightly takes a far back seat to consideration of combat effectiveness.
Instead of attempting to extrapolate from a single, specific and limited type of task to all battlefield tasks, the authors would be better served finding the closest equivalent possible to female members performing combat tasks in the environment they appear to advocate. An excellent example can be found in the Marine Corps with The Basic School in which all officers, male and female, train as basic Infantry Officers. A dispassionate analysis, without preconceived political bias, would provide significantly more value than the effort detailed above.


Sat, 11/26/2011 - 11:33pm

In reply to by InTheKnow

In The Know, you raise a brace of exceptional points.

FETs and CSTs do not make combat exclusions passe. FET and female-based CST capability should be integrated into the military's civil affairs units, since the bulk of what is accomplished during female engagement is civil-military operations (CMO) based anyway.

Master Sergeant Watson gets it right in her article here:…

Her TEDxPentagon presentation is here:

The Marine Corps' FET program was full of holes when I saw it employed a year ago, and probably still needs considerable refinement, but there is a value there that justifies further development of the capability. Where Watson gets it spot on is her assessment that having a FET for the sake of engagement and inform/influence operations, without tying it into the follow-on actions of actually doing something with the information, is a waster of the resource.


Thu, 11/24/2011 - 11:52pm

<em>Wow! How can I articulate this without you insinuating that I may be biased or incapable of listening, capturing and equally assessing each person's perspectives whether they agree with us or not?</em>

Your own article shows how biased you are. You have already concluded that the combat exclusion rule should be overturned because of the FETs- how will you go about being objective in gathering data if you have already concluded the rule should be changed??? And let’s don’t forget you are the Program Manager. Last I checked, PMs are the WORST people to give objective evaluations of their program by definition of them being the manager of the program!

<em>Allow me to reassure you that all positive and negative comments are included in the assessment.</em>

I hope I am wrong- but you sound like you are unaware of the issues you will have with gathering negative comments for the assessment. Suffice it to say we haven’t been able to get informative data on the Afghan Army- and here we are devoting resources to gathering data on the performance of women in combat there. As if there wasn’t a clearer example of how politics gets in the way of mission accomplishment, I don’t know what is. The bottom line is- if you truly want to be objective- you need to realize that it will be very difficult for you to get frank assessments on this subject and it will probably be just as difficult for you not to ignore the negative ones you do get.

<em>Unfortunately, it probably has no merit with you because it is clear your mind set that I, the Program Manager, is naïve and short-sighted, so I’ll just say, “thank you very much for your interesting insight and I will agree to disagree with your opinion of me.” </em>

I’m sorry you seem to have been offended by me pointing out what I thought was self-apparent: you have already arrived at a conclusion about FETs and the combat exclusion rule before your assessment is finished and thus are not coming across as too objective. That is the definition of bias. You might as well recuse yourself from the assessment at this point- as I don't know who would believe anything your assessment concluded unless it was 180 degrees from what you have stated in this paper.

<em>Finally, we will print out the all comments made on this article and address each one during our assessment. </em>

Please do. But- more importantly, please attempt to seek out data from commanders and soldiers that disproves your thesis. It is literally impossible for you to prove that FETs have been successful or that the combat exclusion rule should be abolished. That is your hypothesis- so, if you want any respect I suggest, like any good scientist, you attempt to disprove your preliminary conclusions. If they stand up to rigorous testing and attempts to disprove them, then they won’t necessarily be true- but they will be stronger. If all you do is gather data and then conclude you were right- then you won’t get much buy-in from any critical thinkers that I know.

The bottom line is that none of these subjects- career progression, equality, fairness, or emotion- should be the logic behind incorporating women into combat units- unless you think the military exists for something other than securing the nation's interests. This takes out the whole “if they can pass the physical standards, then they should be allowed in” argument. What should matter is: “does incorporating women into combat units make the combat unit more effective in the most dangerous type of combat that we can face- wherein the outcome could mean the difference between the end of our way of life or the continuance of it.”

Anything else may get emotional tear jerks, progressive support, and knee-jerk head nods, but it won’t do the folks at the pointy end of the spear any good. If we can’t guarantee that combat units will be more effective in high intensity conflict, then I don’t see the merit in forcing gender integration onto them. Hopefully we don’t think of really smart female potential general officers during this debate- but instead think of 17-21 year old kids- girls and boys- put together in very close physical proximity in stressful conditions and times of monotonous waiting- who- when called upon- must be able to drop everything and close with and kill the enemy. There’s probably a reason we don’t allow kids to drink alcohol and car insurance companies charge them way more than others- why would we think it would be easy to get them to live and work together and ignore all the problems that usually entails for high school kids, college kids, basic trainees, and support units???

I can offer plenty of anecdotal evidence of issues with overall and combat effectiveness when women are present, but obviously these are not as useful as scientific evidence. The problem in my experience is that it is career suicide to imply that women are a hindrance to mission accomplishment in the military. The result from that implication is usually one of two forms: either the leadership is blamed, or- more likely, the problem is framed as a “man” problem- and that women shouldn’t have to pay for men not being able to behave properly. This is not helpful- if we truly are after a more effective outcome in terms of national security and combat effectiveness- then we should try to investigate why women and men have such a hard time bonding at the small-unit team level, especially when they are below the age of 30- and craft policies that don't ignore these politically-incorrect facts.

I’ll just end with this: the units I’ve been in that have had women attached or assigned have had serious morale, discipline, and health issues. Normally this hasn’t been a “women’s” or a “men’s” issue- both sexes were equally responsible for the problems. Instead, the issue was always the relationships between some of the women and some of the men. Leadership can only go so far: when you put young men and women together in a stressful environment, away from family controls and influence, relationships- both bad and good- develop- and these relationships have an, on average, more negative effect on the unit than if the unit was all-male. Does it mean that there are never instances in warfare where women could be used in some form in a combat-type role? No. Does it mean the all-male units are always perfect? No. Does it mean there aren’t some women who could excel in a combat unit? No. does it mean that some co-ed units wouldn’t be more effective? No. But, what it does mean is that- I hypothesize that, on average (75-90%), units would be less effective in most forms of combat if they were forced to be co-ed.

The trick, in my view, is to allow commanders at all levels to make their own judgment on when and how women can be used to get the most effective outcome possible in every situation. Blanket rules hurt us all. Never allowing women into a “combat role” (note- not “combat branch”) isn’t good. But neither is forcing all units to take in women. Until we all become “gender neutral” (I submit that will never happen), women and men, on average, will have serious issues bonding in an effective manner for mission accomplishment in the military- not just in combat or at the small unit level. And if there is a chance that more people die and/or our national security suffers- then I don’t think we should play social scientist with our force.

Now- for some specific feedback for you on your more troublesome passages and logic:

<em>Her efforts highlight both the importance and necessity of women on the battlefield today."</em>

To say that a woman’s death in combat should highlight the necessity of women on the battlefield makes me shake my head. Why? A man’s death doesn’t highlight the necessity of men on the battlefield- maybe just the opposite, if anything. Ignoring the fact that she died- a not-so-good outcome- how can you make the leap to anything related to women being necessary on the battlefield? Our enemy obviously doesn’t agree with you- and looking at most metrics I’d say one could make the case that they are winning without using hardly any women at all.

<em>In fact, unless U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) had granted an exception specifically for White to be assigned to that particular ground unit, she should not have been there at all.</em>

Terrible logic- in Afghanistan it doesn’t follow that you will only be in one place because of the unit you are in. Logistics units, for example, travel all over the country. This isn’t such a big point- but, when one sees obvious flaws in logic, one starts to question ALL of the logic a little more carefully. I’d suggest avoiding spurious points in your assessment.

<em>Of course, the logic of combat exclusion policies, as currently written, turns on the conceptualization of the battlefield as a linear environment. Because the modern battlefield in increasingly non-linear and fluid, these policies are nearly impossible to apply, particularly in COIN environments that lack a well-defined forward area, such as Afghanistan. This fact was most recently noted by the March 2011 report by the Military Leadership Diversity Commission.</em>

This is untrue. The logic of combat exclusion policies has a much greater depth, history, tradition, and, therefore- logic. For one, it has been a long-thought assumption that civilized societies- if they have to go to war- shouldn’t teach their young women to seek out the enemy and kill, shouldn’t draft women into this type of job, and shouldn’t purposefully put them into this type of environment. It was also- and still is by many- that most women don’t naturally take to combat- seeking out and killing the enemy- as much as men do (and men don’t come about it naturally either- they must be conditioned). Any time spent in the military, in coed sports, or in anything coed should inform one of the differences between most men and most women. Then you go into all the physical issues between men and women. The argument that some women can pass the physical standards doesn’t mean men and women would be treated fairly- so the fair issue doesn’t get much traction with most critical thinkers that I know. And then you can get into all the issues of cohesion between men and women. Simply put: women and men react very differently to the opposite sex, on average, than they do the same sex- and that leads to difficulties building teams with cohesion enough to overcome the stresses in most combat (and in those times of preparing or waiting for combat)- actually in most any kind of sustained stressful situation- combat being the most destructive and serious. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that seeing a linear battlefield is not the logic for the combat exclusion policies.

<em>Entire section on FETs</em>

Your entire section on FETs attempts to make the argument that FETs have been successful and logically leads to a conclusion that the combat exclusion rule should be overturned. I don’t know what other evidence would point towards any greater bias on your part. How can you conclude that FETs have been successful- unless you’re going by the strictly tactical-? Surely we won’t know much of anything about our efforts in Afghanistan for several years after we’ve drawn down. But even if they have been successful- to make the leap in logic that FET success should mean the end of the combat exclusion rule seems to be stretching it just a bit.

<em>White’s death should serve as a catalyst for serious debate about the role of women in the military more generally.</em>

Again, why? Is the converse true- if no women died in combat there would be no need to debate women’s role in the military? I find this logic to be impossible to follow- surely there is a better reason to debate women’s role in the military than one person’s death- that, while surely tragic to those who knew her, means little more to women’s role in the military as any other death has.

<em>And yet their inability to formally hold a “combat position” affects their career trajectories.</em>

This is the silliest reason, in my opinion, to make this argument. If a male made the same argument about another aspect of the military he would- rightly IMO- be labeled derisively as a “careerist.” We have long held military service to be just that- a service to the nation- and if excluding women from combat units (or any other section for that matter) means that the nation is better served, then that is the sacrifice that some women should make. Why don’t we just open up more general officer jobs to non-combat arms positions- would that be an acceptable alternative for you?

<em>The merit of this service would provide women with a greater opportunity for promotion into the senior ranks, specifically general officer levels. While such equity-based lines of argument obviously have merit, they are usually consumed by the politics of gender and are dismissed before serious debate has time to emerge.</em>

I would say that they don’t become consumed by the politics of gender as much as the tradition of service- as mentioned before. Why do you serve- for yourself, or the nation’s security? Do you serve for gender opportunity, or for the nation’s security? A better thing to debate would be what the role of the military is- a force that ensures the nation’s security, or a force of social justice? I don’t have a problem with the military having the ancillary effect of social justice- but that shouldn’t be the reason it exists.

<em>Instead, we assert that DoD’s current policies regarding the role of women in combat is serving to tie the hands of commanders and place additional strain on our already overburdened forces.</em>

Based on what? I assert that DoD’s current policies regarding females in terms of EO place additional strain on an already overburdened force- and commanders have their hands tied attempting to undo social forces and natural human tendencies instead of concentrating on keeping their soldiers alive in combat. But- the same exact issues you will have in gathering data that does not agree with your assertion are the same issues that I would have in attempting to gather the same data for my assertion- it is politically incorrect to assert those things!

<em>Without change, recruitment of soldiers capable to fill combat positions will become increasingly difficult and male soldiers currently facing multiple combat tours will see almost no change in their op-tempo.</em>

This logic is seriously flawed and the citation does not back up the assertions. The Army isn’t hurting due to high OPTEMPO because women don’t get promoted and can’t go into combat arms- the Army is hurting because the force isn’t big enough- women and men combined- to support multiple conflicts due to few people wanting a life of continued and constant deployments. And I assert (since we’re all about assertions here) that women get out of the military in high numbers- not because of a lack of upward mobility- but due to the priority of having a family and wanting to spend more time than an Army career would allow being a mother. Changing the combat arms exclusion rule wouldn’t change that fact.

<em>DoD’s current policy cripples the battle space owner’s ability to fully utilize female soldiers. By allowing women to serve in all roles, changes in combat exclusion policies would provide commanders at all levels the much needed flexibility to employ all of his or her resources to achieve operational objectives and reduce stress on the force.</em>

Seems to me you’ve already decided on your conclusion before all the data is in. There is a huge difference between “allowing women to serve in whatever role a commander deems necessary”- which is the rule from my experience- and “forcing commanders to put young men and women together in combat units.” Maximum flexibility would mean they can do what they want- and I haven’t seen women being barred from serving where a commander thought they could add to the effort. I don’t see you advocating flexibility as much as wholesale INFLEXIBILITY as to the role of women in combat (seen from the perspective of the commander).

<em>The current COIN environment in CJOA-A provides an excellent opportunity to experiment and rapidly garner valuable lessons about the utility of FETs and CSTs and the challenges of integrating women into combat arms positions more generally.</em>

This is silly- use the effort in Afghanistan- as flawed as it is in attempting to change Afghan society- to experiment with integrating women more generally into the American Army. We could do this- assuming a politically objective atmosphere (which is an invalid assumption) at home if needed. Again- though- any resources poured into this effort takes from other efforts- and in an era of draw-downs, does this make sense? Only if you believe that integrating women into combat units will make the nation more secure- or that the military should exist mainly to provide opportunities for historically disenfranchised groups.

<em>Are FETs and CSTs having a direct or indirect operational impact? Under what conditions and for what missions are they more (or less) useful?</em>

The jury is still out about FETs and CSTs. Many combat arms guys who I’ve talked to who have worked with them tell of a mixed bag at the tactical level. Harder to measure, of course, is the strategic effect they may or may not have had. Conventional wisdom is that they help us engage with Afghan females- and therefore we win their hearts and minds too- and we get intelligence from them. Little-heard positions, however just as valid ones, are that the intelligence we get from Afghan women is overstated as most Afghan women don’t really know too much about what the men are doing, those who do become targets, it is a strategic loss as now the enemy can push the propaganda that we are influencing the women to be either non-Muslim or to set them up with American men, and- lastly, that any cultural influences we have on the women drive our overall efforts further away from Afghan men and the culture/society overall. Amazingly I heard this more from female European officers than American- and from females in general more than male officers. It seems that American male officers have been conditioned to never say anything negative about female military subjects.

<em>What does this tell us about how to structure and use this resource in the future? (e.g., mix of male to female, differences in mission, etc.)</em>

Sad that we’re even asking about a doctrinal gender mix for future conflicts--- really??? Maybe it will go along with the COIN force to population ratio: “if we have 1 woman for every 7 men in our combat arms units, we’ll be successful in COIN ops…”--??

<em>Do commanders believe that they would have more operational flexibility if they were able to place FET and CST members into combat positions?</em>

What does this mean- “combat positions”?

<em>In consideration of the coming drawdown, is there a benefit to making further amendments to combat exclusion policies? </em>
Most would argue that when we have MORE personnel requirements we need more women- here you seem to be arguing that when we have LESS personnel requirements we need more women in combat arms units? I find this logic impossible to follow.

<em>The ISAF Joint Command (IJC) FET Program Manager (PM) is currently working to examine some of these issues. Specifically, she is in the process of visiting FETs which are operating in six Regional Commands (RCs) in order to gather information through meetings, interviews and distribution of an IJC FET questionnaire. It is anticipated that a FET Comprehensive Assessment Report will be completed and sent to NATO, TRADOC, the IJC Commander and the RC Commanders by the end of December. She also plans to provide legal guidance on how to integrate FETs to a combat arms position in support of the conventional army and special operations and define the FETs relationship with NATO FETs and Gender Advisors.</em>

It is pretty much a rule that a program manager is the LEAST objective person to do an assessment on his/her program. And establishing a new combat arms branch- if that’s what you’re arguing for: “Female Engagement Team” branch seems to me to be very short-sighted- as soon as we pull out of Afghanistan, will that branch be needed anymore? But, more importantly- should we then make every branch a combat arms branch- since they also have the potential to be in as much combat as the other branches in a COIN environment? This seems to me to miss entirely the concept of “combat arms”- which exists to close with and kill the enemy. This isn’t what a “FET branch” would do…

<em>In 1979, the repeal of a Dutch law led to the integration of the Dutch military, with no formal restrictions on women serving combat duty. On 27 September 2011, Australia’s government announced that female soldiers will soon be able to serve in front-line roles, removing the barriers of entry to women into seven percent of military specialties. In October, the Mexican Congress voted to allow women to serve in the highest positions in the military. Other countries where women are able to serve in more active combat roles include Canada, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland. </em>

Apples and oranges. The Dutch Army is so small and does such different missions that to compare it to the U.S. Army is very disingenuous. Australia hasn’t incorporated the change yet- so unless we just want to follow them down a potentially dangerous road- then that fact has no bearing on your argument. I could go on- but comparing the U.S. Army to these other armies is missing the bigger points that even if their policies have changed- this does not mean that they have been effective, that they would make us more effective, or that there forces do anything remotely like we do- and thus we should compare ourselves to them.

<em>In light of these events, rescinding or changing our combat exclusion policies makes sense because it will help all key players: ISAF, the U.S. Armed Forces writ large, battle space owners, and female soldiers. The Armed Forces will be able to use their current resources (women) to fill the gaps in areas affected by force reduction; women earn equal recognition, combat credit and greater opportunity to obtain senior level promotions; and commanders are no longer limited on how they have greater flexibility to employ their internal resources. </em>

Again- seems like you’ve already made up your mind- which means you’re about the most non-objective person to do this assessment. I’d have problems with you doing an unbiased assessment if you were only the Program Manager- but since you’ve already written a paper advocating a certain position- I think it is a hopeless exercise in already-arrived at conclusions.

I assert that every “positive” you mention here is false- the Armed Forces won’t need to fill gaps in combat arms with women during the drawdown because since there will be fewer positions- there will be fewer gaps, women won’t earn equal recognition due to social and natural conditions that cause them to get out of the military earlier and seek career fields for different reasons than men, and commanders would be limited in their flexibility to tailor their force to the mission- instead having to tailor it based on politically-correct policies.

Everyone should take a break to look at an ongoing MIT study being conducted on collective intelligence. Researchers made an unexpected finding about groups and their collective intelligence. Groups that included women were collectively more intelligent than all male groups across the whole range of task areas. MIT is conducting further research to understand what it is that women bring to the equation that raises a group's intelligence. If we want our military to remain the best in the world than we better consider adding women to our small unit combat arms groups. Most of our allies have already done this.

I attended a Women in the Military conference a few weeks ago and was struck by a comment made by a Norwegian army officer. She said that listening to our discussions on this topic made her feel like she was in a time warp. She thought she had dropped back 30 years in time to when this debate raged in Norway. It is a mote point today.

MAJ Sheila Medeiros

Thu, 11/24/2011 - 1:46am

In reply to by dr_suse

Dr. Suse,

Thank you for sharing your ideas. Interestingly, as we have been collecting our data from FETs and listening to their viewpoints, the concept of an all female unit was brought up. Therefore, we have added it into our assessment for our team to research.

Biologically women do have a physical disadvantage with particular training programs; however, it does not mean that physical strength and endurance to qualify for such programs cannot be achieved. The Cultural Support Teams are placed through a vigorous and challenging physical program and some do not make it; similarly, there are Rangers who do not pass their physical requirements for their training as well.

Granted Rangers and CST’s have very different physical requirements and I’m not advocating for changing an existing physical requirement for the Rangers or any Special Forces. Bottom line, it takes individual commitment, determination and discipline to reach higher levels of fitness and there are service women in our US Armed Forces that can meet those requirements.

Finally, we are very interested in reading your proposal to help us with our assessment objectives. Please send to my email address: Thank you again for your comments and insights. We appreciate everyone’s perspective on this sensitive issue.

Make it Matter,
Sheila Medeiros


Thu, 11/24/2011 - 12:34am

I have have pondering this idea for 2 years. A little over a month ago, I coalesced my ideas into a proposal and published it on a wordpress site that I built ( I focused on an area that I had experience with, Special Operations. Although it is not an intuitive choice for many, there are some advantages. First and foremost is that initial training in the special operations community is very intensive and focused on the individual. The development of human capitol is valued. I do acknowledge in my proposal that it will take women longer to reach the same physical standards to be on an operational team, but that investment is warranted and seen as a good long term investment. I also acknowledge that the recruitment plan for these women would be tailored for a small sub-set of women. My largest variance from the discussion on your site is that I recommend an all female unit. Feel free to read it. It is a bit lengthy.


Wed, 11/23/2011 - 4:33pm



Fri, 01/25/2013 - 1:02am

In reply to by Swanson

Ms. Swanson:

Your comment above is...well it's...let see how can I put this...oh well nothing for it. Your comment above is...well it seems to be the comment of somebody who hasn't run into a lot of people who have disagreed with them.


Thu, 01/24/2013 - 9:23pm

In reply to by gian gentile

you know what is very sad to me is that for years now i thought that i was working with military men who thought that i was worth listening to at times. until we wrote this article i had no idea that women were so devalued by this group. most of the responses have verged on personal attacks and are filled with an ugliness that i had no idea still existed. very few attempts were made to talk about how we could even attempt to make this kind of change. it really makes me very sad. and i wish i had done more in the past to advocate for groups of people who are essentially beaten down for expressing the wrong opinion. i am characterized varyingly as a lesbian, delusional, selfish, etc etc. Do you really think that what we wrote merited that much blowback? this is not a forum where ideas can be freely exchanged and debated. it just isnt.

MAJ Sheila Medeiros

Thu, 11/24/2011 - 1:54am

In reply to by gian gentile

Gian Gentile,

It is my pleasure to oblige. I am currently deployed and pretty busy. However I will try to reply to each one specifically. I did not want to ignore anyone so I sent out that message to all. When time permits, I will address comments made.

Please note, I have replied to the most recent one. I will get back to the rest.

Happy Thanksgiving and Make it Matter!
Sheila Medeiros

MAJ Sheila Medeiros

Thu, 11/24/2011 - 2:00am

In reply to by Dave Maxwell

Dave Maxwell,

I will address the comments when time permits, since I am currently deployed; not an excuse.

I have replied to the most recent one and will get back to the rest. However, in the meantime, Have a Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

BTW... I'm not a blogger. This is my very first submission to any article and don't blog at all.

Make it Matter,
Sheila Medeiros

Dave Maxwell

Wed, 11/23/2011 - 2:16pm

In reply to by gian gentile

I am with you Gian. Sounds like the equivalent of a "blog form letter" response or spam. I cannot recall ever seeing such a canned response - when I saw how many comments there were on this article I expected to see some good discussion. For the good of the forum here responses to the critiques would be informative and educational. Thanks.

gian gentile

Wed, 11/23/2011 - 11:19am

Dear Major Medeiros:

Maybe I am an old timer on SWJ but gosh it would be nice to hear your thoughts on some of these responses you have received instead of the simple repetitive response of thanks and ones comments will be considered.

So, really, what say ye about some of the things said?

MAJ Sheila Medeiros

Thu, 11/24/2011 - 2:28am

In reply to by psyop_rick


Great view point. One of our staff members is a MISO officer and I have met with our CJPOTF Commander to discuss this particular issue. He educated me on the history of the Tactical PSYOP Team's (TPT) and how they initially had females but due to the DoD Combat Exclusion Policy and AR 600-13 they were prohibited from allowing females to be part of a TPT; it literally crippled their capability.

Additionally, if the DoD Combat Exclusion Policy is rescinded it will not cause a flood of women trying to get into the 11B or maneuver units. It simply affords them the opportunity to choose if they want to or not; not all men want to be an 11B or in a maneuver role as well but they have a choice. Certainly, if any service woman elects to pursue an 11B or Maneuver role then they will need to meet the qualifications of the desired position.

Lastly, one of our top objectives is to identify and make a recommendation as to where the FET should be institutionalized. Currently, FET has no owner but the CST‘s do. Civil Affairs, Inform and Influence Activities, Foreign Area Officer, Military Information Support of Operations and Military Police are the main branches or functional areas that we are currently reviewing to nest the Female Engagement Teams under. We will add your comments to our assessment, as well as the other comments made.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Make it Matter,
Sheila Medeiros


Wed, 11/23/2011 - 10:07am

Some commentors have indicated that the issue is between combat arms and non-combat arms. I disagree. There is a place in between, where FETs and the like can prosper, combat support. As a Psyop (MISO) specialist we were unable to field females on our tactical teams, however, they were present at the detachment level and were therefore far afield living in austere situations with the rest of us, doing pretty much the same work. However, we were unable to use them on tactical teams which, at times, severely impacted mission readiness.

Sure leave 11b and manuveur to men if it can be proven that females can't meet the physical requirements, but leave them open to serve freely in any other MOS in a combat environment.

Lastly, CST and FET should fall under the control of MISO and/or CA. These are the missions that they are conducting.

Strength in Truth.


MAJ Sheila Medeiros

Thu, 11/24/2011 - 5:14am

In reply to by Theresa


Thank you for your viewpoint. However, FET is not only a performance based engagement (CA) but it also offers effects based engagement (IIA & MISO) as well. It’s clear that you are a Civil Affairs Soldier and very passionate about its relevance with FET, however, CA is one of a few capabilities that FET offers.

As to your question on why this subject is brought up now? The article is not about FET. The focus is on the DoD Combat Exclusion Policy and AR 600-3 and how it places limitations on Commanders, Force Structure and Women. We used FETs/CSTs as an example to explain why this issue needs to be re-addressed to update or rescind the current DoD Policy. Your last paragraph highlights the point we are trying to convey about “male and female are supporting commanders throughout the asymmetrical battlefield. All jobs in a combat setting are dangerous whether they leave the Fob or remain on base to conduct business.”

Lastly, since CA has been doing FET for a long time, then why hasn’t CA claimed ownership of the program? One of the many objectives in our assessment is to determine where FET should be institutionalized and then provide a recommendation so it can be properly integrated. Currently, FET is ad-hoc when they are in theater and it is based on a commander’s prerogative as to where it should be placed. As a result of lack of ownership, there is limited enforcement on FET training, resources and effective FET employment to support their commanders COIN objectives.


Wed, 11/23/2011 - 1:13pm

In reply to by Theresa

I do not think that soldiers risking their lives -- whatever their gender -- is cool in any way. I have lost friends in Afghanistan and Iraq. You ask a legitimate question, though. Why bring this up now?

1. FM 3-24 is in the process of being revised. Unless we want to reinvent the wheel during the next war (something we excel at by the way) we should try to institutionalize what we know now.

2. The Military Leadership Diversity Commission (MLDC)submitted its report to Congress earlier this year. Because there has been little dialogue on the issues raised in that report, we thought it worthwhile to try to put the issue back on the table while we still can.

3. The FET Program is really just being stood up and to be successful it needs the input from people who can shape the program to be most effective. Perhaps the J39s of the world should be engaged?

4. We have a rapidly closing window of opportunity to try to learn some lessons from our decade in Afghanistan. If FETs make a difference, then lets really look at how to best use female soldiers. Certainly they won't be placed at greater risk than they already are....

5. Debate about these issues keeps America healthy. Whether you agree or disagree is not the point. We need the debate.

You have actually provided some good information that can be used as we collectively think about how to best employ FETs. And that is a good thing.