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Posted on Aug 18, 2015 Print this Article

Co-Ed Combat Tests Hazardous to Women’s Health

The U.S. Army has announced that for the first time ever, two female officers are about to graduate from the exceptionally tough, three-phase Ranger Course.  The Center for Military Readiness (CMR) congratulates the still-unnamed U.S. Military Academy graduates for persevering and earning their colleagues’ respect. 

There is reason for caution, however, before drawing the conclusion that women in the military should be considered interchangeable with men in combat arms units such as the infantryarmorcannon field artillery, and Special Operations Forces

CMR takes issue with Obama Defense Department leaders and “politicians in uniform.”  These include Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jon Greenert – who, according to an AP report, [1] wants to gender-integrate Navy SEAL teams ˗˗ Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who overruled surface Navy concerns about enormous costs for restructuring small ships for gender-integration, and just-retired Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno. 

These officials and more in this administration are putting gender politics above national security and the best interests of both women and men in the military.  All of them are disregarding previously-undisclosed military combat experiments, which show injury rates among women twice as high as men’s.

The Center has just released a new CMR Policy Analysis that focuses on women’s health and high injury rates in recent military combat experiments.  These inconvenient realities discredit theories of physical equality for women in the combat arms:

Co-Ed Combat Tests Hazardous to Women’s Health

Research Reveals High Costs of “Gender Diversity Metrics”

The eight page CMR Policy Analysis, which cites previously undisclosed Army documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), encourages policy makers to consider the interests of all military women, not just a few. 

Pentagon Politicians Ignore Women’s Health Concerns

It is unfair and unseemly for high-ranking admirals and generals to pressure the military services to politicize major decisions at the expense of the majority of women, especially enlisted women who do not want to be treated like men in military occupations that are beyond their physical strength. 

Posturing politicians cannot justify disproportionate harm to female soldiers’ health, without informed consent, in direct ground combat positions that would have to be assigned on the same involuntary basis as men.  No one should forget that in 2013, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey admitted that standards too high for women would be questioned, and “significant cadres” of women would be used to achieve a “critical mass” in formerly all-male units. 

Experiences of the two women who passed the Ranger course should not allay concerns about disproportionate injuries among the majority of average-sized female soldiers and Marines.  Despite claims that all has been going well in research in progress since 2012, in the Army’s combat research “Exception to Policy” (ETP) experiments, female soldiers suffered twice as many injuries as men.  For example:

  • The U. S. Army Medical Command compared male/female injury rates in formerly all-male units such as field and air defense artillery, and found that female soldiers suffered injuries averaging double men’s rates in specific MOSs.  In the Field Artillery Surveyor Meteorological Crewmember MOS, for example, injuries for women were approximately 112% higher than men’s.  In the Bradley fighting vehicle system maintainer MOS, the rate was 133% higher. Details are in Appendix A[2]
  • Another document provided by the U.S. Army Institute of Public Health reported that in basic combat training, approximate average injury rates for women were 114% higher than men’s.  In training for engineers and military police, they were 108% higher.  Details are in Appendix B[3]
  • Defense Department laws and regulations governing physically dangerous experiments with humans require informed consent.  A sample consent form provided to CMR described test requirements, but failed to provide information about disproportionate risks of injury and other health issues unique to women. [4]
  • If women are assigned to positions beyond their physical strength and need to be reassigned, retraining would cost the Army $30,697 per soldier[5]  Decisions to drop out would cost an additional $17,606 in basic training costs, not counting individual recruitment expenditures that are higher for women.  The shrinking American Army will have to sacrifice more important things to cover these avoidable losses.  

A recent report from the British Ministry of Defence, which CMR analyzed in a February CMR Policy Analysis titled New British Ministry Defence Review Paper Shreds Case for Women in Ground Close Combat (GCC), quoted the British military’s grave concerns about two-fold higher risks of musculoskeletal (MSK) injury. 

  • Among other things, the British Review Paper noted, “There will be some women, among the physical elite, who will achieve the entry tests for GCC [ground close combat] roles.  But these women will be more susceptible to acute short term injury than men . . .” 
  • Furthermore, “Roles that require individuals to carry weight for prolonged period are likely to be the most damaging.”  The report also noted that “combat marksmanship degrades as a result of fatigue when the combat load increases in proportion to body weight and strength.”  [6] 

The CMR Policy Analysis explains why female injury rates double those of men would increase demands on the military medical system and the under-resourced Veterans Administration (VA).  Military women have a right to know about risks related to differences in physiology, which are not going to change. [7]

It also asks an important question: Do we really need to increase the number of female disabled veterans in order to advance women’s rights in the military?

In theory, gender integration is supposed to occur without lowering standards or combat effectiveness.  That goal is on a collision course, however, with Pentagon mandates to achieve “gender diversity metrics,” another name for “quotas.”  

Congressional mandates for “gender-neutral occupational standards” will not keep standards high, since “gender-neutrality” could be achieved by adjusting scores or dropping the most physically-demanding requirements.  These changes would occur incrementally and without notice, with the result being training requirements that are equal but lower than before.[8]  

What Do Military Men and Women Think?

In February 2014, AP reported that in an official survey, 92.5% of Army women said they did not want to be assigned to direct ground combat that are currently all-male. [9]  We can only imagine what the male infantry combat veterans said on the same survey, because the Army redacted details in responses to CMR FOIA requests.

Troop surveys that the late Dr. Charles Moskos did for the 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces identified significant numbers of men who supported women in ground combat because they resented activist demands for both “equality” and special treatment.  Dr. Moskos called these men “egalitarian sexists” and “hostile proponents.”  It won’t be long before “gender-neutral occupational standards,” which will be “validated” at levels that are equal but lower than before, increase resentment against military women who do not deserve the blame.   

What Else Don’t We Know About This Social Experiment? 

Documents CMR received indicate that the Army has prepared a DOTMLPF-P Analysis.  The acronym stands for DoctrineOrganizationTrainingMaterielLeadership and EducationPersonnelFacilities, and Policy – wide-ranging issues that gender integration would dramatically affect.    

Topics on the DOTMLPF-P list, which are not explained due to almost-total redactions, address only some of the major controversies likely to arise in coming years.  A complete list should include cost estimates for a) Increased costs for recruiting and training, b) New separate-gender facilities, c) Remedial training to purge attitudinal “barriers,” and d) Extra personnel to compensate for prolonged maternity leave and other lost time.  

The list also should analyze: e) Additional social service/legal specialists to deal with sexual misconduct issues extended into the combat arms, f) Expanded medical care for active-duty injuries, and g) Increased medical costs for injured women and disabled female veterans.

By any measure, this is an expensive, unnecessary social experiment.  Non-disclosure of the full consequences and costs prevents Congress, the media, and the general public from evaluating and criticizing policy changes that will affect every man and woman in the military. 

Questionable decisions being made behind closed Pentagon doors, without congressional oversight, also will affect young civilian women who likely will become eligible for Selective Service obligations on an equal basis with men. [10]

There is reason for grave concern about the future of the All-Volunteer Force, on which our national security depends.  Sequestration budget cuts are taking essential resources away, while heavy burdens of social experimentation are being loaded on.  Congress and the next President and Congress must intervene to reinforce the structure and culture of our military, before it is too late.

* * * * * *

The Center for Military Readiness, founded in 1993, is an independent public policy organization that reports on and analyzes military/social issues.  Please consider making a generous contribution to the Center for Military Readiness by clicking on the easy-to-use, secure website, linked here.  Readers also can help by sharing this article and “liking” the CMR Facebook page.

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[1] Lolita Baldor, AP, A First: 2 Women Earn Place in Elite Army Ranger Ranks, Aug. 19, 2015

[2] See tables in Appendix A, which summarize data from the Army Institute of Public Health (USAPHC), IET (Individual Entry Training) Injury Surveillance & Entry-Level AIT (Advanced Individual Training) at Forts Sill and Benning, FY 2010 – FY 2015, 12 May, 2015, obtained via FOIA from Army Medical Command, Fort Sam Houston, TX, July 30, 2015.  Units surveyed included all of those listed in FN #1 above, plus 14S – Air & missile defense crewmember; 14G – Air defense battle management system operator; 14J – Air defense C41 tactical operations center enhanced operator maintainer; 14E – Patriot fire control enhanced operator/maintainer; 14T – Patriot launching station enhanced operator/maintainer; and 14H – Air defense enhanced early warning operator. Numbers used to calculate averages, which are approximate, can be viewed in Appendices posted with this article on www.cmrlink.org

[3] See tables in Appendix B, which summarize data from the U.S. Army Institute of Public Health (USAPHC), IET Injury & Fitness Surveillance, FY 2010 – FY 2013, Injury Prevention Program, 3 July 2014, obtained via FOIA from Army Medical Command, July 30, 2015. 

[4] U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM), “Consent to Participate in Research, Title: Development of Military Occupation-Specific Physical Employment Standards,” Military Performance Division, USARIEM, Natick, MA 01760, sample copy obtained via FOIA, Jul. 30, 2013, 8 pages.  Also see Department of Defense Instruction 321602, Number 3216.02, Nov. 7, 2011, “Protection of Human Subjects and Adherence to Ethical Standards, in DoD-Sponsored Research,” p. 15.

[5] Resident Training Cost per Graduate, TRADOC-wide, Various School & Training Centers, Advanced Individual Training, obtained via FOIA from Army TRADOC, Jul. 30, 2015.

[6] CMR Policy Analysis, New British Report Shreds Case for Women in Ground Close Combat (GCC) Feb. 2015, Section A, p. 3.

[7] Capt. Katie Petronio, USMC, Marine Corps GazetteGet Over It ˗ We Are Not All Created Equal, March 2013.  Capt. Petronio described long-term debilitating injuries she suffered while deployed, including infertility problems that she was able to overcome only with extensive medical treatment.

[8] As stated by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey at a Pentagon briefing on January 24, 2013, “If a standard is so high that a woman couldn’t make it, the burden is now on the service to come back and explain . . . why is it that high?  Does it really have to be that high?”  To achieve “gender diversity metrics,” the answer will be No.

[9] AP and USA TodayFew Women Want Combat Jobs, Survey Says, Feb. 24, 2014.

[10] In its 1981 Rostker v. Goldberg decision, the Supreme Court found that since women are exempt from ground combat positions, male-only Selective Service registration was constitutional.  Litigation challenging this decision under new women-in-combat policies could succeed in overturning Rostker.  Presidential Commission Finding #4.3, p. C-125.  

Posted on Aug 18, 2015 Print this Article