The Thinking 

Marines to Prepare Women for Combat

April 19, 2012


IN A HIGHLY significant move, the Marine Corps will for the first time in its history consider women applicants to combat training courses next month, Marine Corps Times reports. The change comes even though the Defense Department does not permit women in combat positions.

James K. Sanborn writes:

As part of the service’s extensive research campaign to determine what additional jobs could be opened to women, an undetermined number of volunteers will attend the Infantry Officers Course in Quantico, Va., said Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Corps’ assistant commandant. There, Marine officers are groomed to serve in direct combat roles and lead troops into battle.

“We are in the process right now of soliciting volunteers,” Dunford said on Wednesday.

Enlisted women will be able to participate in infantry combat training soon too, he said. However, the Marines will not test women by different physical fitness standards, as is the case in the Army.

The Defense Department is currently considering allowing women to serve in all military positions on the frontlines, even though polls show that the majority of women in the armed services do not want to serve in combat.


— Comments —

Fred Owens writes:

When women are in combat, what do they do when they have to pee? And do the men avert their eyes? And do the women avert their eyes when men answer the call? One can, in an emergency, say it’s all just plumbing and there is no need for embarrassment. It’s a problem, among many, should military conflict become unisex.

Laura writes:

It’s a significant issue. Let’s say a female soldier is carrying a heavy pack and a weapon. She probably has to put both down in order to urinate.

And of course, there can be no modesty. It’s barbaric.

Carolyn writes:

1) We already have women in combat positions and have for years. We have female combat pilots in the USAF and USN and combat medics in the Army, I know–maybe others as well. “Not permitting women in combat positions” at this point is a DOD phrase for public consumption, not the boots on the ground reality.

2) When it comes to “women in combat” we’re still thinking in WW2 terms, where there’s a front line and a (relatively safe) rear echelon. That was a long time ago. Jessica Lynch was in a logistics support unit, but she ended up on the front lines and, of course, a POW (not our only female POW, but our most famous to date). The whole idea of keeping women away from “the front lines”–in the War on Terror–is seriously anachronistic.

Laura writes:

I assume Carolyn means that women are needed in Islamic countries to help with inspections of women in villages and other contact with female Muslims that would be difficult for male soldiers to perform. But, these seem to be exceptions. The recent recommendations to the Department of Defense by a commission studying the role of women sought much broader inclusion of women in combat postions.

Uncle Joe writes:

“We shall have fewer Americans but better Americans.”

Michael S. writes:

I’m trying to imagine what this picture would look like if General der Panzertruppe HASSO von Manteuffel had been General der Panzertruppe HANNAH von Manteuffel.

The General is pointing to his right. If I were a tank commander in the German Army in 1944, I would have gone in the other direction.

Of course, if the Wehrmacht had had female commanders… well, enough said. (They never would have made it to Warsaw.)

(Can you imagine a General Georgia Patton? Right.)

Pan Dora writes:

Maybe Michael S. should pick a better example than General der Panzertruppe HASSO von Manteuffel and the Wehrmacht. After all, they lost.

Michael responds:

Yes, the Germans lost the war. But Pan Dora should think about what it took to defeat them.

Katherine Sychra writes:

Our leaders and the military brass are all insane — putting women in combat is beyond comprehension. I remember some twenty years or so ago — not sure now of the exact year — that I received a call from Eagle Forum that I should contact Senator Strom Thurmond because he was testifying in favor of putting women in combat. Eagle Forum was horrified and so was I. However, I didn’t bother to call the Senator. He was a Screaming Eagle paratrooper in WW2, and if anyone should have understood that women don’t belong in combat, he should have. My father was on Iwo Jima — he understood.

In case you don’t know this book, I recommend it: Weak Link: The Feminization of the American Military. The author is Brian Mitchell. This book was published in 1989!!!! I have to wonder about either the sanity or the hidden agenda of our military leadership.

One more comment. Brian Mitchell discusses the issue of lesbians in the military. It’s grim. And he was writing in the late 1980s. It’s surely far worse now.

As always, my deepest gratitude to you for your wonderful website and for your courage in tackling these issues.

Laura writes:

Thank you.

Carolyn writes in response to Laura above:

Actually, what I meant was that we already have women on the front lines and have for years. So this whole conversation is an example of discussing whether we should lock the barn door . . . after the horse is long gone.

True, we don’t have women in front-line infantry units yet, but that’s one of the few areas of the military remaining in which women aren’t serving. My husband spent 26 years in U.S. Air Force helicopters, flying combat search and rescue, and flew alongside female pilots. My son-in-law has served multiple tours as an Army combat medic in Iraq, and served alongside female combat medics. Those are both old news–but if they’re not examples of women in the thick of combat and effectively on the front lines, I don’t know what is. You’re discussing a battle lost long ago as if it were a current fight.

Laura writes:

Yes, it’s important to remember that combat-related positions are already open to women.

However, the expansion of their role in the military is still a significant issue and their presence in the positions Carolyn mentions is something that also should be strongly argued against.

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