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How Not to Integrate Females into Combat Arms
So, now that the Pentagon has decided to integrate females into combat arms units, against the recommendations and opinions of the Marine Corps, 85% of Rangers and Special Forces personnel, and the majority of Army combat arms personnel, the question turns to how to do so in the best manner possible. “Best,” however, is a very interesting word. Depending on one’s views towards the purpose of the military and the greater issue of how to bring about greater equality for women, “best” can take on any number of different meanings. First, I’d like to highlight the four main groups and their opinions on this issue.
“Hyper Macho Male Combat Arms Types”
The vast majority of combat arms personnel are simply against women in combat, so their position is quite straightforward, if not always articulated very well. Women and men are different - mentally, socially, physically, sexually, and physiologically - this group’s thinking goes. Therefore putting women into close and intimately personal contact with men usually results in issues beyond the scope of mere personality. Depending on the task, women and men on the same team can have widely disparate effects, sometimes good, often bad.
Combat units, for most traditional tasks, would require such physical and emotional standards as to disqualify the majority of men and the vast majority of women. Combat unit teams and units below a certain level (normally brigade level- or any level that is closely engaged in the role of combat units: “to seek out and kill the enemy”) bond best through shared norms of the majority, which, in this case, is male. Called “hyper macho masculine culture” by advocates for female integration, this culture allows small combat units to overcome insurmountable obstacles in the heat of battle and the monotony of the “in-between” times. Attempting to change this culture and get teams to bond in other ways is at the least an untried theory that could result in the loss of combat power and small level unit cohesiveness. Added to the increased levels of reporting, monitoring, sexually related investigations, and sexually related training, the cost to combat arms units will be great compared to any theoretical gains, of which most are arguable.
“Second Wave Feminists”
The exact opposite of the combat arms personnel position is the so-called “second wave feminist” position on integration of women into the combat arms. Whereas “third wave feminists” are much more apt to disagree vociferously with each other about the ways in which women should be perceived by society (the group arguably includes Miley Cyrus fans and trans women who abhor the term “vagina” as an offensive word), second wave feminists are largely in agreement on the need to overturn social norms with regard to women. These feminists are, on average, older than the younger, third wave feminists who make up the majority of those currently in the active military. Second wave feminists are generally looking to transform society, and are convinced that most, if not all, obstacles to female equality are social constructions. Naturally, any problems associated with women being equal to men are not the fault of women, but the fault of the male-dominated system of oppression in which women operate.
Thus, second wave feminists, who make up the majority of those advocating within the Pentagon for integration, are likely to call for massive systemic change and not just for the opportunity for those who can pass the standards. They call into question all standards, want women to be specially trained to pass the standards, and want to assume that the force can reach at least 33% female representation, if not 50%. Worse, they call for very special monitoring and pressure to be placed on the leadership of the military until these percentages are reached. LTC Kate Germano and retired Colonel Ellen Haring fit into this group for the most part and say things like, “just hold everyone to the same standard, women will rise to the standard, and if there are any problems, kick the bad men out and re-educate the others.”
“Third Wave Feminists”
Third wave feminists and those of their generation argue for equal treatment as opposed to special treatment, although this largely reflects only the majority of female views within the military forces themselves. Some third wave feminists, mostly found in academia, argue for, among other things: the overhauling of the entire military system in order to allow a spectrum of genders and other identities to fully express themselves, the abolishment of the military itself (if nothing else, third wave feminists are often contradictory), and the establishment of a different society wherein the patriarchy and all of its supporting processes and systems are overthrown.
Within the military, however, third wave feminists and their allies are normally not the allies of critical theorists, but just want to be given the same opportunities as men. These I like to categorize as those who grew up on movies showing 110 pound women beating up 250 pound men. Although many seem at times to contradict themselves (as all humans are wont to do), generally they call for equal treatment, no special treatment, and nothing along the lines of systemic change of the “macho male culture” of combat arms. Indeed, most yearn to be a part of that culture, not to change it (although, arguably, by their very presence and our current PC culture, they will change it). They say things like, “I just want to be treated equally and be one of the guys.”
“Military Industrial Complex”
The only other group worth mentioning is what I will call the “Military Industrial Complex” group. This is a small group of men who operate at the highest levels of the military, academia (retired military), the contracting world, and in DoD civilian positions in which to show opposition to integration of females could jeopardize their future employment. A small portion of these men are also men who had few to no sons of their own and have pushed their daughters to do the things they would have liked to have seen their non-existent sons accomplish. A very few number of this group are actual “true” believers in the sense that they either see themselves as enlightened “progressives” and have bought into the “females equal males” dogma or just like to support those who do. Counted among their number are some higher-ranking military officers who simply harbor jealousy towards combat arms units. For the most part, this group thinks that very, very few women will make it into combat arms and, for those that do, very few of them will cause problems to the mission of the combat arms. This group says things like, “soon, things will return to normal and most of us won’t see any changes.”
The Military’s Plan
Unfortunately for the first, third, and fourth groups, the group that has the most influence on how to integrate women into the combat arms is the second group: the second wave feminists. This group has its objectives subordinate to the greater second wave feminist objective of re-working society so that women are seen as the same as men in all ways. That means, of course, that equality is measured by outcome and is a long-term effort, and much more systemic than simply an opening of jobs. Equality of opportunity is, as they have borrowed a term from academic third wave feminists, “a tool of the patriarchy” and is used to keep women “out.” Instead, the military must be transformed and none of this effort should be relaxed until the greater goal of social transformation is complete.
The signs of the second wave feminist control of the integration process are seen in the latest plans to integrate females:
- Combat arms training and selection courses will have 4 unqualified female observers assigned to them in perpetuity until a cadre of female leaders is established in their higher units
- Female observers will be assigned down to company level to ensure fair treatment of all females in training courses
- Females will be assigned to operational units in such a way- called “pooling”- as to prevent the isolation of single female combat arms soldiers (for some units this will require females to be “pooled” arguably at the team or squad level if that is the level at which interaction is “favorable”)
- Higher HQs (division level and lower) are tasked to specially manage and supervise female combat arms soldiers individually in operational units
- A minimum of 3 pooled females in training courses is required in order to ensure an adequate population for training
- Female packets for combat arms will be screened and expedited specially by HQs in order to expedite female leaders arriving to units
- 1 female infantry officer must be assigned to a company before any female enlisted are assigned to that company, in order to ensure they have the best shot at being mentored and being successful
- Commands must provide monthly reports detailing a host of measures specifically aimed at assessing female success in combat arms and units’ successes in integration
- All units will conduct special sexual harassment and sexual assault classes, will establish reporting mechanisms and processes specially for all female-related incidents, and will establish pregnancy policies that address the unique circumstances of their career fields and any detrimental effects being pregnant can have on a female officer within the combat arms
Surprisingly, or not for that matter, special operations forces such as the 75th Ranger Regiment and the U.S. Army Special Forces are being held to even greater standards in order to ensure the success of women in those two units. The amount of reporting, sexual harassment training, and planning and preparation in advance of receiving women into these units is breathtaking, taking into consideration that these units continue to experience high deployment rates into combat zones and other places around the world. The pressure from the second wave feminists and their allies within the Pentagon is perceived as too grave a threat to higher-ranking commanders throughout the combat arms, but more so within the special operations community. The commanders’ intent of these organizations is clear and has had an adverse effect on the community- a community that is 85% against this in the first place: “we do not want to be seen as dragging our feet on this issue.” That the real issue is the threat to careers of these higher ranking commanders is the de facto conventional wisdom and has deepened a feeling of late that the command cares more about field grade, general officer, and sergeants major careers than they do about their forces.
One of three things will result in this integration effort: 1) there will be a backlash and/or regime change in DC and things will go for the most part like they have for our allies who have attempted this: very few women will get into combat arms, and that will be the norm, 2) this will continue into perpetuity until we get at least 33% of combat arms to be female, or, 3) we will get at least 33% of our force to be female and those in will be promoted and find success at the same rate as their male peers.
For numbers 2 and 3, the potential degradation of our combat arms fighting spirit, the loss of the “hyper macho male” cultural bonding, and the time spent on non-combat efforts (sexual harassment training, sexual investigations, special reporting, etc.), is hand-waived by the advocates. But, they are both a very real possibility and very difficult to prove with quantifiable methods as they have both non-linear and time delayed effects. Finding something with which to get teams of people to get motivated towards doing something like closing with and killing others other than through traditional male bonding rituals will be extremely difficult, if not impossible. To keep these groups focused on remaining at a high level of mental preparedness for combat arms units missions with the added distraction of male and female relationships, the intense interest from higher headquarters on female success, and all of the extra training and reporting requirements these units will have to take on will also be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
For all three of the potential results, however, there is another issue that is very likely. That issue is that fewer and fewer men might want to go into combat arms and even fewer will want to go into the special operations units. These units, like it or not, attract a certain demographic and that demographic is solidly heteronormative, traditional male, strongly conservative and religious believing (if not practicing). If these men decide that combat arms is no longer a collection of units that allows them to fulfill what they think it means to be an American man anymore, then the very difficult job of recruiting into these units could balloon into an even worse situation, one in which entire companies have to be mothballed due to not having enough personnel to fill their positions. Ironically, THAT could be the reason standards are lowered and more females eventually become combat arms qualified: because there aren’t enough strong men who want to be combat arms anymore.
The genie is, however out of the bottle. Even a regime change in DC and a shift to a more conservative outlook in general could still result in major changes to our combat arms units by sheer dent of momentum and the difficulty in rolling back the bureaucracy once it gets going. Once women get into these units- even in small numbers- the damage to the aura of these units and the allure they have within the population and in the minds of young people could be forever changed. That is why it is very disingenuous to compare ourselves to our allies, as their forces are very different and their cultures are very different than ours in many ways. Ignoring those differences, if we had gone about this integration in the ways in which our allies had, we would not be rolling out the red carpet in the way in which we are about to do. We would not be establishing requirements in perpetuity and aiming at 33% of the force to be female. We would simply have opened the doors of opportunity and, for those interested in being a part of the “hyper macho male” culture of combat arms who could pass the physical standards, they could have joined.
But, I could be wrong and the younger generations view women differently than us old fogies and men will have no problems bonding with women and treating them the same as they do men and women will not develop relationships with men on their teams. Looking at the experiences of co-ed units in the military, the military academies, and civilian universities, however, this author doubts it.
The author is an active duty officer who is not against women in combat or in assistance of combat arms units, when the mission requires it. The author is in favor of promoting more women to general officer, since obviously our general officers have not distinguished themselves in the last decade(+) and maybe some of that was the very narrow band of experience (combat arms for the most part) in which they are drawn. The author is in favor of allowing women more opportunities to serve, but thinks that treating them like men is a non-productive effort: either standards will have to change or we won’t get many in combat arms. The answer, instead of treating women like men, is to change the personnel system- which currently has a cookie-cutter approach to personnel management that helps no-one except for the risk-averse career person who knows how to check off things on lists and stay out of trouble, but does not help those who simply want to accomplish missions.