Women in combat is the wrong call
Women have proved themselves capable in many combat roles over the past 10 years of war. Perhaps women will be proven capable of effectively functioning in direct infantry roles. But physical and psychological capabilities aside, the question we, as a nation, should ask is:
What is the compelling national need to deploy women in small-unit combat roles?
I suggest that there is none. With an active, reserve and National Guard force numbering approximately 1.4 million, and a relatively small portion of those forming infantry combat units, there is little doubt that the combat ranks can be filled with male soldiers and Marines.
The enlistment incentives are many and can be expanded if necessary to attract young men to form the tip of the spear. Women can continue to serve as they have been. No problem there.
The USSR and Israel are most often offered up as examples of nations that have deployed women in close combat roles. The Soviet experience in World War II was born of necessity. Millions of Russian males were lost to the German onslaught.
Likewise the Israelis deployed women due to insufficient male manpower. That condition of need does not exist today in our country. Male manpower resources are ample given a population of more than 310 million.
This decision appears to be driven by reasons and for purposes other than the needs of the services, principally the Army and Marine Corps. It has been reported that some active duty women feel disadvantaged by not serving in combat units and are unable to compete for promotions and command with their peers of the combat arms.
Is the career advancement of a few women sufficient reason to make such an important and far-reaching decision? I think not.
My experiences as a rifle company commander in the jungles of Vietnam (Co. C, 2d Battalion. 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division) suggests that it would be difficult for men and women to operate together under such conditions.
I will not delve into the questions of lowered standards and the potential for sexual misdeeds. Unit cohesion, troop morale and perceived or real favoritism are other areas which impact leadership and operations at the tip of the spear. These concerns are real and justified.
The decision has been made but for the wrong reasons. Only a handful of ambitions women will benefit, if at all. They won’t be the grunts walking point, digging in or humping 80-100 pounds up mountain trails.
They are the ticket punchers, interested in self-promotion and advancement. I saw and served with their male counterparts during 22 years of active service.
This is a bad decision that does not serve the nation’s best interests.Lloyd R. Gunn Jr.
Mary Ellen Drive