Small Wars Journal

Changing the “Macho” Male Culture of the US Military

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 6:56am

Changing the “Macho” Male Culture of the US Military


I remember hearing in 2010 from a buddy at the Pentagon that the combat exclusion policy for women in combat arms would be overturned no matter what “about a year from the President’s last year.” At the time I thought he was crazy, but the next year I heard the same from another friend. His take was even more troubling: “There is a loosely connected group of advocates that have found huge traction with the current civilian leadership here and they have a pretty well-thought out campaign plan to get women into combat arms,” he told me. “Some of the groups simply want equality, others talk about more women generals, and there’s one group that is linking this to changing American male culture.” Looking back, many of the things I am seeing now make sense when remembering my friends’ comments.

Today I am privy to most of the plans that are currently in place to put women into combat arms. I have been told, again by acquaintances working at the Pentagon and at various headquarters around the US military, that all of the “experiments” that the services have been undergoing for some time now have been a sideshow. The decision had been made from the get-go. As one Female Engagement Team Program manager told many in Afghanistan in 2011, “the decision has already been made; we just need to talk about “the how” instead of “if”.”

This means that the Ranger School “experiment” was an experiment in name only. It was guaranteed from the beginning to graduate a woman and that graduation would be used as proof that the combat exclusion rule needed to go. This, of course, matches what every Army Command Sergeant Major (9) in 2011-2013 told me was said to them by high-level CSMs and General Officers while attending their pre-command courses: “women will be in combat arms and women will graduate Ranger School, if any of you has a problem with that, you need to get out of the military.” They reported that the Ranger Instructors at Ranger School were told the same thing.

This same message was a similar one that was being told to people who had friends who were Ranger Instructors. The message: “women will graduate, we will guarantee it, and so if you can’t handle that fact, you need to move on out of Ranger School.” When I personally talked to R.I.s I got rolled eyes and lots of depressing comments. “It’s turned political, sir,” they told me one morning at Fort Benning during the Maneuver Center Conference a few years ago. “We are being told to get on-board, or get out.”

Early this year I talked to another military buddy who had just left the Pentagon. His comments were even more troubling. “I used to think the Pentagon was divorced from the reality of the combat arms side of the military- that it was so out of touch with the average infantryman that it made me sick to work there,” he let on. “But that was when I first got there,” he continued. “Today it is times a hundred. The advocates of the women in combat arms are basically part of a larger effort to change the military culture- which they call a “rape culture”- and these folks are really linked close to the wider effort to change American culture.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Since I’m quick to suspect things that sound conspiratorialist, my BS-ometer started to go off. But, then I heard the same from two other friends of mine. In essence, the idea of many of these advocates is that the American male is a, mostly unconscious, misogynist, and that it comes from our culture: movies that hype physicality, combat, aggressiveness, and the treatment of women as objects. It also comes from our military: males dominate the services, are the only ones allowed in combat arms, and thus make up most of the higher ranks. The cure for all of this is simple: change the culture.

The “change the culture” movement has manifested itself in many ways and has taken on different efforts as well as groups that are loosely aligned towards fundamental change. On college campuses it has largely taken on the shape of the movement to end sexual harassment and sexual assault. As one professor from a prominent campus told me recently, “It isn’t really about ending sexual assault; it’s about controlling people and changing behavior. Men have the advantage in almost every way, so we have to find ways to cut into that advantage. Making traditional male behavior something that is socially unacceptable will cut their advantage. We have to make it unacceptable for men to talk the way they talk now, act the way they act now, and interact the way they do with women now, and have traditionally.” Hyping sexual assault statistics, making women fearful of men, and building a system that finds men guilty until proven innocent are simply means to the greater end of “cutting male advantage.”

In the movie industry, change has been slower, but increasingly children’s movies depict a smart and physically strong heroine and a weak and unintelligent male. In some action films, one-hundred pound women amazingly punch two-hundred pound males so hard they kill them. The message is clear: women can do anything that men can do and it is acceptable for women to be physically aggressive and strong- men, not so much.

For the military this means something similar. The military has also been accused of having a “rape culture” in the same manner as universities. Thus, combat arms positions are being cut while sexual harassment and assault counselors and advisers are being hired. Some see it as a cottage industry that requires a never-ending problem that has to be over-sold.

Homosexuals serving openly in the military was another effort to change the traditional male culture of the military- that traditional culture being one of heterosexuality (some call it “hyper heterosexuality”). It appears that since many homosexuals are either not serving in combat arms or not serving openly, this cultural change has not been as successful as the advocates were expecting (which may explain the new US Army secretary’s appointment as well as Military Review journal’s coming look at homosexual acceptance within the military next year).

The effort to change military culture also includes the effort to overturn the combat exclusion rule. This rule, as many advocates for overturning it have argued, is the strongest reason that men view women as less than men. According to some, it is the reason military men rape women, sexually harass them, and devalue them. It is the reason women get out of the service at higher rates, are injured more than men, have more PTSD issues, and score less on their PT tests.

To change the overall culture, the thinking goes, the military must change. This is where the argument for overturning the combat exclusion rule using our allies’ experiences as proof that it will work is disingenuous. Our allies who have opened combat arms to women have simply opened their combat arms branches to women. That is all. No culture change. The Germans, French, Australians, Canadians, and Israelis still have a traditional male culture in their combat arms. The very few women who have entered these countries’ combat arms have had to grow thick skin or they’ve been shown the door.

In the US, the plan is very different. The Department of Defense is micromanaging the transition. There is no trust that the services will get to the advocates goals of 20%- at least- of all combat arms service members to be females. Once the order has been given to make the change happen, which is expected sometime late this year or early next, it has been strongly implied to all general officers that if they are seen as “dragging their feet” they can expect an early retirement. The word has gone out to both silence anyone from even talking about the transition and that everyone needs to get on board and make this successful as fast as possible (possibly because of the potential loss of the White House the following year).

To do that, commands are being told that they must have female mentors in place before the combat arms-branched females get to their units or show up to schools. For Ranger School this meant- and continues to mean- female observers who are unqualified. Some commanders have noted this is as much to protect males from spurious allegations as it is to assist women, but the implication is clear: a severe lack of trust among all parties from the top down.

For operational units it means they will have to scramble to find women to either place them in combat arms units in non-combat arms specialties or to place them as “excess” personnel, serving in a unit as an overage simply in order to facilitate the transition from all male units to units having females in them. The focus does not seem to be on simply integrating females into units as much as it is to make females in combat arms specialties successful.

The assumptions governing these requirements are: 1) the culture of combat arms units are hyper-macho and misogynist and thus women will most likely fail without women “protectors”, 2) if men in combat units are faced with charges of sexual harassment or assault- regardless of their validity, it could derail the transition, and thus female mentors and observers will assist in making the transition smooth, 3) leaders cannot be trusted to ensure fairness during the transition, and thus must be forced to facilitate a certain outcome, and, 4) women can meet the same physical requirements as men if their leadership is motivated, the women are given special training and they are held to the same standards as men.

The guidance from the Pentagon is very clear to commanders, if not always explicit in the orders (even though much of it IS explicit). Women will be coming to your units. If they do not, it is because the services’ leadership and the leadership at Recruiting Command, ROTC units, and the Academies are not doing their job. Women will be successful at combat arms schools. If they are not, leadership will be held accountable. Women will be successful at combat arms units. If they are not, leadership will be held accountable. This includes looking very closely at different rates of failure between men and women, different rates of recruitment of women and men into combat arms branches, and different rates of high evaluations between men and women in combat arms units- and “fixing” discrepancies.

I am personally not against women serving “in combat,” in support of combat arms, serving in all-female combat arms units, or attached to combat arms units when needed. I personally think if a commander assesses that a female- in whatever capacity- would be value-added on a certain mission, then that commander should be able to utilize females. I also think our personnel system should be changed so that those females that do add value in those kinds of ad-hoc situations are rewarded. Today they- as well as males- are punished if they step out of the bureaucracy-approved career paths (see, for two examples, the Afghan Hands program as well as the Female Engagement Team program).

What I am not in favor of is forcing commanders to have to take females on every mission as if they were males. This inflexibility will hurt females if the assumptions about their physical capabilities are invalid or if they are seen as a hindrance to the mission. Paradoxically, many more women could potentially be promoted to general officer and serve “in combat arms units” (if needed) if our personnel system simply allowed more flexibility than it would under a “women are the same as men” overturning of the combat exclusion policy.

My main concern is the potential degradation of combat arms units’ cohesion at the small unit level. I have played on coed sports teams. I have deployed with coed units. I have served in coed headquarters. The issues with respect to the relations between most men and most women wreak havoc with the way these teams operate with respect to all-male examples. The amount of attention that will potentially be shifted to handling male and female relationship issues should be a concern of everyone, if, for no other reason, than the current requirements that the military has had to take on with respect to sexual harassment and assault.

The issue of the effect on the fighting effectiveness of integrating women into male combat arms teams is both more important and harder to quantify. This issue has been dismissed by the advocates in two ways: they deny it is an issue or they ask for proof, knowing full well it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to “prove” anything of this nature.

The main problem, however, is that most of the advocates are not concerned with what this transition will do. Their objective was never about making the military “more effective.” In fact, some advocates I have talked to are actually anti-war and anti-military! What this change is really about for many is changing the “hyper macho” male culture of the military and the country as a whole. The advocates do not believe, or do not care, that this could potentially negatively affect combat effectiveness. They assert that cohesion will not be an issue or they insist that “men will change.” The possibility that greater combat effectiveness actually might come from a “hyper macho” male culture is something the advocates refuse to acknowledge.

There is a reason that our allies have very, very few women actually serving in combat arms. There is a reason most, if not all, of our allies’ militaries still have a “hyper macho” male culture within their combat arms units, even after allowing women to serve in combat arms units. There is a reason the Israelis ceased to have co-ed units in combat arms, deciding instead to have the Caracal battalion of women, who serve mostly as border guards, be the main avenue for women wishing to serve “in combat” to get their wish.

The reason is that these countries know or believe that combat takes aggression and aggression takes trust and homogeneity of purpose and culture. The best way to win at the tactical level is to take a bunch of above-average men, train them hard, equip them well, give them an above-average leader, point them at a target and get out of the way. Integrating those teams or trying to change their culture would mean they would, according to our allies, be less aggressive and less capable of winning against a similarly-structured enemy.

Today we have the benefit of technology, and some advocates have pointed out that technology can make up for any loss in fighting spirit: that current and future warfare will be characterized more by technology, creative thinking, and diversity of background. I have no doubt that getting more non-combat arms general officers, diversifying the path to higher rank, and allowing flexibility to have- not only females- but anyone a commander needs for a mission- would make our armed forces better. I do not, however, share the assumption that technology no longer requires traditional male aggressiveness and male bonding at the small unit level in combat arms. We may get away with it for now, but in a pitched battle or a near-peer or peer war, it would be devastating to learn that the advocates were wrong.

They say in the military that “assumptions kill.” The advocates for integration are either utterly obtuse about their spurious assumptions or they, aiming for larger cultural change through the integration of combat arms, just don’t care. I would hope that there would be more general officers who would stand up to the advocates, just as Shenseki and Powell did before them.

Unfortunately I have seen little stomach in our current population of general officers to stand up to the advocates. They either do not want to jeopardize future promotion or they are tired and are just ready to ease on out. Very few, outside of the Marine Corps, if any, are willing to sacrifice themselves for the combat arms troops they proclaim to care so much about. That is a sad state of affairs our military finds itself in today, but not surprising, considering the War College report about us lying to ourselves. Maybe the advocates were counting on that…

About the Author(s)



Sat, 10/31/2015 - 10:45am

In reply to by eharing

Honestly, I could care less, That said - Ellen, what exactly (on war and warefare) do you find so boring?


Sat, 10/31/2015 - 10:20am

In reply to by SWJED

Dave, Honestly, take a look at your articles and the almost total absence of comments or debate. I'm not the only one who has moved on to other sites. I spend most mornings reading articles related to the military and national security. I write and publish frequently. I just don't do so at SWJ anymore. I'm currently finishing a PhD in Conflict Analysis and Resolution and my dissertation is on organizational change in the military. Even though I'm retired now both my personal and professional interests fall into the arena of the military and national security. Rather than insult me for saying that SWJ has become boring and now possibly tabloidish why not consider and address whether my criticism is valid? Thanks, Ellen


Sat, 10/31/2015 - 12:55am

In reply to by eharing


Interesting that you find most SWJ articles "boring". Hmm, what does that say about you and your professional interests?


I stopped reading SWJ a couple of years ago because I found most of the articles boring. But I did at least think that it was a reputable, peer reviewed journal that generally provided articles that are well researched and documented. I just did a quick perusal of other recently published articles and all of them provide references.

So I was extremely surprised when I received this article from a colleague and discovered that it came from the Journal section of SWJ. There is not a single citation in the entire piece that validates any of the author’s claims. Instead, the entire piece rests on statements like “I remember hearing” or “I have been told”. At one point the author asserts that “guidance from the Pentagon is very clear” but provides no link to any document or even a recorded statement by any senior leader that documents this “very clear” guidance.

At best this article should have appeared in the SWJ blog section but even blogs generally require hyper-links as back up evidence. This piece is tabloid material that has seriously degraded the credibility of this publication.

Anonymous makes good points, saying things that need to be said.

But, but his anonymous criticism of Flag Officers who fail to oppose these dangerous coed policies is hollow. Anonymous, after all, risks nothing while encouraging others to take risks.

Leading from the front is always dangerous, and always essential. The bane of the military is senior officers (and those that wish to be senior) who convince themselves that "I can better effect change from the inside," when what they really mean is "I don't want to lose this job."


Fri, 10/30/2015 - 6:01pm

In reply to by Hippasus

Goad? I really, really dislike that implication. Write or don't write, it is up to you to step up or...


Fri, 10/30/2015 - 4:21pm

In reply to by Sparapet

If his fear is valid then we have a much larger problem than what MOSs into which were going to allow women. I hope like hell we haven't lost trust in our Army - its the basis of everything we do.

Dave's trying to goad me into an article, perhaps that would be the more important one to write. One of my personal heroes, LTG(R) Walt Ulmer, found (as a LTC doing a war college study) in the 1970's that the officr corps had lost trust - and he walked into GEN Westmoreland's office and told him that. I really hadn't thought that we had reached point again as Army again - the current fight has taken it's toll, but has it cost our trust?


Fri, 10/30/2015 - 3:55pm

In reply to by Hippasus

Hippasus...Perhaps in some circles there is honor in martyrdom. But to become a martyr one needs to die first. Personally, I see no honor in martyrdom. I fully understand why, given the topic and the author's reported career, he would choose anonymity. At some point, the opportunity cost of his retirement to his family, among other things, isn't worth it.

What should concern you and everyone else here is that a field grade officer fears for his career on the basis of disagreement with the party line in what amounts to a blog post. The point of fact is, most of us would probably agree that his fear isn't irrational. That should concern us most...especially in a place like SWJ where we cover a topic that is itself riddled with controversy (IW/UW/COIN etc).

If, in fact, we do feel his fear is irrational, then we need to encourage him to overcome it. After all, if it's irrational then it's all in his head. But appealing to the inner martyr isn't likely to work. So the questions his fear irrational?


Fri, 10/30/2015 - 4:05pm

In reply to by Hippasus


You feel so strongly about an issue that...?



Fri, 10/30/2015 - 4:02pm

In reply to by Hector_Paris

I think there has to be some - perhaps not many, but I don't think the number of generals like him is zero. When I sent a suggestion to LTG McMaster about the AOC the night before it was published he would have been fully justified in telling me (random LTC that had never worked for him and he had only met in passing) "thanks, but the good idea ship has sailed." Instead he wrote back an put me in touch with the authors - they actually considered it. That may not rise to Abe Abrahams level, but I appreciated it.


Fri, 10/30/2015 - 3:47pm

In reply to by Hippasus

My favorite vignette from "Thunderbolt" the biography of Creighton Abrams is when he was, I think, CSA and had just talked to the CGSC class in Bell Hall. The school commandant was walking him out of the building and apologized to GEN Abrams for the questions he received, saying something like, "Sir, I apologize for that. There still are a lot of idealists in there." Abrams stopped, turned and said directly, "Yes, and it's our job to keep them that way."

If there is a Creighton Abrams among the general officers of today's Army, I'm not aware of him or her.


Fri, 10/30/2015 - 3:41pm

In reply to by SWJED

I may do that- but I think the three articles I posted from the MAJ and two CPTs say it better than I could.

Is belief that women should be allowed in all MOSs if they meet the standard the party line? I hear and read a lot of arguments about it on both sides from all kinds of people senior and junior to me. I don't think it's settled, and there's plenty of differing opinions at every level. If it is the party line then good - we got it right.

How can you fight the good fight if you don't own your position? Secretly? I admit, I don't know how to do that. I think we should say what we think and make the difference we can in the Army. If that means we aren't selected for the next school/rank/command, then so be it.


Fri, 10/30/2015 - 3:23pm

In reply to by Hippasus


Maybe, just maybe, he cares enough to stay in and fight the good fight? You tell me, you are open concerning your identity, but to many what you espouse is the safe party line. How about this? You submit a well researched and written rebuttal - I'll post it to SWJ in a heartbeat. What say you?



Fri, 10/30/2015 - 3:31pm

In reply to by Hippasus

What's good for the goose is good for the gander. See my post above. Think, research, write, submit. SWJ will post.


Fri, 10/30/2015 - 3:25pm

In reply to by Hector_Paris

By all means, continue the name calling and ad-hominem argument. Facts and logic are over-rated - wise of you to avoid them. You get points for the Futurama reference tho.


Fri, 10/30/2015 - 3:19pm

In reply to by Hippasus

Several usual tactics among the soft-Stalinists -- the one above is the "bait you out into the open" tactic.

I'm not accusing you of being a soft-Stalinist, Hippasus, but only of being useful to the cause.

Someone truly interested in a climate of openess and trust would.... look for ways of making the climate more open and trustworthy. But that never happens. We instead bait the minority opinion into professional martyrdom.

Blame the victim. Classic.


Fri, 10/30/2015 - 3:11pm

In reply to by SWJED

Have we really lost faith in our Army to the point where we are afraid to state our professional opinions? Why would "anonymous" or anyone else want to stay in an organization that he feared? We can't do our jobs unless we trust each other enough to disagree about things - even (or especially) about important things.

I had a boss give me a bland COM OER once because he didn't like the truths I told him about taking care of Soldiers - so what? If a COM OER is what it takes to take care of Soldiers then so be it - you still have to take care of Soldiers. We all risk our lives and the lives of Soldiers downrange and in training, compared to that, what other risks matter?

We need to reread the part in "Dereliction of Duty" where GEN Johnson fails to resign over Vietnam and regrets it afterward. I think this article is flat wrong and is both logically and ethically flawed but if it's what some folks believe then stand up and argue the point - dont be afraid.

SWJ, as always, posts commentary across a broad spectrum of views - professional, political, and social. Based on a sense of an underlying and possibly significant opposition concerning the current state of affairs on this issue amongst many combat arms veterans (not necessarily “combat vets” - now a loosely bantered about term to evoke a sense of been there, done it credibility) I decided to post this article. At the least, for the most part, SWJ is putting out there for discussion an issue that is bubbling under the surface. I enjoin those on all three sides of this issue (for, against, fence sitter) to respond professionally and with facts or observations, not emotion. I vetted “Anonymous” - a professional combat arms veteran who has served in harm’s way with a deep concern (one I think valid) that this opinion piece would wreak havoc on continued service.

Dave Dilegge


Fri, 10/30/2015 - 11:49am

In reply to by eharing

"Meet the same standard" -- is at the center of the fallacious reasoning underpinning this whole debate.

The sanctimonious PC Warriors solidly have the moral high ground in this debate. They want a military that selects, retains, and promotes the best qualified - one that is open to all sexes, orientations, sexual transitory states, as long as they "meet the standard."

If you are opposed to any of this -- you are so close minded that you are risking the efficiency of the Army. You obviously don't want to harness the resources of all Americans who "meet the standards." Your bigotry leads you to desire an Army that leaves talent behind, just because of gender or sexual orientation. The PC moral high ground is lost.

Like I said previously, the moral high ground was not won by the advocates for change. Rather the moral high ground was ceded by the white, heterosexual males who have possessed the reigns of power. Once you transform the military into a self-focused, indeed narcissistic institution, you open wide the doors to all of these other groups. "If it's all about you, why can't it be all about me too?" this is a legitimate question.

Pass out the black berets. Pass out the green tabs. Pass out the "combat" patches. Pass out the combat action badges. Send company grades to year after year of advanced schooling. No need to understand supply, maintenance, training management; get that Masters degree instead. Drill into their minds that their self-development is the paramount issue. What? You're an NCO? Why don't you have a college degree? Forget about that archiac Master Gunner concept, we don't need Master Gunners, we need Masters of Arts and Sciences. "Credential" yourself E5. Let me see your CV.

This is probably the only reason why the Marine Corps still attempts a modicum of resistance. The vapid narcissism that took over the Army has still not overcame the Marine Corps.

"Meet the standards" and "Best qualified" are two loaded terms. They are ideological clubs for beating your opponents over the head. Are we ensuring the best qualified by proportional military academy representation among the States and territories? Not really. There are many similar competing interests to the official propaganda of "Meet the Standard" and "Best Qualified."

Anyway, buckle up for interesting times ahead!


Fri, 10/30/2015 - 11:11am

Perhaps the reason that many senior leaders expect to see women graduate from these schools is that they have served with women who can meet the same standards as their male counterparts. It's not a matter of them forcing an outcome, it's more a matter of them acknowledging capability and predicting what they know to be true-namely that there are women who are fully capable of meeting the standards and that ultimately they will enhance the effectiveness of combat units.

I find it painful to read articles that allude to sources but never name them and authors who hide behind anonymity. Frankly, I am surprised by SWJ for publishing a piece that rests on rumor and innuendo. I thought this was a peer reviewed journal.


Fri, 10/30/2015 - 10:17am

A few items to add more jet fuel to the fire:

1) Womyn serving and leading infantry combat. Excluding the desperate situations the fledgling state of Israel found itself in during the 1948, and the current situation the Kurds are experiencing; how many of our "enlightened, forward-thinking" allies deployed infantry battalions, filled with womyn, into DTAAC'S where their missions were truly "close with and destroy"? (The clock will be tickin' waiting for that answer.)

2) For the some that find the self-created security blankey "of hope as a course of action", or at best, the "middle-school yard" technique for ridicule to pose an argument: We have no idea what the real impact of women in combat arms units will have on the larger society. NONE. (NOTE: Today's progressive so-called forward thinkers that are risking our necks, not theirs by any means, are of the same ilk that re-segregated the armed forces at the turn of the 20th Century.)

3) Innovative disruptions as opposed to...? I am not sure what we may be seeing with including women into combat arms is nothing more than the equivalent to intentionally sinking a life boat full of people hoping they will learn to swim while not having land in sight...

I believe the veiled references to "a loosely connected advocates" and the end-state attributed to them is accurate, and has more substance than we would like to comfortably acknowledge.

I am going to stare into an equally unknown dark place. Is this effort to provide protected classes an equal'er opportunity to shed their blood and body parts for an unknown end-result really related to national security? Or is this move an effort to bring the US armed forces into the realm "proportionality" operations as the new normal for national security? (Yes, I know that is a subject for which we dedicate an entire blog...)

One last note: To those claiming that we who are over 45, white, and male heterosexual as genetically being "racist" and "womyn hating"; I don't know if I would, A) follow you in combat because I am not sure you motivations will get me back home safe, B) Trust you with either my right or left flank, again not being sure of your real motivation...

G. Alistar

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 9:57am

I very much liked this "Anonymous" paper. For those who feel it some type of cowardly act for the author to write in this manner I would ask why do we have protection laws for whistle-blowers? Seems as if this is good judgment by the author. Just one question, "who the heck is Don Draper?"


Fri, 10/30/2015 - 9:50am

In reply to by Hippasus

Bravo, Johnny Oliver, for that breathtaking display of moral courage. "I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords..." I'm sure it will be a tough road for you to hoe after laying it all out there like you did. Truly inspirational.

^^That was sarcasm for the useful idiots, which I suspect you may be one of, Johnny. Because to imply that the Army is some brave and open laboratory of ideas can only come from a useful idiot or from one of the professional up-and-coming "Political Officer" corps within the Army. I tend to think you're the former.

There's an Orwellian soft-Stalinism permeating the intellectual life of the Army. This really is just a reflection of the political correctness, and general lack of intellectual vigor, within the society at large. But the Army not only does nothing to maintain intellectual freedom and objectivity, but routinely leads the charge on whatever new social initiatve pops up on the horizon.

But the truly brave like Johnny Oliver wait for something like the Obergefell Decision, then place a nice shiny rainbow avatar on their social media platform, and then mutually pat themselves on their backs for their moral courage.

Truly you are a profile in courage, Johnny.


Fri, 10/30/2015 - 9:08am

Really? Your "mentors" advised you that putting your name on a small wars blog post would get you in trouble? 20 years in the combat arms and you dont have the courage to stand up for your convictions? And some unnamed CSMs said that Ranger School was fixed for women? Well, here are some Soldiers that do have the courage to put their names on their comments:

MAJ James Hathaway -…

Rudy Mac -

CPT Conrad Brown -

Perhaps you could learn something from these young, courageous officers.

And the idea that there is some vast Maoist conspiracy is ridiculous. I've personally seen some of the work and staffing of the decision to integrate women...and its just good old boring staff work. Briefings, studies, leaders taking their time, perhaps being too cautious...just like a thousand other decisions made on high level staffs. And since some don't like the outcome they dream up conspiracy theories and other nonsense - here's an idea, please take your tinfoil hat and find the exit.

I too served in combat on coed teams - and they did great. Perhaps the problem with your team wasnt that it was coed, but that its leadership failed.

The Army is changing, like it always has. I think the integration of women is long overdue and will make our Army stronger and better. And here's my name.

Johnny Oliver

Dave Maxwell

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 9:49pm

I received the comment below from a learned scholar when I forwarded this essay to my various national security list servs. I recommend taking some time to ponder this.

QUOTE Hi David,

I actually liked the article quite a bit so, IMHO, Kudos to Mr. Anonymous!

That said, he is lacking a crucial piece of knowledge (intelligence?) that actually makes sense of his entire observations: 1st to 3rd gen feminists are steeped in both Mao and Trotsky. And, quite frankly, people who haven't "grown up" in that environment just don't grok the logic of it [1].

Where the Mao comes in is through two main concepts: "speaking anger" circles (the basis of "consciousness raising groups" of the 1960's), and "political warfare". There was a famous saying during the 1st gen feminist movement (~1965-1975 or so, since they had little concept of history!): "revolutionaries don't f*$k". What that meant was that the motivation of the revolution had absolutely nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with power. That's why, amongst other obscure reasons, the 2nd gen feminists mutated Marx's concept of class warfare (via Trotsky) to gender warfare. Hold that concept in mind while you reread the article, and it reads VERY differently!

David, you position - if they meet standards, let them in - is more in line with most 1st gen (and earlier) feminists. It's actually a VERY powerful position, especially against the 2nd and 3rd gen positions (3rd gen, IMHO, is frakin' insane!), and one that Canada and other nations have used to try and protect against the 2nd & 3rd gen attacks. It is also, I'll not, one of the main reasons why most 20-something and younger women say "I'm not a feminist, but....". They don't identify themselves with 2nd & 3rd gen, but they (often literally) imbibed 1st gen feminism with their mothers milk.

2nd & 3rd gen feminists no longer listen to what women say: they define what women should say, and claim "false consciousness" if women disagree ("You're suffering under the ideological hegemony of patriarchal oppression!"). I hope that this article will revitalize the women in combat debate but, being in a somewhat cynical mood at the moment, I'm afraid that Mr. Anonymous' article will be as effective as the White House's policy agreement with the PRC over cyber attacks is.


[1] In the interests of full disclosure, I grew up with a mother who was a 1st gen feminist (and anti-Vietnam war to boot). She used to hold consciousness raising groups in our living room, and gave me Mao's Little Red Book when I was six. By the time I was 10, I had read Mao's Collected Works, most of Marx's writings, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky (yes, Alinski, who I met when I was 9 <grin>). Add in Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, plus the older feminists, and you're starting to get an idea of what I mean by "grew up in" <wry grin>. Luckily, I also read Machiavelli, the Greek and Roman classics, Egyptian mythology and a LOT of archaeology and history. END QUOTE

The nation that puts its wives and mothers on the front lines is acting out a death wish. The fact that policy makers cannot accept that men and women are profoundly different, and as a result must perform different functions for a nation to survive, is testimony to Toynbee's adage that "Civilizations die from suicide not by murder."

As for the EO spiel, feminism is communism with tits. Push-ups, sit-ups, and running are all well and good, but biology and sex is something else. One doesn't sass mother nature. At least not for long.

(As an aside, using an anonymous name is something even the Founders did, and given the ubiquitous PC purges, the original poster is wise to do so, Hero.)

Contrary to decades of post-war propaganda, an identity of utopian "Americanism" ultimately revolving around geography and "wanting a better life" was a lie told by the ambitious to the trusting, and reduces a nation to nothing more than cultureless human capital, numbing the pain of nihilism as it can with consumerism and hedonism.

A polity can only scale up so high before it fragments along variations of language, ethnicity, and worldview. History is littered with empires who died on the rocks of this truth.

Utopia is for suckers.


Thu, 10/29/2015 - 3:01pm

This article is a waste of time. This battle is over. In fact, the war is over.

Just by virtue of the fact that skin color / gender / and sexual orientation (and now transgender) are all clumped together as one linear struggle of opening doors of opportunity within the military proves that there is no hope of regaining lost ground. This debate is completely over. We have lost any common understanding of foundational first principles, basic reasoning, and natural ethics, that this debate is pointless.

The Army is now a hotbed of rapacious self-centeredness. Young Captains with two Masters Degrees and enrolled in a PhD program are now the standard. It's all about the Army fulfilling your needs, your personal goals, your self-actualization.

No sense of authentic love of the institution. No real sense of a calling to serve something greater than yourself. No sense of "I" coming last before the needs of the Army and the Nation.

Yes, the institution can still groom you to talk the talk about it, but ultimately it's all words on a PowerPoint. Nothing behind it. Don Draper is our icon, not Creighton Abrams.

It's over.

But don't blame the women or the gays.

Blame yourselves. You started to put yourselves first, long before women did, and long before gays were even an issue on the horizon. The sacrifices you hold dear for all to see were never genuine. Volunteering for back to back deployments, when no one asked you to, when the TDA was already full, just juice up your career. Sacrificing your children, your wives. Not for the unit which didn't really need you. Certainly not for the Army. But for you. For an ephemeral dream that you thought would be realized through the Army.

You are reaping what you've sown.


Fri, 10/30/2015 - 2:40pm

In reply to by Wolverine2N

SWJ, as always, posts commentary across a broad spectrum of views - professional, political, and social. Based on a sense of an underlying and possibly significant opposition concerning the current state of affairs on this issue amongst many combat arms veterans (not necessarily “combat vets” - now a loosely bantered about term to evoke a sense of been there, done it credibility) I decided to post this article. At the least, for the most part, SWJ is putting out there for discussion an issue that is bubbling under the surface. I enjoin those on all three sides of this issue (for, against, fence sitter) to respond professionally and with facts or observations, not emotion. I vetted “Anonymous” - a professional combat arms veteran who has served in harm’s way with a deep concern (one I think valid) that this opinion piece would wreak havoc on continued service.

Dave Dilegge


Fri, 10/30/2015 - 1:56pm

In reply to by Armychikncharge

Aside from the author saying he has over 20 years in Combat Arms - likely either Infantry, Armor, or Cav - and being "privy to most of the plans that are currently in place to put women into combat arms" there are very few details about the author. That's strange for this website where many authors, and even commenters, post their real names, a previous call-sign that can be easily deciphered, or are more detailed about their background. Establishment of the author's bona fides makes Small Wars Journal a decent professional development forum and not just another place in teh interwebs where you could have arm-chair generals with no real credentials giving their opinion on something they are not qualified to opine on.

The fact that the author chose to maintain ananominity on SWJ could speak to his reluctance to speak his mind free of professional repercussions. Given the subject he wrote on, that's understandable.

If we cannot discuss the merits of women serving in combat arms without fear of reprisal on our careers, that silence will speak loudly in and of itself. The response from Armychikncharge shows that this subject is difficult to be professionally discussed without ad hominem attacks and straw man arguments being levied.

It is a shame that this subject cannot be examined here on SWJ without one professional choosing to be "Anonymous" and another professional resorting to personal attacks and logical fallacies.


Thu, 10/29/2015 - 3:14pm

In reply to by Armychikncharge

I think we can all agree that the anonymous-third-hand-rumint part of this piece leaves much to be desired. But I do think that some of it does ring annoyingly true. The Ranger School part in particular feels a bit sordid. Being told women will pass does not prove that those that did should not have. In any case, the rumors of the "fated to pass" have been leveled against groups for ages (e.g. Batt boys, Pointers, E-7<, etc), so its a new flavor of an old gripe. I don't think anyone would go so far as to besmirch the tab of any actual tab wearers in those groups.

Many of us who are ambivalent about the integration, however, hope against hope that it is done based on evidence rather than hypothesis. Unfortunately, even for many of us fence-sitters, the evidence rolling in is not encouraging. Unit cohesion concerns are dismissed out of hand. Cultural impact concerns are dismissed out of hand. Even when a service undertakes a major study supported by an accredited university, it is dismissed out of hand by that service's political leadership. That last point in particular brings the cynic out in full force.

As for set standards for ground combat...................a study testing all male units against mixed gender units would really help. (pardon the sarcasm) The sticking point for me on ground combat standards is that there are no objective, metric driven standards. The standard for ground combat is be better than your opponent. It isn't a process like, say, logistics where a standard can be applied to a throughput rate. Or like signal, where a standard can be applied to efficient operations of a system. The ground combat standard for a modern Army fighting against an enemy using 3-5 man fire teams is worlds away from a standard for fighting a near-peer or certainly a peer Army. If there is, for any reason, any evidence that demonstrates that all-male ground combat formations consistently outperform mixed gender ones, then there is no argument about standards to be made when it comes to gender. The experiment can be refined using only the women who can meet the current male standard, and evaluated accordingly. But again, if there is any unit-level performance issue that can be correlated (note how low the bar is...correlated with, not attributed to) with gender, then the risk isn't worth taking.

Those of us who are ambivalent often concede one point...that if the standards don't change, the presence of women in ground combat formations would be a token presence to begin with. Therefore, there is no truly valid objection to opening the billets to women who can meet the male standards because their extremely low numbers will never truly "disrupt" anything. However, any sense that the issue is decided on the basis of female representation in those formations, rather than on fairness to the exceptionally few women who can cut it, undermines that concession. The result is articles like this that question the entire enterprise.

One last point on disruption. Disruption is a risky undertaking. Risk is something that needs to be managed. Inherent in the idea of risk is the possibility of failure. Innovative disruptions is an oxymoron. Disruptions are innovations by definition, and the impact of a disruption is directly related to where the disruption occurs. I can disrupt the color of my car by throwing a paint bomb at it without disrupting its ability to move from point A to point B. Disrupting unit structure...a structure that itself has evolved over millennia...not in response to a novel environment, but in response to forces completely divorced from ground combat performance, isn't easy to digest as a risk worth taking. When we have responded to ground truth, we created the FETs and took a few women on patrols and raids to talk to the local ladies and pat them down. That made was in response to a novel environment. Nothing of the sort has happened in actual ground combat.


Thu, 10/29/2015 - 1:29pm

If you had real personal courage (that's an Army Value you know) you would use your real name. It's easy to throw around lofty concepts with no real facts when you arent personally connected. Following the line of reasoning written in this piece, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Gays, etc would have never gotton to serve either. You might as well change the uniform back to buffalo skin with clubs like the Neanderthals wore. In your Baskin Robbins there is only vanilla. You are incensed that some one is knocking on the door of the he-man woman haters club and wants in.

Innovative Disruptions are just that - at first disrupting but then innovative.

Change is never a a straight line curve.

Set the standard, open the door. If you meet the standard and can maintain it you get to stay regardless of sex, color, creed, etc.

Signed a combat vet also with over 25 years of service.

Dave Maxwell

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 9:52am

Here is an article that will set off a thermonuclear explosion in the women in combat positions debate. As I have said I am of the nike school that says "just do it." Get it over with, allow anyone who can meet the standards to serve in any capacity in which they are qualified as long as the right standards are maintained.

However, as Mr. Anonymous (learning from Billy Mitchell - see bio below) says this is a troubling allegation and if there is any truth to it then we are going to experience problems in the future. I truly hope it can be discounted but not just with vitriol and more rhetoric.

QUOTE His take was even more troubling: “There is a loosely connected group of advocates that have found huge traction with the current civilian leadership here and they have a pretty well-thought out campaign plan to get women into combat arms,” he told me. “Some of the groups simply want equality, others talk about more women generals, and there’s one group that is linking this to changing American male culture.” Looking back, many of the things I am seeing now make sense when remembering my friends’ comments. END QUOTE

I also wonder if these loosely connected groups will focus on other issues that are emerging such as women in cyber. Will they push as hard to influence women to get jobs in cyber where they will arguably make a much greater contribution to national security than women in combat arms jobs. (…)

I know there is a feeling among those who support Mr. Anonymous' position that this movement to change US military culture is going to advocate for certain gender quotas. Again, I think everyone should be allowed the opportunity to compete and meet the standard. However, we have to live with the numbers that actually pass by meeting the standard and cannot change the standards to increase the numbers so that there is some kind of gender balance.

Hopefully the good thing that can come out of all of this is to further debate and I hope both sides of the issue can express objective evidence to support their opinions.

But this shot over the bow may really stir up a lot of back and forth rhetoric.